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No more youth militarisation

Activists from across world meet to share insights

Activists and curious members of the public gathered in the comfortable confines of Housmans Bookshop in central London on 5 February to discuss the indoctrination of young people into the military, and how to prevent it.

During the War Resisters’ International (WRI) forum, representatives from WRI-affiliated groups in Turkey, Finland, the Czech Republic and the UK shared their experiences in countering conscription, militarised culture, and media controlled by authoritarian governments.

‘We are all doing similar work in different contexts,’ said Samih of WRI Turkey, one of the event’s moderators.

An underlying theme to the night was how the military dominates public life, including education, social services, and political organisations. In the Czech Republic and Finland, the military is trying to solidify itself as a cultural staple thorough campaigns that glorify the protection of the state through serving in the armed forces.

In Turkey, where there is compulsory conscription for men at 20 years old and no right to conscientious objection, the chokehold that president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has on the mainstream media makes any voicing of discontent difficult, if not downright deadly. During the forum at Housmans, Samih compared the government’s work as an ‘introduction to militarism 101’ class complete with a large focus on religion and martyrdom, the criminalisation of opposition, and a heavy dose of nationalism.

‘It is more and more challenging to speak out against this intense doctrine,’ said Samih. ‘I can see we are losing generations to their words.’

Critical thinking

We also heard from Hannah, a member of NESEHNUTÍ, a non-profit organisation that opposes militarisation in Czech secondary schools, whose work has been highlighted in a documentary called Teaching War, directed by Adéla Komrzý.

Since 2013, the Czech ministry of defence has made ‘preparation of citizens for the defence of the state’ (POKOS) an integrated part of the Czech school curriculum for both teachers and students. Hannah described this attempt to increase recruitment in the army as dangerous and propagandistic.

NESEHNUTÍ’s work has already resulted in the government addressing some of the curriculum’s issues, but Hannah says that NESEHNUTI still has a lot of work to do. ‘We are now trying to take an approach that mitigates [rather than removes], the role of military in education,’ she said. ‘We want to focus on critical thinking.’

Topics: Militarism