On Tuesday, January 23, Mustafa Hürben went to prison to serve the 3-day sentence ordered by the Military Court in northern Cyprus for not accepting to participate in military reserve exercises or pay the fine issued by the court.
Mustafa Hürben was summoned to the Military Court on November 16, 2023. Outside the court, in statements to the press, he said he would not participate in the reserve military exercises. In particular, he said that “I do not want to participate in an institution that trains people to kill other people, either for defensive or for offensive exercises.”
On January 18, 2023, the decision of the military court was issued.
The judge accepted that Mustafa is a conscientious objector, but stated that there is no legal provision so that an alternative service can be accepted, so the option of acquittal cannot exist.
The penalty imposed on him was a fine of 800 Turkish liras (about 25 euros) which had to be paid within 5 days, otherwise he would be taken to prison for 3 days. This is what happened January 23.
The right to conscientious objection in northern Cyprus
The right to alternative service if you are a conscientious objector is not recognised in northern Cyprus. The Republican Turkish Party (CTP – main opposition party) submitted a bill to regulate the procedure for alternative community service instead of conscription for conscientious objectors, but on January 8 it was rejected by the parliament. The excuse was that we are living in a state of ceasefire, not peace, and therefore alternative service cannot be recognised.
Military service in northern Cyprus is 15 months, followed by compulsory participation in reserve exercises once a year.
So in these circumstances Mustafa Hürben was sentenced to a fine and imprisonment. Every year, in order not to participate in the military excercise, the same procedure must be followed.
3 days in prison
The sentence received by Mustafa Hürben is short because he was not alone. The Initiative for Conscientious Objectors in Cyprus was by his side from the very beginning and they campaigned in support of Mustafa on social media and in parallel organised solidarity events outside the court. Observers from War Resisters International and the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection were also present at the campaign.
Conscientious objection in the army is very important in Cyprus
Just 50 years have passed since the Greek Junda coup, the Turkish invasion and the occupation. Indeed the island is in a state of ceasefire, we have never lived in peace.
We see the results of war and militarism before us every day. To refuse to serve in the army for reasons of conscience is very important and courageous, especially in the north where not to serve means going to prison.
We support the right to conscientious objection in the military in the north and south. We fight for a Cyprus united, peaceful and free from all armies.
* In southern Cyprus the right was recognized and alternative service was instituted in 2011.