Turkey will likely switch to a whole new conscription model in a few weeks that will shorten the time period for conscripts; quite a change for a country where serving in the army is seen as a deep-rooted patriotic duty.The government will soon present a draft text on new, shortened conscription to Parliament. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday that he expected Parliament would pass it before a recess for the Ramadan Bayram (Eid al-Fitr) in the first week of June.
Under the new conscription, mandatory service for every young Turkish man will be reduced to six months from 12 months and those who want to serve six months more will be paid about TL 2,000 per month. The new system also brings permanent, paid military service for those who can afford it. Conscripts will be required to undergo one-month military training, and they will be exempted from the rest of the five months of service by paying TL 30,000.
The new system also facilitates a switch to a professional career in the army for conscripts. Those accepting a six-month extension to their service, will be prioritized if they apply to be reserve officers and later full-time career officers. Official figures show there are currently 2.2 million people eligible for conscription, and 1.6 million of them are those postponing their service to attend university.
Military service is viewed as a patriotic duty by the majority of Turkish citizens, but the need for a professional army in the face of multiple security threats in the volatile Middle East apparently outweighs the fervor of conscripts. The country already decreased the number of conscripts, especially in risky areas where counterterrorism operations against the terrorist group PKK are being conducted in southeastern and eastern Turkey. It also started hiring "contract officers" and "privates" to aid career officers in risky operations and defense of the borders. For a nation priding itself in being a "military nation," this change can be regarded as abandoning the ideals of the past.However, it is understandable for those who completed their military service occupied with menial tasks far from where elite commandos of the army roamed. For proponents of paid military service, which was introduced again last year after a long time since its first application, less time spent in conscription means more opportunity for their careers. Paid military service supporters claim that spending 12 or six months in the army is a major obstacle to advance their careers as military service is required to be completed for many in their twenties.