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The turkish soldier by thadeusz
My last name is Demir and my first name is Ahmet. I was born on January 2, 1996 in a small village near Kayseri, in Cappadoce, in Turkey.
My father had left a few months before, in December 1995, for Belgium where he hoped to find a better job.
In fact "a better job" is a wrong expression: my father hoped to find a job and that’s it !
Finally he found a job as assistant shopkeeper in Brussels, where there is a big Turkish community. That’s where I grew up. I also have a brother, Saïd born 1997, and a sister, Tamira born in 1998, both born in Belgium but younger than I was.
I was born a Turk and I never bothered to get the Belgian nationality, despite the fact that I lived in Belgium since I was born, or nearly so. Provisionally Saïd and Tamira are Turks like my parents, but both intend to apply for the belgian nationality as soon as they come of age. This is especially important for my brother who dreams of becoming an officer in the Belgian Army.
I was not a good student, nevertheless I painfully got my highschool diploma in 2015 and I tried to search for a job. Remember that I was still a Turk.
I did not find any job. This was partly due to my origins: Belgians did not seem to like Turks, but mostly because of my attitude, my sluggishness. I thus lived at my parents’ home and I received whatever food they wanted to share with me. They really loved me, but I was too lazy to take notice of that fact.
I decided to try something and I went to Paris to try an enlistment in the French Foreign Legion. I remained in Paris and then in Aubagne for 5 weeks, but they did not accept me and I was sent home. I was not really desperate: I did not really care.
In february 2016, I received a letter from the Turkish Army. It reminded me that as a Turkish citizen, I had to accomplish my military service. This was certainly not something I had dreamed of as a profession. This letter mentioned three possibilities, considering the fact that I was not a Belgian citizen. First I could go to Turkey and accomplish my two year service like any other Turkish boy my age. Second possibility, since I lived outside Turkey, I could buy my military service for the small amount of 2.000 Euros. This would enable me to have a full exemption. But I did not have that much money. The third possibility was interesting: I could go to Turkey and serve the Army for 3 months since I lived and had always lived in a foreign country. Finally, the letter mentioned that if I refused the three options, since I was only a Turk, I would be considered as a deserter and arrested by Interpol to be tried in Turkey.
I told all that to my parents and my father suggested getting a loan and paying 2.000 Euros, which was an awful lot for him. In fact he said:
"I don’t want you to go to Turkey in that wicked Army. You never know what could happen to you."
"To me father ? During these three months ? I would like to do it: the trip will be paid by the Army and it will serve me as a vacation. Immediately after, I promise you that I will search for a good job."
"Anyway my son, you are more than 18, so you can decide by yourself without your father's consent. You already tried the Legion and they sent you back more or less in despair because you had been rejected. I hope you will not be in despair because of your stupid choice."
I replied to the Embassy that I chose the 3 months service.
They reacted rapidly and sent me a letter telling me to come to the Embassy, with my convocation letter for a departure fixed on January 1, 2016. They also warned me that I should be dressed decently but not especially elegantly: the Army would provide for my clothing. The only thing they recommended was to have short hair.
I had very long hair, not because I liked that but because it was cheaper not to go to the barber. This time I looked for one in the neighborhood and I asked him to reduce my hair to something more serious. He started cutting with his scissors and after a long time he left me with a very decent haircut (elegant but too short according to me). It was short on the left side, longer on the top and short on the right side and on the back: this enabled the barber to create a nice partition which had never been there. The barber had succeeded in transforming my indecent mane into something much better: a taper fade with short sides to create a contrast with the long hair remaining on top.
He also cleaned my beard and my mustache. After this passage, I looked like a real businessman.
In their letter, the Embassy people also asked me to give my size as far as clothing was concerned. I did not understand why they needed that information, but my father had a suggestion:
"They want to send that to Turkey so that they can very rapidly provide you with your uniform. You only stay there for 3 short months."
I left home for the second time, but now with a more serious chance to be accepted. I had a small bag with spare linen. I also had a toothbrush and some toothpaste, a comb and a hairbrush. I also had some spare money in US dollars: 500 dollars my father had forced me to take with me for my adventure (that’s how he described what I was going to do).
When I arrived at the Turkish Embassy, I was placed in the same room as 4 other guys in the same situation, trying to live their adventure.
We first underwent the Medical Examination. One of the others was expelled because he had smoked pot, and another for another serious medical reason. These two received their definitive exemption, but one got it as a punishment because of what he smoked, while the other got it as if it were condolences because of his illness.
I remained with two other guys of my age: Kadir and Mehmet. We waited for some time and suddenly a military attaché, wearing a nice uniform, appeared from nowhere. He made a sign and the three of us stood up. He told us:
"Congratulations lads for coming here and starting to do your military duty. My name is Lieutenant Aslan. I will accompany you to your regiment. Now you will give me all your possessions."
He was accompanied by a younger soldier, in uniform, with "Bozkurt" printed on his left breast pocket.
The Lieutenant told us to undress completely and to give him everything we had with us. Bozkurt started to search us, front and back, exactly as I had seen in American films for new prisoners and that made me very uncomfortable. Kadir did not like it either and complained:
"If this is the Turkish Army, I want to leave and pay the 2.000 EURO"
But the Lieutenant replied:
"First, when you address me you always start by ‘Lieutenant’ and second, you ARE now in the Army since you signed saying you chose this way to accomplish your military obligation. There is no way back. Give me 20 pushups immediately as punishment."
Kadir dropped on the ground and obediently gave the 20 pushups. I think he had been tamed by the Lieutenant.
The Lieutenant took all our possessions. This included my 500 US dollars, the clothes prepared by my mother and the toiletries. It also included all our papers and identity cards.
We were still naked but each of us received the following clothing elements: green undies, green slacks and a green t-shirt. Each of these pieces of clothing had our name on it. For the t-shirt it was on the front left and for the slacks of the right hip pocket. On top of that we got green socks and black Army boots. Finally we got a green vest with our name on the left breast pocket. All these clothes fitted perfectly: I understood now why I had been asked to give my size !
It was obvious that we were in the Army as of that instant. The military attaché added:
"You will get more equipment once you are in your regiment, which will not be long."
He then looked at the three of us: Kadir and Mehmet had a relatively short buzz cut, but I had a more civilian haircut. He shouted:
"You there Demir, the letter you received mentioned a neat appearance. Yours is not. You are a soldier now, not a businessman."
"But I went to the hairdresser yesterday."
"Same remark, you should address me starting with ‘Lieutenant’. Drop on the floor and give me 50, you have been warned by the previous remark. Your appearance will be corrected after that."
There was nothing to do, so I dropped on the floor and started my 50 push-ups as well as I could. Luckily, I had trained a lot for the Legion !
I did what I had been told and I believe I did it well. The Lieutenant liked that and told me:
"Well done Demir. It could have been done by an actual soldier. Did you ever consider enlisting for real in our Army ?"
"Well, think about it now that you are a Turkish soldier."
This did not stop the Lieutenant in his "hair cleaning" process. He called an Embassy military barber and told him to shave me completely. I was told to sit on a chair in the middle of the room, no longer in the nude, but now in uniform. The barber first caped me and then he started to shave me, rapidly and brutally. He turned my head in all possible directions, pushed it, pulled it and passed his clippers all over my head. I could see hair falling on the ground, but I did not know how much was left.
As soon as the Barber was done with my hair, he started with my nice little beard and my mustache. All that was also shaved. During the whole process, I abstained from reacting: after all I had chosen this way and I did not hate military life since I tried the Legion.
When the barber was done, the Lieutenant ordered me to look in a small mirror. My head was completely bald and my face was completely smooth. The Lieutenant added to that:
"Soldier Demir, keep your head and face like that during all the duration of your military service and you will keep out of mischief. Now clean the floor IMMEDIATELY."
I found a broom and obeyed without hesitation. My two colleagues were standing, more or less at attention and looking bewildered at my new head. They had simply a very short buzz cut, while I looked like a convict.
Now that the three of us were in uniform, that our heads had been checked for hair length and that the Lieutenant had all our papers and identity cards, he took us to a special room.
There we were photographed from several angles. We were measured and weighed. Our fingerprints were taken and we were told to go back to the first room and wait.
After a certain time, the Lieutenant came back and gave each of us a plastic card with our photo, our name and first name, a number which was now our military identity, and underneath our name, the mention "SOLDIER". On the back of the card, there was a fingerprint of our thumbs. We were really in the Army now.
He finally gave each of us a green scarf to be permanently worn on our collar. The Lieutenant explained :
"This green collar band identifies you as a islamic fighter for your motherland. You must wear it permanently."
He led us to another room where there was some food and three folding camping beds with a green cover on each of them. We got some food presented according to military rules, and lots of water. We were told to eat, to drink and to rest: the next day would be tiring.
I remembered the selection at the Legion and I decided to undress and sleep in my undies. My companions kept their trousers : they did not know anything about military life.
I don’t know how they slept, but I slept well. Except for my new imposed convict haircut, this starting military life did not displease me.
The next morning, we were woken up by the young soldier, Bozkurt, who simply told us:
"Soldiers, it is time for you to get ready."
I looked at my watch (which I had been allowed to keep) and noticed that it was 5:30 am !
Bozkurt smiled and said: "military wake up, my friends" and gave each of us a small bag with toiletries, clean undies and a clean t-shirt. He showed us a small washbasin and a toilet saying then: "for the necessities".
A few minutes later, the Lieutenant entered our room and told us to stand at attention. Bozkurt gave the example: I knew how to do it from my weeks in the Legion, but Kadir and Mehmet did not know exactly how to do it. Their attitude made me laugh, but I tried to control myself. I was not fast enough, the Lieutenant had seen me. He immediately reacted:
"Soldier Demir, your attitude is perfect except that you are making fun of two ignorant new soldiers. Give me 20, no since you do it so well, give me 50."
I obeyed immediately and the Lieutenant seemed to be satisfied. He nevertheless asked:
"Where did you learn to do push ups so well ?"
"In the French Foreign Legion where I tried to enlist, Lieutenant," was my prompt reply.
"In that case, you know more of the basic notions than your two comrades. I will thus be more severe with you. UNDERSTOOD ?"
"YES, Lieutenant", and I shouted this answer the Legion way. The Lieutenant seemed satisfied.
He then inspected us and decided that I was "OK". He also told me to show Kadir and Mehmet how they should dress. The lieutenant then gave each of us a green beret with the badge of our future regiment. He also showed us how to salute "the Turkish Army way", how to stand at attention, how to stand at ease, how to speak to an officer and how to wear our beret. That was our first military lesson.
We had a solid breakfast with Bozkurt in the presence of the Lieutenant. Immediately after that we left for the airport. We did not go through the usual control: we were Turkish soldiers and went through a special gate. When we reached the exit we had to wait for a few minutes and an old lady, a tourist, asked me in English:
"Young man, do you know when we will arrive in Istanbul ?"
I remained very serious. Stood up, saluted the lady the military way and said in Turkish:
"This soldier is on duty and does not speak any other language than his mother tongue."
Lieutenant Aslan immediately asked me in Turkish:
"Do you speak English, soldier ?"
"Then why did you not answer this lady ?"
"I thought it was funny like that, Lieutenant. I am a Turkish soldier now and nothing else."
"Turkish soldiers are always polite. Remind me that as soon as we land, you will have to give me 20. If you behave like that once more, I will send you to the brig with an extension to your special contract."
I saluted and remained silent: I was in the Army now and jokes were no longer permitted when an officer was present.
We finally flew from Brussels to Istanbul with the Lieutenant and with Bozkurt. There I politely reminded the Lieutenant that I owed him 20 and I asked permission to give them immediately. He told me to wait until we were in the garrison, but he was smiling now.
From Istanbul we flew to Konya where we would be stationed for 3 months.
Konya is a small city near a military airport. We were assigned to the protection of that base. As soon as we were inside the garrison, I saluted once more the Lieutenant with the sole words:
"At your command, Lieutenant."
"You really want it, Demir ? In that case, give me 50 perfect ones."
I obeyed this order and decided to be more respectful of the values represented by the uniform I was now wearing.
The three of us were sent to the barber: that was one of the induction rules. My friends got a zero cut, as foreseen by the military regulation. And I got another one while the barber was really laughing and asked me:
"What type of mischief have you done to deserve a zero cut before arriving here ?"
"Corporal, the convocation letter said that we had to have a decent haircut and I came with a businessman haircut plus a beard and a mustache."
"In that case, soldier, the Lieutenant rightfully punished you. Try to behave better now that you are under my control".
We also got more pieces of uniform. Two other sets of green military fatigues with three sets of green undies. There was also a ceremony uniform in solid green cloth. This was a thick and warm cloth. The vest had shoulder pads and the trousers were wide but had to be attached by an elastic inside the boots, at the base. There was another pair of Army black boots. Finally, I got a large black leather belt with a big buckle and a sort of leather black sling which had to be attached in the center of the belt in the back, to pass under the left shoulder pad and then be attached to the front of the belt at the level of the left hip. It was complex but elegant. Luckily, we only had to wear this when we were on guard duty or when we had a "pass" to go out during a few hours.
Military instruction started immediately with other officers: Lieutenant Aslan left us and went back to Brussels. The three of us were considered poor soldiers. It is a fact that my two friends did a real minimum, but I did really a maximum and hoped to be rated as an excellent soldier.
For an unknown reason, our time of duty was extended by the Turkish parliament from 3 months to 6 months, with the possibility to ask for an extension if we liked military life. My two friends did not want that extension but I was contemplating it as a possibility. That would be my first paid job.
The three of us decided to obey: there was nothing else we could do. We warned our respective parents, but we also discovered good comrades. Our work consisted mostly of guard duties and patrols around the airfield.
One day, while we were not on duty in the evening, we went out with two other soldiers. These comrades were fully Turks, living in Turkey and serving as privates during the two years of their military obligation. They did not like it but had no choice.
Moreover, it had also been decided that soldiers on short term service (that was our case) could not go out of the barracks. But our officers had told us that if we behaved well, they would not object to our "outings"
At that time, I had already planned to enlist in the Army or to ask for that extension, but I had not done anything official yet.
We went to a local bar and the two comrades refused to drink alcohol : they were good muslims. Each ordered a glass of tea. Mehmet ordered a lemonade and Kadir decided to drink coffee. I ordered a raki, a real Turkish glass of alcohol. One of the comrades tried to warn me:
"You know that raki is alcohol ?"
"Of course, it is but I don’t care."
"Sure YOU don’t care, but you are a soldier in uniform and you defy muslim rules."
"Would it be better if I was in civvies ?"
"As a soldier, you are not allowed to be in civvies during your military service. You know that."
"OK, I take the risk." In fact as far as I was concerned it was also a "dare".
Suddenly there was an announcement on the TV: the speaker mentioned an attempted coup. Nothing more was said. The two real Turks decided to go back immediately to the camp. Kadir et Mehmet considered that it was prudent to go with them. But I did not see why I should stop walking through the city: the announcement on TV had not mentioned that all soldiers had to go back to camp immediately.
When I came back to camp, the MPs asked me where I had been and what I had been doing. I explained that I simply went for a walk, since I was not on duty, and that I stopped in a bar. They asked me what I had drunk, and I replied "raki". They immediately arrested me and placed me in the brig.
The next day, still in my outing uniform, I was taken to the central prison of the town. As of that moment I had shackles on my ankles and handcuffs on my cuffs with my arms placed in my back. From there I was taken to a central prison and I was told that I was now in Ankara where I would be judged for my "crime". There I was deprived of my uniform: a guard told me that I was unworthy of wearing a uniform of the "great Turkish Army". I was left in my underpant and I was, once more, shaved to zero. Something which had not happened since my induction headshave.
I must confess here that I did not really understand what my crime was ! Going out of the Camp when I was not on duty ? I had done it before. Drinking raki while in uniform ? Possibly, but that was a "crime" worth a tiny punishment, not a judgment in the main military court, and in underpants ! I must say that I was really anxious and that, now that I had seen the brutal way in which so-called criminals could be treated, I was no longer willing to apply for an extension of time of service.
Shortly after that, I was judged. I explained that I went out of the camp because I was not on duty and that I could thus, usually, go out provided I did not leave the city. I also confessed that I drank one glass of raki since I was a real Turk.
The Judge obviously did not agree. He explained:
"Even if your officers told you that you could go out provided you behave well, that remained illegal. I am not here to punish your officers, but to punish you for an illegal outing. Moreover you did not report immediately after the first call on television, this is a second serious dereliction of duty."
The lawyer appointed to me (but who did not know me) tried to help:
"Your Honor, this soldier did not hear the TV call to rejoin the Camp immediately. He only heard the first announcement mentioning an attempted coup."
"That’s enough for me: he should have rejoined his Camp immediately, of his own motion."
The Judge continued:
"In any case, he was assigned to the guard of the airbase from where some of the attacks came. He should have fought against these traitors. By behaving as he did, in fact he associated himself with these criminals. In any case, he was not alone: he was there doing a tiny military service with two others and these two others deserted immediately after the attempted coup.
Finally, this soldier confesses that he drank alcool while in uniform: that is also a treason against the rules of our great muslim army."
My lawyer tried to defend me, saying among other things, that I voluntarily came from Belgium to serve my country despite the fact that I could have avoided that for a little money. He told the judge that the desertion of the two other Turks coming from Belgium could not be considered as my responsibility since they went back to the camp before I came back: their desertion was a dreadful but separate case.
The Judge luckily accepted this point of view and I started to hope that everything would be settled with a few days of arrest in my regiment. I did not understand why my lawyer was speaking so much.
My lawyer added that I really wanted to serve my country and he showed the draft of my application for an extension of military service: the lawyer said that it was not in yet because I wanted the advice of my Lieutenant. I did not know yet if it would be better for Turkey if I simply extended my military service (by how long was not mentioned) or if I enlisted for good in our glorious Army. The lawyer tried to speak longer saying how good I was and how my chief praised my behavior, but the Judge interrupted him saying:
"Make it short, I have many more that I must sentence, sorry that I must judge."
My lawyer decided to stop there and the Judge gave his verdict:
"This young soldier dishonored his country. I must thus consider that he has forfeit for ever his nationality and his right to be treated as a free citizen. He will thus stay in prison for life, serving the country which is no longer his by hard labor in a high security prison. He will thus never again meet the members of his family until his death."
I did not understand what had happened: all that for a glass of raki one evening while I was in uniform ? My lawyer told me that I could be lucky that it was not a worse sentence: he explained that everything had been changed after this attempted coup. He wished me well and told me that I could still write to him, even if I could no longer communicate with my relatives and my friends.
I was taken in chains to a secluded place. It was a military prison where I received a prison uniform to put on my underpants, but keeping my chains. I now had my shackles and my handcuffs permanently on and I had to learn to change clothes while I was wearing these awful instruments of punishment. I was transferred to a military base in the east. When I arrived the Camp leader, a Colonel, warned me that my life would be more or less comfortable depending on my behavior as a prisoner and as an ex-soldier. He also added that my chains were there for good and that I would be shorn to the woods every Thursday in preparation of the Friday prayer. I could attend this prayer or skip it, it was my choice, but he would decide how I should be treated depending on that. I told him that attending the Friday prayer would be a privilege for me. I did not tell him that I was a confirmed atheist.
In this prison, or better in this camp, I had to work for the construction of new bases for the Army. I had no access to any means of communication, except once a month, a letter to my lawyer who had warned my parents of my special situation. I learned rapidly that this was a special favor gained by my lawyer.
The situation in this prisoner camp was very painful, but I was not the only one there: many soldiers, including high ranking ones, had been declared "forfeit of any nationality" and the high ranking ones had all been degraded to "plain prisoner for life".
My new comrades did not succeed to contact their own lawyer: they were barred from doing so by the Army. I was not since my lawyer had gained a monthly letter. My new comrades suggested that I contact my lawyer and tell him what was happening.
My lawyer replied promptly, instructing me to stop relaying any contact with the "traitors". He told me that he would soon come and visit me.
About one year after I had been sentenced to life in prison, I could meet my lawyer. He told me that he had asked for a rehabilitation hearing which would take place after I had spent one full year in prison and in chains.
This hearing took place in front of another Judge. I was very humble and told, as advised by my lawyer, that I was now a good muslim. I specified that I was no longer drinking alcohol (well, there was no alcohol inside the prison) and that I said my prayers every Friday. I also said that I much regretted what I had done. I really wanted to be a soldier again and to be able to serve my country with all my might. My lawyer confirmed that after all I was a good soldier before being arrested, that I intended to stay longer in the Army than the bare minimum of 6 months. My lawyer then had a brilliant idea:
"You Honor, let me remind you of the situation in the past of the Janissaries. These were slaves: like my client they had been declared forfeited of all their rights. Forfeited of all their rights except one: fighting for Turkey. And they were excellent soldiers. Like my client. This shows that in the past our great country has had other soldiers who were in fact punished men, but on the path to redemption."
He wanted to speak longer, but here again the judge interrupted him and gave his new sentence.
"I understand the good will of this prisoner and I am ready to redeem him but there will be several very strict conditions. Is your client ready to accept new and severe conditions which are the only ones which will enable him to fight for his country ?"
"Will he be in chains ?" asked my lawyer while I was looking humbly to the ground.
"He will be in uniform and after a certain time, if he behaves as well as he did during the first months of his former service, he will be completely free, or nearly completely free. But there will be a price to pay. Prisoner, what do you say ?" asked the Judge suddenly while addressing me.
"Your Honor, I will accept any restriction that will enable me to be more useful for my country, even if I have to remain in chains."
"In that case I will give my final sentence now.
Prisoner, you must enlist until the age limit. Since you are now 21, you must enlist as a soldier for 34 years, except if you are punished as a soldier and if this entails an extension of your contract. Do you accept this first condition, prisoner ?"
"I do, your Honor."
"Moreover during your first year, you will not be paid: you will be treated like a Janissary. You will receive everything your chiefs consider necessary for the good functioning of the service and no more. And certainly no money. You will have no leave and no visit.
"You cannot accept money from other people during this first year, and certainly not from your relatives.
Do you accept that prisoner ?""
"I do accept that too, your Honor."
"You will never drink alcohol and you will respect all the rules of our Religion."
"I accept that."
"You must know that you will have no promotion during your first five years of service, but leaves might then become possible in the neighborhood of your barracks, but never outside Turkey. You will also promise never to go outside of Turkey, unless it is as a soldier with your regiment. Do you also accept that, prisoner ?"
"Your Honor, I do accept all this with humility."
"You will be allowed to write to your relatives, if you have enough money for the stamps or if your chiefs give you these stamps. But these letters will be shown open to your chiefs so they can read them.
After one year of service as a "new Janissary", you will also have the possibility to meet with your parents if they come to Turkey, where you are stationed. But you will not be allowed to leave your station at these moments, except for a few hours and with the special authorization of your chiefs.
You will be permanently in uniform and you will not be allowed to be married before you have 5 years of service and the full agreement of your chiefs.
Do you accept all that, prisoner?"
"I do accept your Honor."
"You are thus again a soldier, and for life now.
Soldier, you may now go with your lawyer to the regiment office where you will get your uniform and your new assignment. You will go there accompanied by a Sergeant of this penitentiary regiment, but without chains."
I saluted and left the court with my lawyer.
I had realized that all these conditions would be difficult to live with, but certainly less painful than the high security prison where I was doing hard labor. I had understood that I had now to behave like a "new Janissary". I signed my new enlistment form, mentioning all these restrictions.
A Corporal, serving as clerk, took away all my chains and led me, still in underpants, to Sivas, a little town in the east of Turkey. In the past it was an important town, but now it is a fallen city with an important garrison.
There I received my uniform and all the things going with it. I was now in an Infantry regiment, this means that my service dress was not as elegant as the previous one. I had to be nearly permanently in "fatigues" with a brelage on my back. For those who don’t know what it is, a brelage is made of a large webbing belt to which a pair of braces is added in order to help the soldier to carry all kinds of things. In front the braces are parallel but in the back they join for the stability of the equipment. I consider wearing this "brelage" as tiring, but it is part of the uniform and I was not in position to discuss that.
As soon as I had my equipment, I started my 6 months basic instruction as if I had done nothing before. I graduated with honors from this basic instruction and I started my job as a Turkish soldier.
Even if I was subject to many restrictions, I was less unhappy in my new regiment than in prison. I accepted all the rules imposed by the last Judge and I even admired his wisdom. I was now considered as a very "normal" soldier by my comrades and I realized soon that my chiefs considered me as a good element. Every other week, I went to the regimental barber and asked him to shave me completely, giving me this famous zero cut. I got what I asked for and was happy with it. But I was not allowed to leave the barracks: the "plans of the day" were organized in such a way that I was always left as a guard when my comrades had to go out of the Camp, even if an NCO was present and if I could have been taken with them according to the Sentence of the last Judge.
After one year of this soldier's life, I was called to the Colonel’s office. This big chief told me that I was now authorized to meet my parents should they come to our city. He also mentioned that as of that moment I would get the regular pay of a soldier starting his career. This was not much after more than a year in the Army, but it was good to have now what I needed to buy stamps and write to my parents without having to beg for paper and stamps.
Two months later, my parents came to Sivas and the Colonel authorized me to meet them freely for 3 hours on a Thursday afternoon, 3 more hours on the next Friday afternoon and in between to go with my father and pray in the nearest mosque on the Friday morning. Of course I had to stay in uniform. I was not authorized to sleep out of the barracks. Despite all these restrictions, I was very happy to be reunited with my parents. They were also happy: I could have been shot and now I was alive and more or less free, I had a job and my parents considered that I was wearing a nice uniform.
I nevertheless told my parents that they should not let my brother go to Turkey for his military service. My father replied that this had been taken care of:
"As soon as your brother and sister reached the age of 18, they applied for full Belgian citizenship and abandoned Turkish citizenship. Your brother is now studying where he always dreamed to be sent."
This was said discreetly, just in case. In fact it meant that my brother had been admitted to the Belgian Officers School. If my chiefs had known that, it would have made me suspect of spying.
A few months later, I was sent with many of my comrades to Syria. We were ordered to fight the Kurds. I thought that it was a bad action decided by my government, but since I was a soldier now and forever, I obeyed. I fought well but I was wounded.
I was sent to a military hospital where I was well treated and completely cured. I received a medal for my "good actions" and my Colonel told me that he had asked that I be promoted to Corporal as soon as my sentence made it possible.
I am considered as an excellent and obedient soldier. As soon as I had 5 years of service, I was promoted to Corporal and my Colonel told me that five years later, I will be promoted to Sergeant if I keep behaving well. I will also be allowed to get married.
I can now go regularly out of the Camp for a walk in town. I often drink tea in a bar, but never more alcohol. I am not allowed to go outside the town limits, except with a chief and as an active duty soldier. I must say that I really don’t care anymore.