Turkey’s first conscientious objector to mandatory military service passed away at the age of 54 due to a heart attack on Monday night. A doctor by training, Tayfun Gönül had made critical contributions to the antimilitarist movement in Turkey, according to his friends.
Tayfun Gönül, Turkey’s first conscientious objector to military service, passed away at the age of 54 due to a heart attack he suffered on Monday night.
Gönül had already spent a long period in an intensive care unit following a cardiac infarct he suffered on Feb. 16 but was discharged from hospital about two months ago, Serkan Sultan, a close friend of Gönül’s, told bianet.
Following his discharge, Tayfun Gönül’s condition had rapidly begun to improve, Sultan said, adding they had even briefly toured across the Aegean region, but that he finally gave in on Monday night at around 23:30 when he had a heart attack.
“The uniform serves the same purpose everywhere”
A doctor by training, Tayfun Gönül had elucidated on the reasons why he chose not to exercise his profession during an interview he gave to Sokak Magazine in 1990:
“All institutions have taken the codes of the barracks as a template for their internal operations during their establishment, including schools and hospitals. [Doctors’] white coats are the most glaring indication of this. The uniform serves the same purpose everywhere: to homogenize and depersonalize people, to turn them into robots that solely fulfill their functions. The color of the uniform is insignificant in so far as I am concerned. It could either be khaki or white,” Gönül had said.
Eryılmaz: “Gönül planted the seeds of awareness against militarism”
“Tayfun was an extremely interesting character. He was obsessed about military service during the period between 1988 and 1989. Our horizons broadened thanks to him, and together we launched the ‘No to Mandatory Military Service’ campaign,” said journalistTuğrul Eryılmaz, Gönül’s co-worker in Sokak Magazine during the 1980s.
“As soon as we launched the campaign, [officials] filed a suit against us on the charge of ‘alienating people from military service.’ We kept shuttling back and forth to the Sultanahmet courthouse with him during that entire period… In fact, Metin Münir, who was at the helm of Güneş newspaper, also stood trial with us, as he had put our campaign on the paper’s headline,” Eryılmaz said.
“Tayfun had an uncompromising [attitude,] but he showed this not through a bellicose but an extremely gentle style. He was the person who planted the seeds of awareness against militarism in Turkey,” he added.
“Abandoning the rhetoric of ‘martyrdom’”
Gönül had participated in the International Conscientious Objectors’ Day on May 15 when he briefly came out of hospital and criticized the language of hatred that permates the media in his speech.
Both Turkish and Kurdish media outlets employ such religious terminology as “martyrdom,” Gönül had said.
“All sections [of society] should abandon the rhetoric of “the flag” and “marytrdom” without constraining themselves to a particular political-ideological engagement. I do not know how we are going to overtake the present language of nationalism, however,” he had said in his speech.
Oğuz Sönmez of the Anti-War group also highlighted Gönül’s contributions to the anti-militarist and conscientious objection movements in Turkey and said Gönül’s farewell represented a major loss:
“We really wanted Turkey’s first conscientious objector Tayfun Gönül to participate in the Conscientious Objection Week. He also attended our activities despite the fact that he was in hospital. Our quintessential purpose was to ensure that this person, who initiated the conscientious objection movement, would not be forgotten,” he said.
Gönül had also published several works from the Kaos Publishing House, including “Düzenden Kaosa Zuhur/Gediz Akdeniz ile Söyleşi” (“Manifestation From Order to Chaos/Interview with Gediz Akdeniz,”) “Anarşizm Nedir?” (“What is Anarchism?”) and “Tıp Etiğinde Yeni Bir Paradigma Arayışı” (“Search for a New Paradigm in Medical Ethics: Complexity - Reconciliation with Death.”) (EKN)