World Bulletin/News Desk
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that his governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) is working on a plan to shorten the compulsory military service for men.
“Fifteen months is a long period [for men to spend in military service]. We need to focus on this [in regards to reducing it],” the prime minister told reporters on Sunday. His remarks came during a meeting held with his deputies during a retreat in Kızılcahamam in Ankara over the weekend.
When reporters asked him if the government is planning to pass a new bill on paid exemption from military service, Erdoğan said: “That issue is completely closed for us. We do not like to keep bringing the same issues to the agenda. But we have a new project. We are also working on shortening military service.” The prime minister, however, did not elaborate on by how many months the government is planning to shorten the service.
In Turkey, military service is compulsory for all men in good health over the age of 20. However, if a male is enrolled in an institute of higher learning, he is allowed to delay his service until he gets his degree. The length of service depends on one's level of education as well as the military's needs.
Currently, university graduates with a four-year degree serve either for six months as a private or a year as a second lieutenant while those who do not have a four-year bachelor's degree are obliged to perform 15 months of military service.
According to sources, the duration of military service for university graduates will be dropped to four months, and the duration for others will be dropped to 12 months from 15.
Sources also claim that the government hopes to complete work on shortening compulsory military service before the end of 2013.
If a bill is passed to shorten the service, it will also impact those currently serving their time, which means the conscripts who are currently performing their compulsory service will benefit from the bill.
In 2011, Parliament approved a bill -- the Bill Amending the Law on Military Service -- to enable some men to skip military service. The bill enabled men 30 years old and over to gain exemption from compulsory military service in exchange for TL 30,000.
In connection with the prime minister's remarks, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz responded to remarks by an AKP deputy that people expect the government to pass a new bill to enable men to opt out of military service.
The minister said the government had expected more people to benefit from the bill passed in 2011, but that the issue was “over now.” “We need to close this issue. People become more hopeful as we keep talking about such a bill,” he said, and added that a legal amendment may be made to shorten the military service requirement. “If necessary, military service may be shortened. A legal amendment may be made to this effect,” Yılmaz added.
Also in 2011, graduates from the police academy or police officers who have completed higher education programs of at least two years were made exempt from compulsory military duty if they have served in the police force for 10 years or more.
On Monday Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Faruk Loğoğlu spoke to reporters about the plans for shortened military service and said his party would not object provided that the plans do not pose a danger to national security. "If a problem does not emerge for national security, then this [shortened military service] will please the people," he stated.
Plans for shortened military service are signs that the government's ongoing efforts to settle the problem between the PKK and state through dialogue and other peaceful methods are being reflected in state policy. The AKP government is currently engaged in talks with the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to urge the group to end their terrorist activities and leave Turkey. In line with the talks, PKK militants have already begun withdrawing from Turkey, which means the military will need fewer soldiers.Last Mod: 07 Mayıs 2013, 11:15