By Sahar Amarir
By Sahar Amarir
Morocco World News
Paris, June 30, 2013
Egypt, Israel and Turkey are stuck in geopolitical conflicts involving each other in such a way that no one would think any movement could bring them together. They have several common points, one of them being their utterly militarist nature and an unusual importance of the military establishment and figures within their societies, with which come compulsory military service in all three.
This mandatory service creates strife among the civil society that is shown through objection to the military service. This odd triangle of civil societies can be represented by three key figures: Halil Sevda, Turkish, Natan Blanc, Israeli and Emad El Dafrawi, Egyptian. The commonality between these three men is their profound anti-war, anti-violence pacifist beliefs and their common disdain for the military establishment. They have openly declared themselves conscientious objectors, but also openly face harsh consequences for standing up for their peaceful views.
The men seem to each represent a different facet of pro-peace activism. Halil Sevda was the first icon of change, after rejecting his past violent actions, to choose the path of peaceful and pro-human rights activism. Natan Blanc represents the allegory of courage, in a society where military service is considered as a national duty and those who refuse face ostracism. Emad El Dafrawi is the symbol of hope, in a country where the revolutionary youth is standing up for its beliefs.
Halil Sevda, 39 years old, was officially listed as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. After joining the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and being condemned for it, his beliefs deeply changed and he decided to never carry weapon nor engage in any violence in the future. When he was called in by the state for mandatory military service, he decided to refuse on the basis of conscientious objection, a decision justified by his anti-war beliefs. He was freed and jailed several times afterwards and publicly supported Israeli conscientious objectors who refused to serve the 2006 Lebanon war. Among the Israelis, conscientious objectors also rose but very few crystallized as much support as Natan Blanc did, mostly because of the record of ten successive sentences he was condemned for refusing to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces.
The 19 year old Israeli stated he considered it a moral duty to not participate in any more bloodshed or escalation of violence. He became an exemplary symbol of pacifist stubbornness for pro-peace activists among the Israelis and the Palestinians. Before abiding to his tenth condemnation, he took a picture of himself holding a sign in solidarity with Egyptians conscientious objectors, calling for an immediate end of the abuse they were facing. One of the Egyptians he cited in his solidarity statement was Emad El Dafrawi, a 24 year old man that followed the movement created before him by, Maikel Nabeel, against compulsory military service in Egypt. He videotaped himself making a statement to officially announce his refusal to serve in the Egyptian military.
Along with other Egyptian conscientious objectors and pacifists, he was the first to make statements in solidarity with Natan Blanc. For having refused to abide to compulsory military service, Emad El Dafrawi cannot engage in any work, study or be allowed to travel outside of the country until he attains the age of 30, which is legally the age in which the military service is no longer compulsory.
These three figures all believe in the universality of freedom and intellectual honesty. They were all accused of being traitors and unpatriotic to their nations by radical nationalists of their sides, never mind that those nationalists supported foreign refuseniks. They said they would abide to any national service if asked of them, as long as it’s not a military one. Apart from that, those who attack them mostly ignore the essence of patriotism, which is the love of a people, their values and cultures. That love includes having to stand up against different policies and the government if they are not acting according to those values. Ironically, conscientious objectors are, by that definition, the bravest patriots of all.
In addition to that patriotism, they transcended physical and social barriers; everything, from politics to geographic realities, could have brought the men away from each other and make them unsympathetic to each one’s fate or even hateful of one another. Despite all those complicated realities, their honest advocacy for the freedom to conscientious objection brought them together through official statements and online media. This inspiring support and solidarity draws immediately a hope for a better future, whether in the MENA region or elsewhere, but there are still harsh realities as pacifists movements struggle to expand as much as nationalist and militarist ideologies. Emad El Dafrawi, in the video where he makes his official statements, cites a quote once said by John F. Kennedy: “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”
By that timeless, truthful statement, it appears urgent to bring change in our societies where we can hardly find as many streets and official buildings named after pacifist than those named after warrior figures. Unless we participate in the change, supporting it seems the only way to bring that change in order to share those values, live by them and bring forth a new generation where it is acknowledged that patriotism is not blindly abiding to rules that have serious consequence on both our rights and other people’s rights, but rather standing up against them and breaking barriers imposed on us.
Pacifists’ activism is striking by its honesty and consistency in comparison to the accusations they face, and nothing proves it more than this alliance and inter-solidarity between these Turkish, Israeli and Egyptian conscientious objectors: peace has no boundaries. Human rights go beyond any borders and have no frontiers. When those pacifists stand up against war, they stand up against war created by their own government and other nations. They are not fighting for a world without war just for their own people, but they are fighting for a warless future for every single human being.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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