November 29, 2011: In a controversial decision, Turkey is going to allow certain young men to buy their way out of military service. For many Turks, this is seen as long overdue. For others, it is an abomination.
For decades, Turkey had demanded that all male Turks (age 20-40) perform military duty. This was difficult for men over thirty who had been deferred because of graduate school or other advanced study, as well as those who were working overseas for long periods of time. Forcing the long deferred specialists and those who had emigrated (but not sought citizenship in their new home) to serve 15 months in the army was seen as a waste all-around. For a long time, Turkey has had more young men available for military service than it needed. To deal with the surplus of potential conscripts, there were high standards for those who were taken. In addition, the length of conscript service was regularly reduced (to its current 15 months).
The new proposal allows men who got deferments until they were 30 years old, could buy their way out of military service for $16,150. For Turks working abroad for more than three years, it only cost $14,490. Many Turks object to this ability to avoid military service via a payment. But conscription, in its current form, has only been around for a century. The Turks, like other European nations, are seeking to convert to an all-volunteer force. But that costs more than Turkey can afford right now. Meanwhile, the personnel strength of the armed forces is being slowly reduced and equipment is being upgraded.