Turkey Unveils Changes to Military Obligations

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) with members of the Supreme Military Council, November 30, 2010

From Joe Parkinson, the Wall Street Journal:  Turkey’s prime minister on Tuesday announced long-awaited reforms to military conscription, offering draftees over the age of 30 the chance to buy their way out of service and inching NATO’s second biggest army closer to becoming a professional force.

If passed by the Cabinet, the moves, announced by Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, would allow Turkish nationals aged 30 or above to pay 30,000 liras ($16,150) to be exempted from military obligations and the preliminary 21-day basic training. Turks working abroad for at least three years could pay €10,000 ($13,490) for the same exemption with no age limit.

Recent weeks have seen heated debate between the government and opposition over the breadth of conscription changes—a touchstone issue in a country where the military is revered by the majority. Mr. Erdogan’s ruling AK party, which has won three successive elections after sweeping to power on a landslide in 2002, has consistently chipped away at the military’s onetime dominance over popularly elected governments. In August, the military’s top commanders resigned en masse in a dispute over the status of jailed officers. For decades it had worked the other way round; governments resigned when the military was unhappy.

Military service is compulsory in Turkey for all male citizens 24 to 41 years old, with some exemptions based on education and sexual orientation. Turks who attempt to avoid military service can be forced to serve. But payouts to avoid obligations aren’t new — especially for those who lived and worked abroad for a significant period. However, Tuesday’s reforms represent the broadest change yet to Turkey’s military service obligation.  (photo: Getty)

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