World

June 11, 2012

Cracks show in Turkey’s once dominant military

by Selcan Hacaoglu
Associated Press

These are unsettled times for the Turkish military, once the nation’s arbiter. The civilian government gutted its political power, hundreds of retired and active-duty officers are in jail on coup plot charges – and now military dissenters are lobbying on Facebook and Twitter for better pay and benefits.

The campaign on social media provides a rare glimpse of dissatisfaction within the armed forces of NATO’s biggest Muslim member, which battles Kurdish rebels and has troops in Afghanistan. Turkey has talked about setting up a buffer zone along the border with violence-torn Syria if border security deteriorates, and the military would be key.

Yet the concerns of hundreds of former and current noncommissioned officers, or NCOs, are closer to home. They want better compensation and an end to alleged discrimination by their superiors. It is the first such public protest since a group of noncommissioned officers marched with their spouses in the 1970s.

“NCOs who say enough is enough,” is their slogan on Facebook, where the group has 219,000 followers. Some 17,000 follow their Twitter campaign. Several people in the group declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press, citing military rules in a sign that they are not prepared to break ranks entirely.

In a separate Facebook campaign, another group of soldiers made similar demands, saying they “want to become humans.”

The military was already shaken by arrests of dozens of generals on charges of plotting to topple a government that they allegedly deemed to have an Islamist agenda. Dozens more active-duty and retired generals have been jailed in a separate case over their alleged role in the 1990s ousting of an Islamist prime minister. A botched airstrike in December, aimed at Kurdish rebels, instead killed 34 civilians and further besmirched the military’s reputation.

The noncommissioned officers are apparently emboldened by a visible “meltdown in the military’s chain of command,” said Nihat Ali Ozcan, a political analyst at the Economic Research Foundation of Turkey in Ankara.

“The rising voice of noncommissioned officers is proof that age-old values of absolute obedience are becoming eroded,” he said recently.

Noncommissioned officers rise through enlisted ranks and handle daily routines, including conscript training and the maintenance of weapons systems. Their highest-ranking is below a reserve officer, a civilian on obligatory military service. There are nearly 95,000 noncommissioned officers in Turkey’s 718,000-strong military.

The government responded to the campaign on social media by passing a law in Parliament last month that improves the salary scale for noncommissioned officers and shortens their obligatory service time within the military from 15 years to 10 years.

Ahmet Keser, president of Turkey’s Retired Noncommissioned Officers’ Association, said the amendment was “purely symbolic” because the salaries would only rise by a small amount. He said he was aware of a proposal by the military to increase noncommissioned officer salaries by 13 percent, but claimed that also falls short of needs.

“We feel betrayed,” Keser said. The servicemen grouped on Facebook and Twitter because they sought an end to discrimination and were not able to “raise their voices” through the chain of command, he said.

The military, which has no Facebook page or Twitter feed, has denied allegations of discrimination against the noncommissioned officers in a statement. It accused some NCOs of trying “to provoke active-duty personnel,” and assured that steps to improve their salaries and working conditions were on the way.

Apart from low pay, complaints include refusal to appoint noncommissioned officers who graduated from law schools as military prosecutors or judges, exclusion from military guesthouses as well as lodging in separate wards from regular officers.

“We want an end to discrimination against us,” Keser said June 6. “We’ve been alienated for years. We want justice.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Japan annual defense paper shows heightened worry over China

Japan emphasized China as a threat in escalating regional tensions in this year’s annual defense report as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government tries to convince the public of the need to pass legislation to give Japan’s military a greater role. The report, approved July 21 by the Cabinet, was delayed for more than a week...
 
 

Constitutional questions grow over Japan PM’s military plans

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pledge to the U.S. to increase Japan’s military contribution internationally is facing more questions about potential conflicts with the nation’s pacifist Constitution. Opposition lawmakers demanded answers from key Cabinet members at a hearing June 10, after three prominent constitution experts–including one chosen by Abe’s rul...
 
 

Japan, Philippines to talk about transfer of military goods

Japan and the Philippines agreed June 4 to start talks on transferring Japanese military hardware and technology to the Southeast Asian country trying to upgrade its defenses. Tokyo eased restrictions on exports of military equipment and technology last year as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to expand Japan’s military role abroad. Under a...
 

 

U.S., India move forward on joint military research projects

After several years of bureaucratic delays, the U.S. and India are moving ahead with two joint research projects for the military that officials hope will set the stage for greater defense cooperation in the years ahead. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar signed a defense agreement June 4, as part of...
 
 

Saudi Arabia becomes world’s biggest defense importer

Saudi Arabia has passed India to become the world’s biggest arms importer last year as concerns about Iran’s ambitions increase tensions in the Middle East. Saudi spending rose 54 percent to $6.5 billion last year, while India imported $5.8 billion, according to data released Sunday by IHS, a leading analyst of the global arms trade....
 
 

China defense spending to grow 10.1 percent in 2015

China said March 5 it will boost defense spending by 10.1 percent, a smaller rise than last year but in line with large annual increases that have drawn concern among the country’s neighbors over Beijing’s military and territorial ambitions. Beijing says the higher spending is needed to modernize equipment and improve conditions for the 2.3...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>