Nuri Silay - Conscientious Objection Declared in Cyprus (28 January 2016)

Declaration written by Nuri Sılay who is the 17th conscientious objector so far in Cyprus-north.

My Conscientious Objection

As an individual of 32 years of age, I lead my life taking responsibility for all my decisions. Such a conception of life, though, places on us certain conscientious duties; I draw up the following text in an attempt to share with you my new duty.

I would like to begin by stating my sense of shame of the fact that, in 2016, still, the very basic human right to freedom of thought and conscience and the right to lead a life according one’s beliefs in are not safeguarded on these lands.

I was born in Varosa/Maras on the 21st May of 1983.

TRNC did not exist at my birth.

I was registered as a citizen of the Turkish Cypriot Federated State.

Everything was still very recent, notwithstanding 9 years have passed since 1974.

I have opened my eyes to the world in a house that did not belong to us. Not only us, no one living in the area belonged to the places they lived.

Let alone the people, the chairs we used to sit on; glasses we used to drink in; plates and cutleries we used to eat with; children's toys, their bicycles; even the trees we used to pick fruits off; nothing, absolutely nothing belonged to their true owners anymore.

Afterall you are a kid, what do you know of race, of war, or the spoils of that war…

Nevertheless, you did not get a choice, not a chance to ignore all this; wherever you look it cried out the grim reality. It was impossible not to realize the peculiar state you lived in.

Thus, when I look to myself; I, also, faced such realities in life’s own way.

There were abandoned houses surrounded by fences on the next street. On one hand, pictures of real owners of your house that does not belong to you were hanging on the wall, on the other hand, the south part of your country, to where you are not allowed to go; you only know it exists by the lights shining through the night.

That is why you did not have a choice; reality was right before you in all its glory.

As you might have realized, I am a child of a refugee family. My family had to face the tragic and relentless realities of war many times. Indeed, they have become refugees not only once but for three times over. Some of their family members were captured as Prisoners of War; they lost their properties, belongings, their settled lives; in short they lost all. They had to leave the south part of Cyprus without a chance to say goodbye to people they lived together for years.

As an individual brought up by such a family, since childhood years, coming to know the meaning of war from my closest relatives I have developed myself witnessing my family’s efforts to reconstruct their lives from scratch. This awareness had led me to adopt a leftist ideology during my high school years.

As a progressive and public spirited person, I have taken part in various activities for unification of Cyprus, my homeland. Since early youth, I made an effort to meet, understand, and be with people living in the southern part of Cyprus, whom at that stage had been presented as “others” by many.

My ideas from the high school years further developed, under the umbrella of a political party, during my years at the university. Since the age of 19, I have taken various roles within the Republican Turkish Party; and at the age of 20 I served as the President of the Youth Branch of RTP.

My ideological stance have been shaped within such a framework and through my experiences. My activities within the political party framework aside, I have taken part in activities and even foundation of numerous civil society organizations that I believe in.

I later realized -as an individual who actively participated in and gained great experience from the April 2004 referenda on the Annan Plan foreseeing to reunify Cyprus, our homeland -that the Cyprus Problem cannot be solved through the negotiation table only.

I believe we can construct a shared life in Cyprus prior to a “solution” through challenging the limits of the separation imposed on us. In order to do so, we need to cleanse ourselves of the poisonous effects of the official ideologies on both sides and face our wailful past; and we should apologize to each other on behalf of the communities we represent. While the centuries old shared culture and life of the peoples living on Cyprus is the greatest heritage we have to hold us together, we should not allow any more othering of our citizens by the nationalist-militarist teachings. Those who speak Greek and Turkish in Cyprus are our citizens as much as any other who speaks any other language. The “others” are business partners, friends, and even lovers to many of us. In short, we are people of equal stance who work towards the future rooted in our shared past.

The foremost representation of the Cyprus I would like to live in is the very life I have built with those who had been presented to me as “the others” in the south. No individual is obligated to accept the official ideologies imposed by the state. It is not acceptable that in the northern part of Cyprus the very ideology that sustains the regime shows no tolerance to who believe and think otherwise. Their demands that I make preparations of war against those whom I share a life with is not only tragicomic but also an ideological demand; however, I do not belong to that ideological formation. Cyprus is a part of the world that has paid a great price for nationalism and militarism. Today, we are still looking for the remains of those who went missing during the war, 40/50 years ago.

On every inch of land we step on, whether in the north or in the south, lays the body of one of our citizens, whether Greek-speaking or Turkish-speaking. Today, there are still those who are waiting for their missing partners or children to be found and have a proper burial, a proper grave. 6 months old Andreas was found in a well, his pacifier still in his mouth, just the others day. Our women who suffered rapes by militarism walk among us. Today, there are no apologies, still, to those who lost their lives, and those who lost their dignity in this country.

It should not be a choice to bury all these truths in our conscience and give in to learned helplessness. As an individual it is not conscientiously acceptable for me to ignore the fact that what we have been through was caused by nationalism and its greatest weapon, militarism. As a member of a generation that was born and brought up with the Cyprus Problem, I believe that what we are going through, just as with the other problematic parts of the world, is due to power games categorizing humans around race, language, gender, sexual orientation, othering and dissociating for the sake of political agendas.

In this game based on guns and wars by those who hold the political power; in today’s world, where human beings are reduced only to insignificant numbers, specially those who identify themselves with the left ideology, should place a great emphasis on antimilitarism.

Inasmuch as that the moment an idea meets guns and khaki tones through state involvement that becomes a dangerous idea; becomes an attempt on “his” life.

As an individual I believe that guns cannot provide any solution to any problems whether within a community or an international one.

We can observe similar conceptions of inequality, violence and violations of human rights and freedoms in all type of military environments or any environment of war or war preparations for that matter.

This is why I believe standing for peace under all circumstances, and standing against militarism and all its inhumane consequences is a humanist duty.

We are witnesses to destruction and ferocities created by wars fought all around the world, specifically in Cyprus but in the Middle East in general. With this, my objection with all my exisistence to take part in an army which impose guns on us and teaches/proposes to kill, an army which only serves war is not treachery but in service to humanity.

As you would agree I believe my “mission” is to oppose militarism not the mission or conscription imposed on us.

While, like all armies around the world, SFC make constant preparations for war based on security or defence claims, I stand with peace preparations in my country and all around the world.

Military institutions in both north and south of the island regards those living on the other side of the line as “enemies” and make preparations to deal with the “other”. While, on the other hand, I live my life with the “others”, work with them, and stand with them in many struggles not only for the good of our country but also for all of humanity.

While military institutions glorify their nation through patriarchal social codes, I dignify brotherhood of all human beings, regardless of their race, language or beliefs.

Therefore -as is should be obvious to all at this point - conscientious, spiritual, and physical problems I confront are clear, specifically with regards to GKK, the armed forces of the community I adhere to, but also with regards to militarism at large.

I conscientiously, in thought and in body object taking part in any form of war preparation, for whatever reason it maybe and against whichever race it maybe.

I object to take any part in a war which I hold no favour; in a war destructing the ecology, depriving people of their land, their homes, and their lives; or in an army feeding a culture of violence and creating an unequal order between humanbeings.

As one of the founding persons of Conscientious Objection Initiative, I would like to repeat today what we have publicly announced back in December 2007;

I stand against adoption of violence as a means of solution to any problem or its imposition or representation as such, and accordingly I not only conscientiously but also in my thoughts and in my body I object conscription.

I sincerely thank all friends, comrades, activist friends and supportive organizations who stand in solidarity with me in this quest for my right to follow my conscience and all those who will along the way.

Nuri Silay

January 2016