Bad Ruses, Good Reasons: How To Avoid Military Service In 5 Countries

In the countries that require military service, those who refuse to serve must either try to explain their exemption or find a creative short-cut to avoid the obligation. Here are some examples.

Military conscription has ebbed and flowed through history, typically depending on national security (wars), economics (jobs) and demography (young men). In recent years, many countries have outright eliminated the draft or replaced it with a civil service requirement. At the same time, other countries have been bringing back obligatory military service to respond to security threats or as a solution to rising high school dropout and unemployment rates. Morocco reinstated conscription in 2018 after 12 years, with a 12-month required military service for all men and women aged 19 to 25.

Amid newfound tensions around the Baltic Sea, the Swedish government also decided to reintroduce military conscription in March 2017, though for a limited number of citizens - 4,000 men and women were selected from a pool of 13,000.

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Poopgate: Is Beloved Istanbul Street Dog Caught In Turkey’s Political Dirty Tricks?

Boji the dog was giving a good image to Istanbul's public transportation system. Some wonder if opponents of the mayor exercised the canine nuclear option...

Boji, a street dog in Istanbul, has garnered national and international acclaim in recent weeks for his ability to navigate the Turkish megapolis all on his own — commuting on the metro, riding ferries and even taking elevators.

According to Getty Images photographer Chris McGrath, who followed him around the city, Boji loves riding the city's trams and trains. The dog's name comes from the word "bogie" ("boji" in Turkish), the framework of a vehicle that houses the wheel and axle, since his favorite spot is sitting on top of the bogie and feeling the vibrations of the engine.

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Russia Space Blast Endangers Astronauts, Belarus Border Clashes, Leo’s Beach

👋 ሰላም!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia is under fire for blowing up a satellite in space, clashes erupt at the Poland-Belarus border and Leo's Beach opens again. Courtesy of German daily Die Welt, we also look at the reasons behind the major discrepancies in COVID-19 vaccination rates across Europe.

[*Selam, Amharic - Ethiopia]

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Erdogan And Boris Johnson: A New Global Power Duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too.


BERLIN — According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. The agreement covers billions of euros' worth of military equipment, and the two countries have committed to come to each other's aid if they are attacked.

Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey.
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Catherine Chatignoux

It's Only Getting Harder To Be A Syrian Refugee In Turkey

The four million Syrians living in Turkey were already facing great difficulties, and the pandemic only made their lives more uncertain. But there's another truth they know must face.

GAZIANTEP — The lives of Adnan, Yasmin, Ajib and Muhammed, Syrian refugees settled in Turkey, was already a long, long hardship. When the coronavirus arrived, hardship turned into devastation.

While refugees in Lebanon and Syria are housed and fed in camps, the millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey are integrated within major cities and suburbs, and must find work. These families — which rarely have fewer than four children — live on a single daily salary, usually in the construction, agriculture or small businesses sectors. With COVID-19, these opportunities have become scarce, plunging entire families into destitution.

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The Latest: Sinovac Greenlight, Belarus Court Drama, Comrade Seagal

Welcome to Wednesday, where a second Chinese vaccine gets WHO's greenlight, Sri Lanka faces its worst maritime disaster ever and an asparagus recipe makes its way into a Belgian legal decree. Meanwhile, our latest edition of Work → In Progress takes the pulse of the work-life balance in a fully-vaccinated future.

• COVID travel system begins in EU: Seven European countries have started issuing COVID-19 passports for their citizens and accepting them for visitors who have been fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization approves the Sinovac vaccine for emergency use, the second Chinese vaccine to receive the green light.

• First human bird flu case in China: A 41-year old man in Eastern China is the first human to have contracted the rare bird flu strain, H10N3. Health officials believe it was a case of "accidental cross-species transmission", and assure the public that the risk for community transmission remains low.

• Cyber attack targets world's largest meat supplier: A serious cyber attack has hit JBS, halting production at several U.S. based meat processing plants. JBS reported to the Biden Administration that the attack is likely attributable to a Russian criminal group.

• African Union suspends Mali: Following a second military coup in nine months, the African Union has suspended Mali's membership and warned of possible sanctions if "normal constitutional order" isn't restored. Meanwhile, the country's coup leaders have appointed Choguel Kokalla Maïga as new prime minister.

• Belarus opposition activist stabs himself in court: Stepan Latypov, a critic and outspoken activist against the Lukashenko regime, attempted to slit his own throat during a court hearing. The apparent suicide attempt came directly after Latypov alleged he had been tortured and that his family and neighbors faced prosecution if he refused to plead guilty.

• Ecological disaster off Sri Lanka: The Singapore-registered cargo ship, MV X-Press Pearl, carrying containers, chemicals, and cosmetics, is now sinking off Sri Lanka's west coast after first catching fire two weeks ago.

• Steven Seagal joins pro-Kremlin party: A longtime friend of Vladimir Putin, the Hollywood actor has now officially joined the political party: "A Just Russia – Patriots – For Truth."

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food / travel
Bertrand Hauger

Hello, Troglodyte Neighbor

I've shared photos before of a trip to central Turkey's Göreme National Park, with its troglodyte cave-like dwellings and fairy chimney rock formations. Only recently did I dig up this image from a visit a few years earlier, and was reminded of how strange and powerful the landscape is.

Sergey Markedonov*

The Geopolitics Of Washington's Stand On Armenian Genocide

MOSCOW — For the first time, the U.S. Congress has recognized the mass killings and deportations in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923 as genocide. So why now?

It doesn't seem that the United States has anything really to gain from the country of Armenia. Two of the four borders of the country are closed, and its main military ally is Russia, whose efforts to maintain the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh are keeping Transcaucasia from a new large-scale conflict.

Nor does it appear that the resolution — which the U.S. House of Representatives adopted on Oct. 29 — will worsen Armenian-Turkish relations. There have been no relations between Ankara and Yerevan since the collapse of the USSR. And it is unlikely that the adoption of a resolution will change this.

The topic of the Armenian genocide comes up in the U.S. every time Ankara's behavior displeases Washington.

What, then, is the significance of the move, especially given that there's no telling if the resolution will even pass? A similar project is under consideration in the U.S. Senate, and the executive branch has even more reason for caution given the intricacies of relations with NATO allies, Turkey being one of them.

The document says a lot about how U.S. foreign policy operates. First off, it highlights the constant struggle between values and pragmatism. It's also a reminder that the topic of the Armenian genocide comes up in the United States every time Ankara's behavior displeases Washington.

Commemorating the Armenian genocide in Greece — Photo: Achilleas Pagourtzis/Pacific Press/ZUMA

The United States is clearly and consistently fighting the emergence of any competitor in Eurasia. The point here is not the deeply rooted Russophobia of American politicians, because in fact, Washington is ready to take measures against anyone who tries to break the status quo without taking into account U.S. interests. The bipartisan support the resolution received in the Oct. 29 vote is a case in point.

The adoption of the resolution turns out to be a mirror for all of the parties involved, including Turkey, whose hard-line position on the genocide topic isn't just a matter of avoiding responsibility for the past. It's also about not wanting to set new precedents, because while the issue is ostensibly about Armenians and Greeks, people are also thinking about the Kurds.

The purpose of the mirror, furthermore, isn't just so the stakeholders can gaze at themselves. It's so that they can also learn something.

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food / travel
Bertrand Hauger

A Turkish Camel's Life

My clearest camel memory from this same trip to Turkey 30 years ago was witnessing the millennia-old tradition of camel wrestling. Just a few miles down the road, near the Ancient Greek site of Ephesus, this fellow was in the mood for nothing of the sort.

Sedat Ergin

On Erdogan's Ambitions: A Short History Of Nuclear Weapons In Turkey

ISTANBUL — One of the more prestigious duties for the pilots of the Turkish Air Forces during the Cold War years was the "nuclear watch." The four main air bases in Turkey had been housing U.S. nuclear warheads since the beginning of the 1960's. The nuclear class planes piloted by Turks were assigned to drop the warheads on certain Warsaw Pact countries in case NATO would decide to do so.

The main jet bases of Eskişehir, Balıkesir, Ankara Mürted (Akıncı) and Malatya Erhaç had a nuclear capacity fleet (first the F-100s, then the F-104s and then the F-4s) assigned to it. The nuclear watch required that, around the clock, four pilots from each fleet be ready to immediately take off with nuclear weapons if necessary.

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Mine Söğüt

Who Stands To Gain If Turkey Restores Death Penalty

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said he favored restoring the death penalty. It would bring back an ugly face of Turkey, both politically and morally.

ISTANBUL — Right-wing Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and his cabinet members Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan were executed after the military coup of May 27, 1960. Regrets and tragedy followed.

After the military memorandum of March 12, 1971, the Turkish Parliament voted for left-wing prisoners Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan and Hüseyin İnan to be executions alongside the chants of "three from us, three from you." Scandal and tragedy continued.

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Yakup Kepenek

Turkey, Time For A Truly Democratic Constitution

Ekrem Imamoglu's victory in the recent rerun election in Istanbul was a breath of fresh air for Turkish democracy. But to really recover lost ground, the country needs a new set of rules, writes Yakup Kepenek.


ISTANBUL — It has now been nine years since a new regime was initiated with the constitutional law change of Sept. 12, 2010, and every day since, Turkey has been struggling to earn back its freedom. For a swift recovery, it's now time for certain basic laws of the constitution to be revisited.

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Emre Kongar

Istanbul's Opposition Mayor And Hopes For Turkish Democracy

For the first time in 25 years, the party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not be running Turkey's biggest city. With his​ landmark victory in Sunday's election rerun, Ekrem Imamoglu will be the new mayor of Istanbul, with significance that reaches well beyond the city's 15 million residents. Imamoglu, who won easily 54% to 45%, had already narrowly beaten the ruling party's candidate, former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. But Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, AKP, challenged the election for alleged voting irregularities. The voided vote put into question the very standing of Turkish democracy and whether Erdogan's party, which has governed Turkey since 2002, would accept any major defeat at the polls.


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food / travel
Bertrand Hauger

One-Of-A-Kind Skyline

I found striking cityscapes all around the world, from the feng-shui buildings of Honk Kong to Rio de Janeiro's lush bay and the odd-looking houses of Indonesian villages — but to me there's nothing quite like Turkey's "fairy chimneys," the ancient troglodyte structures of the country's Cappadocia region.

Ayaz Ali

Turkey, India And Israel: The Changing Faces Of Populism

Political Scientist Soner Cagaptay once dubbed Recep Tayyip Erdogan the "inventor of 21st-century populism." There may be some truth to that, especially given the way the Turkish president's style of leadership has quickly spread in recent years. But as we progress further into the millennium, it's also clear that populism has evolved. Those with a claim to redefining the populist formula include U.S. President Donald Trump, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, and India's Narendra Modi.

Still, since his election as prime minister in 2003, Erdogan's rise is instructive. Initially working on a mandate of liberal inclusivity with echoes of Tony Blair, his policy and rhetoric alike morphed as he consolidated power. An analysis by the Guardian shows how he changed his language to stir and take hold of his electorate: His enemies became "enemies of the people;" his electoral successes became victories against the "tyranny of elites."

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Baris Doster

Why The Stakes Are So High For Erdogan In Istanbul

Turkey's president first burst on the scene in 1994 when he was elected mayor of Istanbul. Now, his party tries to hold the city.

ISTANBUL — It has been 10 days since the municipal elections. There are still many objections to the vote counts nationwide from the ruling coalition of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and their ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The battle for the city of Istanbul being the biggest point of content, the vote of March 31 may turn into a point of contention for our nation's politics, sociology and history.

Procedures and institutions exist with the authority to deal with election results, questionable ballots, mistakes in records and objections from candidates. Yet, the prolonged waiting and debate on conventional and social media is increasing the tension. It appears clear that the objections of the government bloc are more likely to be accepted by the authorities than those of opposition parties. The uneven and unfair conditions we witnessed during the campaign continue after it's over.

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