Enrichment process

Do ask, do tell – homosexuality in the Turkish army

The BBC Online magazine has an intriguing military story of a type not often covered in the Middle East: the challenges faced by gay soldiers.

Compulsory military service is as unpopular in Turkey as it is in most parts of the world, plus you have the threat of being blown up by the Kurds to boot.

One of the ways to avoid this conscription in Turkey is to prove yourself as a homosexual. But how you prove it is a matter of some humiliation, and as the article relates open to some rather retro conflations of homosexuality with cross-dressing and being the “passive” member in a sexual act.

The sitcom MASH of course drew many chortles with Corporal Klinger in a dress seeking a similar free pass out of the war. For young gay Turks the situation is somewhat less open to comic interpretation. It can literally be a matter of life and death, and even success in registering as a homosexual might not be a ticket home.

Indeed you may never be able to show your face at home again.

Post Script: A former student of Turkish background informs me that Turkish men with physical or mental disabilities are also regarded with similar scepticism when seeking exemption from their national service. Even those with quite obvious mobility impairments may be required to front courts and tribunals multiple times just to prove their disabilities haven’t suddenly vanished.