conscientious objectors blog

Ideology and terminology

Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service.

There are at least thirty countries that still have conscription. Among these are Mexico, South Korea, North Korea, Libya, Kuwait, Seychelles, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Israel, Iran, Greece, Brazil, Egypt, Norway, Russia, Jordan, and Venezuela.

Conscription is controversial because of conscientious objection to service or because of political objection to service for a disliked government or an unpopular war, and because it violates individual rights. Those conscripted may evade service, sometimes by leaving the country.

Some selection systems accommodate these attitudes by providing alternative service outside combat-operations roles or even outside the military, such as Zivildienst (civil service) in Austria and Switzerland.

World survey of countries with conscription:  http://www.wri-irg.org/co/rtba/index.html

Conscientious Objection

A conscientious objector is an individual whose personal beliefs are incompatible with military service, or, more often, with any role in the armed forces. In some countries, conscientious objectors have special legal status, which augments their conscription duties. For example, Sweden used to allow conscientious objectors to choose a service in the “weapons-free” branch, such as an airport fireman, nurse or telecommunications technician.

Most refuse such service, as they feel that such roles are a part of the military complex. The reasons for refusing to serve are varied. Some conscientious objectors are so for religious reasons — notably, the members of the historic peace churches, pacifist by doctrine; Jehovah’s Witnesses, while not strictly pacifists, refuse to participate in the armed forces on the ground that they believe Christians should be neutral in worldly conflicts.

Selective Conscientious Objection

Selective conscientious objection refers to refusal to participate only in those wars which the objector believes to be unjust, or refusal to participate only in certain aspects of a particular war.  Examples include US conscripts who have refused to fight in Iraq, and Israeli conscripts who have refused to fight in the Occupied Territories.

Constitutional right

Conscientious objection to military service is recognized by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (Resolution 1989/59, and reaffirmed in Resolution 1993/84 of 10 March 1993) as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, a right guaranteed under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Non-constitutional right

Three European countries have not introduced any legislation on conscientious objection: Azerbaijan, Belarus and Turkey.  Turkey, although being a member of the Council of Europe since 1949, has no legal provisions on conscientious objection. In Azerbaijan and Belarus, the right to conscientious objection was included in the  constitution during the 1990s, but no further legislation on conscientious objection has ever been introduced, although in Azerbaijan, a draft law on conscientious objection is currently under preparation.

Anti-Militarism

Anti-militarism is a doctrine commonly found in the anarchist and, more globally, in the socialist movement, which may both be characterized as internationalist movements. It relies heavily on a critical theory of nationalism and imperialism, and was an explicit goal of the First and Second International. Whereas pacifism is opposition to violence in general, anti-militarism is opposed to war between states in particular and, of course, militarism. Historian Paul B. Miller defines anti-militarism as “ideology and activities…aimed at reducing the civil power of the military and ultimately, preventing international war”.

Pacifism

Pacifism is opposition to war and violence. The term “pacifism” was coined by the French peace campaigner Émile Arnaud (1864–1921) and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress in Glasgow in 1901. The concept is an ancient one that goes back to the teachings of Hinduism, much earlier than Buddhism’s existence. Later religious teachers like Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), and Jesus have also taught this. In modern times, it was refined by Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) into the practice of steadfast nonviolent opposition which he called “satyagraha”. Its effectiveness served as inspiration to Martin Luther King Jr., James Lawson, James Bevel, and many others in the 1950s and ’60s American Civil Rights Movement. An iconic image of pacifism came out of the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989 with the “Tank Man”, where one protester stood in nonviolent opposition to a column of tanks. Historians have identified that event as being a key motivation that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall which ultimately precipitated the nonviolent fall of Communism.

Sources

Wikipedia,  War Resisters International

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  1. ‘The most persistent sound which reverberates through man’s history is the beating of war drums’ by Arthur Koestler

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