Military service is mandatory for every Turkish male over the age of 20 unless they are ill, disabled or homosexual; there is no civil right to conscientiously object. In a strange echo of the US's recently repealed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, gay men can serve if they hide their sexuality as there is a belief that having gay men in the army would require seperate facilities such as dormetories, showeers and training areas. Proving that you are gay, and therefore gaining a 'pink certificate' of exemption is, however, humiliating and degrading. When called up for service, gay men must announce their sexuality to their commander who will decide what proof is needed (there is no set proof) which can involve photographic evidence. The BBC reveals that men have been asked for photos ranging from kissing another man to being (specifically) the passive participant in gay sex and wearing women's clothes! While the army denies it, many say these photos are kept on file afterwards.
Other men were also quizzed by their commanding officers, and the questions asked show the terrible lack of knowledge and outright prejudice of these officers:
- 'They asked me if I liked football, whether I wore woman's clothes or used woman's perfume'
- 'They asked me when I first had anal intercourse, oral sex, what sort of toys I played with as a child'
The use of such an exemption (defined as a 'psychosexual issue') can have ramifications even after its been achieved. many men fear that the proof they had to give will be leaked to family, friends or their home villages. many employers ask about military service prior to hiring someone and a 'pink certificate' can lead to the lose of job prospects.
For a country which is so enlightened in so many areas of policy (in international development for example) the Turkish military's dogmatic and outdated view on homosexuality is as rediculous as it is worrying and should be of great cause for concern.