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Andreas Chr. Andreou supervised by Dr Jane Hindley

Punishing anti-military conscience in the Republic of Cyprus. Giving voice to the voiceless.



Compulsory military service seems to me

the most disgraceful symptom of that deficiency in personal dignity

from which civilized mankind is suffering to-day

Albert Einstein, source, year




1. Introduction 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Conscription Avoiding the army – Conscientious objection VS Fygostratia Punishing antimilitarism – Law regulations and weaknesses Challenging perceptions A European authoritarian state?

7. Conclusion 8. Bibliography Abbreviations and terminology Acknowledgments Appendixes


Chapter One


Almost two and a half years ago, it was the first time in my life when I felt totally free. Totally free to experience and feel my life as an independent individual, who can live his life based on his own expectations, will, decisions and options. That’s not only because my previously life was determined by the social expectations and obligations of having to obey the demands of the educational system (as it happens almost with everybody who lives in civilized societies) but also because in the country I was growing up, Cyprus, we have another social obligation which is conscription. In December 2010 it was the time when, after a stressful and challenging process, I managed to get a discharge from my rest 20 months obligation to serve in the army - after serving for four months. It was a period in which I felt as free as a bird to open my wings and freely and independently, with a brand new peace of mind, fly across the skies of my will and conscience. Yes. In Cyprus we have conscription which is thought to be a moral duty to this country. A duty in which everybody is socially, legally, unconsciously and psychologically obliged to fulfill. A duty which others set upon us without caring about our own morals and conscience. a duty which others set upon us without bearing in mind that some of us want to comfort to it and obey or to disobey and be uncompromised.

This experience of conflict with the law, the society, the norms and mainly with ourselves is the topic of this dissertation. This dissertation is about us, us who haven’t and who will never conform to the norms and the expected but instead who have and who will always listen to our values and conscience. We are the cursed subjects and producers of ‘Fygpstrata’1. We are the cursed ‘Fygostrati’ of the Cypriot society. We are the small amount of youth who the society blames for the recent increasing trend of avoiding conscription. We are the ones who our politicians want


The word ‘Fygostratia’ derives from the greek words ‘φεύγω’ (fevgo = I leave/quit)

and ‘στρατός’ (stratos = army). It is the noon which terms the act of leaving from/quitting the army/military service. In English it could be translated as ‘Armyquit’. The greek singular adjective is ‘fygostratos’ and the plural adjective is ‘fygostrati’ and it could be translated as ’army-quitter(s)’. 6

to punish, confine in psychiatric clinics, deprive our fundamental rights and victimize our lives.

As the issue is very broad, multilateral and not at all objectively and widely analyzed, it is unfeasible to limit this paper in a one-dimensional research question. If demanded to give the most indicative question which defines this paper though, it would be ‘What ‘Fygostratia’ is and how politicians treat it’. Of course there are many hidden aspects of the topic and many sub-questions which can be produced and the more I was researching, the more I was coming across arising important and challenging questions. In order to answer to that question and present the whole issue as objectively and analytically as possible, I will offer a short account on conscription in Cyprus – just to give an informative background to the readers – and then I will present the most important findings regarding the ways in which Cypriot male citizens quit their military obligation, based on press research. After that, I will analyze how politicians try to regulate this issue, which they address with strong aggression and determination. All of these are the product of my hypothesis, that Fygostrati are in fact conscientious objectors who, as they are victims of the authoritarian governance system, doesn’t claim their objection but instead they avoid military service on health grounds. This hypothesis will be analyzed in the last chapter, after I offer the necessary background in the previous ones.

The method I used in order to gain information and findings to present to this paper, apart from the press research, I curried out interviews with a politician, a psychologist who is an expert in the court, a lawyer and a social scientist. Moreover, I curried out a survey research with both fygostrati and people who serve(d) their military service. In that way I will try to give voice to the voiceless fygostrati, in an as objective as possible way.

My contribution will not be limited to the previously stated but it will also be unique, as the issue will be presented and analysed in that way for the very first time. Not only that, but this dissertation will be the cornerstone for important initiatives and changes for the society of Cyprus, as, after its completion, I will proceed to further independent initiatives which will start with the creation of an online informative and supporting community regarding the right to avoid military service under the umbrella of the right to conscientious objection. The findings of this paper as well as the findings of my observation of this issue, after the online community will be 7

launched, will be sent to many organizations, such as the Commissioner for the Protection of the Citizen in Cyprus, with complaints and recommendations. Moreover, I intend to use this paper as a helpful tool for organizations which promote the right to Conscientious Objection such as Amnesty International, European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, War Resisters International and others. Apart from that, I will try to promote the topic in the local media, as a Head of the Online Community which I will build.



Chapter Two

Conscription I open the dissertation with this short chapter, through which I give the most basic information about conscription in Europe as well as in Cyprus – with accompanying information regarding the composition and distribution of its population. This can only work as an informative background for the rest of the paper as the knowledge offered here is not needed for one to understand the rest of the paper.

A short account on conscription Levi (2002, p.337, 341) reports that compulsory military service justifying its imposition with democratic principles and wining the acceptance of citizens was introduced in 1793 in France and it is (or it was) one of the important obligation of democratic citizenship, as, since then, many democracies followed the French example in order to provide military security to their states. According to the same source though (2002, p.337, 341), a careful examination to the history of conscription indicates that there are many changes and


transformations in the forms of military service, something which lead to a variation in military formats over time and among states. Having to do with the today’s general situation, Ajangiz (2002, p.307-308) maintains that conscription suffers from a very serious crisis, as the latest developments in Western Europe are framed in the long-term process of the decline of the mass army. Moreover, he identifies democratic reason and social mobilization as the greater influence to that. As he stresses, in a few years’ time, the European map of conscription has radically changed as many states abolished compulsory military service and he wonders if the days of conscription are really coming to an end. If we are to examine the European situation briefly, we can say that until 2010, the only countries in Europe with conscription were: Finland (6-12 months), Estonia (811 months), Denmark (4-12 months), Germany (6 months), Austria (6 months), Greece (9 months) and Cyprus (24 months). In the rest of the European countries conscription phased out during the previous two decades (CIA reports)

Conscription in Cyprus For the matter of clarity, before I proceed to the short history of the enshrine of the Cypriot army, I believe that it would be helpful to give a short account on the composition and distribution of the population in Cyprus after its declaration as an independent state in 1960.

After the independence in 1960, the Constitution defined Cyprus as a country which was legally inhabited by a big majority of Greek Cypriots (about 70%) and a minority of Turkish Cypriots (about 30%). The constitution recognized other very small minorities as well – Armenians, Latins and Maronites. During the first years of the independence some bi-communal conflicts took place which reached a peak in 196364, when Turkish Cypriots rebelled against the state, abandoned their state powers and moved in specific areas of the island. REFERENCE As REFUSING TO informs, Cyprus has been a divided country ever since 1963 when the federal republic came to an end and a UN ‘peace keeping force’ was established



in 1964. After a coup organized by the military junta in Greece, the Turkish army invaded the northern part of the island in 1974 and the occupation by about 35,000 Turkish armed forces has continued to this day. The invasion resulted in the splitting of the island in two parts, the north and the south. In 1983 the north part was declared as ‘The Turkish Republic of the Northern Cyprus’ (TRNC) – an entity recognized only by Turkey. The republic of Cyprus is globally recognized – with the exception of Turkey – and after the war, it controls only the south part of the island.

Based on the official website of the National Guard2, we can see that the establishment of the Cypriot army under the name of National Guard of Cyprus started after the declaration of the independence of the island. At the beginning of the independence, the constitutional articles numbered 129-132 were talking about an army of two thousand men – 60% Greek Cypriots and 40% Turkish Cypriots. The service wasn’t mandatory but it could be after a common agreement by the President and the Vice President of the Republic. After the bi-communal conflicts of 1963-64 and bearing in mind the threats thrown by Turkey for a military operation, the efforts of the governors for the establishment of a stronger army lead in 1964 in the creation of the ‘National Guard General Staff’ (GEEF) based on the Law 20 «On National Guard». This law introduced conscription in Cyprus which made all men aged between 18 and 50 liable for military service. According to Refusing to bear arms(page 93), the service was initially lasting 26 months while today is 24 months for the vast majority. The National Guard, as we 2


are informed in its website, is constantly at war with the Turkish occupational forces. From 1974 until today, the National Guard has and continues to perform an important task’ and ‘it has become a well-trained and measurable deterrent’. The main aim of it is ‘the defence of our independence and the sovereignty of our territory as they serve our freedom and dignity; as the ex-Minister of Defence stated3 while the Head of the Parliament, Mr Omirou stressed in 2007 that it is the biggest pride to serve your motherland and that ‘there is no better biographical statement than that’4. Of course there are numerous statements like this in many articles and TV programs, as well as other media, from many politicians of all the political parties in Cyprus, as the issue of conscription is indeed very important for the mainstream sphere. Having to do with annual statistics, Refusing mentions that –at least until 1997 – the armed forces comprised ten thousand troops, which was about 1% of the population and that every year about 5,600 young men reach conscription age while every year there are around 8,700 conscripts – as the service lasts for two years5.

3 4

Ethniki froura kai istoria, teuxos 30, ioul-dek, 2012 5 There couldn’t be found any clear and precise source indicating the exact numbers of people who enlist every year for the latest years, neither of people avoiding the army, as reports are conflicting. One report indicated that every year, five thousand people enlist ( %81%CE%B8%CF%81%CE%BF%CE%B3%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%86%CE%AF%CE%B1%CE%BC%CE%B5%CE%BB%CF%8E%CE%BD/%CF%86%CF%85%CE%B3%CE%BF%CF%83%C F%84%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%AF%CE%B1/) while at the same time, in 2007, the estimation of Politis Newspaper was three thousand ( Another article reports 4,700 conscripts for 2009 (


Chapter Three

Avoiding the army Conscientious Objection VS Fygostratia

According to Refusing, at least until 1997, control on draft evasion in Cyprus was strict and the completion of military service was even a criterion for admittance to higher education institutes and jobs in the public sector. Moreover, young men are prevented from leaving Cyprus without the written permission of the Ministry of Defence as a measure to minimize every effort of avoiding military service. Despite these, though, there were known and documented cases of people refusing both military and unarmed military service at least until 19976.

Levi (2002) argues that ‘As the institutions and norms of democracy develop and change, so, too, do the conditions under which citizens will consent with or resist military service’. Based on that, the question which triggers this chapter has to do with what happens with people who refuse to go to the army and do their service, despite their legal obligation. As an introductory remark, it can be mentioned that there are two legal ways for someone to avoid military service; the one is the claim of Conscientious Objection (C.O.) to military service and the other is commonly known in Cyprus as ‘Fygostratia’. As these two ways can easily get confused with each other, in the following pages I will give an account on both, so we can be in a position to differentiate them as two distinctive methods. The main objective of this chapter is just that, an account on the two ways in which one can avoid military service. At the same time, this knowledge will help to build a strong theoretical background, necessary for the understanding of chapter six, in which I will examine if those two phenomena have common aspects and in which way they interrelate.

Conscientious Objection in Cyprus According to ‘Right to C.O. in the United Nations Human Rights Law, 19-21’, the Commission on Human Rights, based on many organizations and international bodies, recognizes the right of everyone to have conscientious objection to military


Refusing, p.93-94


service as a legitimate exercise of their fundamental rights7. Moreover, article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and general comment No. 22 of the Human Rights Committee, recognizes that conscientious objection to military service derives from principles and reasons of conscience, including profound convictions arising from religious, moral, ethical, humanitarian or similar motives8. Not only that, but, as an Amnesty International’s statement mentions, "The right to conscientious objection to military service is not a marginal concern outside the mainstream of international human rights protection and promotion"9. Moreover, United Nations constantly focused on the issue of C.O. since its establishment. The legal basis of the right to C.O. (including to military service) is guaranteed by many organizations and institutions, including – apart from the previously mentioned – the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950) and the American Convention of Human Rights (1969). Even in Africa, the Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981) guarantees that fundamental freedoms and rights will never be subject to law and order.

In short, a conscientious objector (CO) can be an individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion.

Early Measures Based on Refusing to bear arms, for the case of Cyprus, the first law recognizing the right to CO to military service passed in 1992, providing two options of unarmed military service during peacetime for those who object military service. These were: a) One service lasting 42 months (16 months longer than the then 26 months’ standard service), b) Another service lasting 32 months (6 months longer)10


The Commission on Human Rights also bears in mind that it is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person, as well as the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and that also the right not to be discriminated against. 8 9 010041997?open&of=ENG-2EU 10

The 42 months’ service didn’t require the wearing of uniform and was performed outside military camps while the 34 month’s service was served in uniforms within the military environment, without the use of weapons. REFUSING


Despite this 1992 law, it becomes obvious through my research that the Republic of Cyprus was still very strict with people who wanted to avoid service and the law, the provisions of which were poor (refusing, 93), wasn’t respected neither was in line with international standards in a number of crucial respects – as it was falling short of relevant resolutions and recommendations of the UN and the Council of Europe – as it is stated in one of the numerous reports by Amnesty International. One of those reports mentions that the fact that Cyprus didn’t adjust its national legislation to the international standards has to do with the government’s unwillingness to find a workable solution11. For example, in 1995 there were 18 Jehovah’s Witnesses / CO in prison serving sentences of up to 15 months for their refusal to perform military service or reservist exercises8 and at least until 1997 it wasn’t clear how far the application procedure (for C.O.) actually worked as there were no known cases of people applying for unarmed military service. Not only people were imprisoned but even after their imprisonment they were liable to be called up again and to face repeated sentencing (refusing). Even ten years after this law passed, there still were complaints about fines and imprisonments, as Amnesty International intervened once again, reporting rising concern about repeated prison sentences of CO’s in Cyprus and urging the state to amend the legislation and bring it in line with international standards. The right wasn’t even recognized for reservists and in 2002 there were several trials of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ reservists whose right to CO wasn’t recognized and they were accusation for insubordination9.

Recent Measures The latest regulation passed in 2011 and it has a punishing/discriminatory nature, as the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection observes, based on the fact that its length is 37.5% longer than the standard service12. Moreover, the law provides that a C.O. who serves an alternative service is liable to lose this right and he is sent back to the military service if the Minister of Defence demands it or if he participate in a syndicalistic activity or in a strike, something which is familiar with previous regulations which were providing that a CO can be obliged to serve in the army at any time regardless if he did an alternative service. (reference the law)


12 , (MPs saw that if the length was the same as the standard

service, people would prefer it and they wanted to avoid that. It seems that they ignored the warning by the former Minister of Defence who proposed the same length for reasons of security and safety) 16

My research could not provide me with any recent cases of conscientious objection in the south side of the island and nothing important is known about recent cases where there was implementation of the right to C.O. Furthermore, by looking at the press coverage of military issues, nothing much is written about conscientious objectors apart from the resent law regulations. Even these articles are not very informative as they only report basic law provisions. Based on my own observation, I believe that there are no such cases recently with fines or imprisonment of people who object to the recruitment neither the right C.O. in Cyprus is popular or even widely known13. It is not known either what happens with Jehovah’s Witnesses despite the fact that everything shows that the situation is still the same with the previous decades where the vast majority of CO’s are Jehovah’s Witnesses8.

Fygostratia Fygostratia is a relatively new phenomenon in Cyprus and it is the term given by the government and the media to name the method which someone can use in order to avoid his military service – on health problems’ grounds. With that method, in some cases someone can go to the military hospital claiming and getting examined for an illness or disorder which doesn’t let him serve, and ask for a first postponement of his service, which lasts six months. He can renew it for another six months and if he doesn't get well or insist for further postponement, then the third time will be a permanent discharge. In some other cases there is a direct discharging. One important clarification which must become clear is the fact that, even though it varies, in most of the cases, when politicians talk about fygostratia, or when articles talk about it, they refer to and they mean the phenomenon produced by those who ‘without strong reasons, they claim fake (most usually) psychological problems in order to get a discharge from the military service’14,15. A very serious problem which arises here, will be mentioned in chapter six.


My survey results indicate that only a small proportion of 21.9% of people (Fygostrati with conscripts together) knew about the right to CO at around their 18’s 14 15

In one case, DIKO’s MP Mr Constantinou stated that Fygostratia ‘is a frivolous avoidance of the duty to serve the state. And it is frivolous because it’s achieved by three means: claim of fake psychological health problems, claiming of fake bodily problems or claiming difficulty to settle in in the military environment’. He continued by arguing that Fygostrati are ‘cunning exploiters’ with lack of conscience. (


When did it appear? An early indication of this phenomenon – in a milder form – could be the fact stated at the beginning of this chapter – that there were cases of people refusing to serve military service around 1997 when the report studied was published. Based on a 2009 report from an MP (Political Party DIKO), the phenomenon (postponement or discharging from enlisting because of psychological problems) ‘shows an increasing trend the last ten years’16. The first state announcement17 and newspaper article18 I could find which includes the term were released on July 2007, on the occasion of the then new law regarding C.O. It seems that the phenomenon took the attention of the politicians at least one to two years before that though, in 2005-2006, as, based on a newspaper report (July 2010) Political Party DIKO suggested a law proposal in 2005 in order to deal with the phenomenon ‘effectively and in prober time’19,20 as they knew that it is increasing year after year21 and they were believing that this is alarming22. Generally speaking, since then, the mentioning of Fygostratia in the newspapers started facing an increasing trend and it started facing a decrease recently, even though we can see articles about it from time to time. Also, from 2011 onwards, press reports state that there is a decline in the rates of fygostratia.

How many people quit the army? Based on the ex-Minister of Defence Mr Papakostas, the exact number of fygostrati cannot be clear and the annual numbers can be misleading, as they include people from the previous years as well23 and because the number is limited at the beginning of the enlisting while it increases later on, during the two years’ service24, 25. Despite the various numbers given by various politicians and which do not agree between them or/and they don’t specify if they refer to postponements/discharges for each year or for many years together, the most accurate source regarding the 16 nt 18 19 20 In his speech for the conference ‘Fygostratia: Propositions for Prevention and Confrontation’ (June 2010), organized by his party, Mr Constnatinou reports that the law proposal was suggested in 2006, when the phenomenon wasn’t as intensive as it was at the time of the conference. 21 22 23 24 25 Based on my survey research, 40.9% of my fygostrati responders didn’t serve at all, 27.3% served from one day to two months, 9.1% from two to five months, 13.6% from five to eight months and the rest 9.1% served more than twelve months. 17


number of people who avoided military service seems to have been given in an article in Simerini Newspaper (July 2009)26, which, apart from specific information based on a research curried out by the Ministry of Defence, it gives the table on the next page which shows specific figures regarding permanent discharges and postponements from 2000 to 2008. According to the article, from 2003 until 2009 the number of people who received a postponement on mental health grounds was 2.779 (8.13% from the total number of people who had to enlist) while 469 (1.37%) for other reasons. Moreover it mentions the increasing trend of the phenomenon, as in 2000 the number of discharges on mental health grounds was just 43 people while in 2008 it was 995 and the number of postponements was 436 in 2000 and 1293 in 2008. Not only that but from 1999-2004, one out of ten (prospective) conscripts got a postponement and half of them ended up with a discharge. As mentioned before, since 2011 there was a decline in the number of demands for postponements/discharges. More particularly, the former Minister of Defence stated that there was a drastic decline in 2011 and that their effort to face Fygostratia was successful27. In the January 2012 enlisting28, fygostratia rates were from zero to extremely low29 while before the July enlisting the reports showed that the phenomenon was minimized by 60%30. Moreover, in February 2013, reports 26 27


It is important to mention here that there are two enlisting periods, one in January – with a very small number of conscripts – and another one in July. That is to say that a rational hypothesis would be that we have a better picture on fygostratia rates by examining the July enlistment, in which the majority of the press articles refer to. 29 30 %BA%CE%B5-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%AC-60-%CE%B7%CF%86%CF%85%CE%B3%CE%BF%CF%83%CF%84%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%AF%CE %B1-%CE%BC%CE%B5-%CF%84%CE%B1-%CE%BC%CE%AD%CF%84%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%85%CF%80%CE%BF%CF%85%CF%81%CE%B3%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%AC%CE%BC%CF%85%CE%BD%CE%B1%CF%82-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B9%CE%B3%CE%B5%CE%B5%CF%86


showed that fygostratia was minimized by a further 25% in comparison to the same time in the previous year31. Finally, despite the fact that the latest law proposition (which aims to regulate fygostratia rates) and generally the threatening about consequences (may have) minimized fygostratia’s proportion, it hasn’t satisfyingly worked until today, as the former Minister of Defence stated in July 2012 that they still need to limit further and even eliminate fygostratia32 2013 article

Characterizations by officials The words used by politicians in order to describe the phenomenon can give a clear sense of how the issue is approached by the governance system, the media and the Cypriot society in general. Two of the most indicative quotes are the following: 

It's a serious current social problem which injures the militancy of the National Guard, victimizes the responsible conscripts and erodes the cohesion of the Cyprus society. It’s an issue which takes the attention of the whole society33. It’s a carcinoma. It’s a retardant bomb in the foundations of the National Guard which unfortunately detonated34. DIKO’S MP Fytos Constantinou, 2010 Fygostratia is a shame and an indication of cowardice35. A morbid phenomenon and it’s unacceptable36. Former Minister of Defence, 2012

It is not necessary at all to give further quotes as, after my press review, I realized that the statements are more or less the same, with the same rhetoric, the same effort to demonize fygostratia and present it through an atmosphere of danger, illegality and lack of values from the part of fygostrati.

31 %BA%CE%B5-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%AC-60-%CE%B7%CF%86%CF%85%CE%B3%CE%BF%CF%83%CF%84%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%AF%CE %B1-%CE%BC%CE%B5-%CF%84%CE%B1-%CE%BC%CE%AD%CF%84%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%85%CF%80%CE%BF%CF%85%CF%81%CE%B3%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%AC%CE%BC%CF%85%CE%BD%CE%B1%CF%82-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B9%CE%B3%CE%B5%CE%B5%CF%86 32

33 81%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%AF%CE%B1 34 35 36



Chapter Four

Punishing antimilitarism Law regulations and weaknesses

From what has been previously reported, it becomes clear that politicians are not willing to allow Fygostratia to expand further. Not only that but they try to minimize it, if not to eliminate it, since the early days when the phenomenon was observed, as ‘claiming health issues, psychological or others non existing for avoiding conscription must be avoided’, as the current Head of the Parliament Mr Omirou stated in 200737. The way in which they try to regulate this issue can be characterized as provocative – as they have even tried to deter people with problems from quitting their service38 – and which shows the determination and passion with which they address the issue. What makes this issue even more interesting is the mentality which governs our politicians regarding this issue – for which an indication was given in the previous chapter. Despite the continuous political fights taking place since the previous years and despite the fact that there is not a feasible solution in the horizon, politicians still insist on measures and provisions which move on the same lines with previous ones which failed to pass.

In this chapter I will present the most important findings from my press research regarding legal regulations and I will also try to illuminate the mentality behind their approach which is vital in order to shape a clearer picture on the issue in question.

37 38 ‘A law proposal is under planning which aims to keep all the people in the military, even with their problems. We will handle in a different way only those who indeed cannot serve’,


The early measures 2007 - 2009 The first serious effort to address ‘those who claim iconic psychological reasons’, as an article in the press39 started, took place in 2007, while the first measure under discussion was about the establishment of the so called ‘Social Work Scheme’. According to this measure, those who claim psychological health problems and found to be unable to serve in the military will be obliged to serve an alternative service in public services for 25 months. Another article40 published in the next month, mentioned that a law passed which established an alternative service for CO’s and an alternative service which lasts 30 months for conscripts who, for health reasons, cannot do the standard service. Press review shows that in 2009, again, there were ongoing discussions for a new law – as the previous measure failed – which was expected to be sent to the parliament for voting at the end of the year. For the purposes of its creation, a board was established, consisting of recruiters and lawyers41. Based on a Simerini Newspaper article42, the new law was about new measures to minimize fygostratia. That period it became clear that even though the issue was difficult, the measures had to be consistent with the image of a modern and democratic state which works lawfully and with proper administrative acts, as the then Minister of Defence reported. Based on that article, the new measures were providing that: -



40 41


Discharge will be temporary and fygostrati must inform the state for their health condition and improvement on a monthly basis –an idea suggested by the Group of Conscripts’ Parents43, The reasons of the discharge will be stated on the army certificate44, and All previous fygostrati will be subject to re-examination and re-enlistment if found to be capable.

Simerini newspaper, 29 june 2007


An online group mainly consisting of parents of conscripts who created a page in a social networking site. They intervened in the media and the parliament in order to raise awareness regarding this very serious and unfair issue – as they considered it to be – of Fygostratia. Their pages doesn’t work anymore and the group doesn’t intervene in the public sphere. 44 The article which offers those information reports that private organizations already ask to see the army certificate for purposes of employment.


Another suggestion came from a DIKO’s MP (Zacharias Koulias), who suggested those who demand a discharge, to be sent for 40 days of confinement, accompanied with medical staff, which will try to offer a proper diagnosis.

2010 - 2011 It seems that the process for the passing of the law was under development even in 201045. The delay caused much disapproval by the Group of Conscripts’ Parents – who reported the issue in the local media – as well as by parties46. The explanation given by the then Head of the Parliamentary Board of Defence was explaining that the new law was reconsidering many aspects of militancy and that’s why it took so much time. ‘If it was only about Fygostratia, it would have been finished in one or two sessions of the Board’, as he reported47. Based on Simerini Newspaper48, a new measure which was under examination was suggesting the deprivation of the electing rights of deserters while later on, the parliament decided to discuss only the probability to deprive the right to get elected and not the right to elect, as they thought that it could lead to appeals to the Supreme Court. The Attorney General found that this measure is constitutional! Based on the new measures under discussion, even more public services will change their regulations in order to ban or limit opportunities and rights for fygostrati. More measures under discussion for those who didn't finish their service on grounds of mental health and cognitive disorders were including deprivation of driving license/gun license, deprivation of the right to work as a firefighter and guard as well as in the public sector and in semi-public organizations. At the same time, there were plans for a revised alternative service.

In short, after the new regulations get enforced, fygostrati were not to be given under the control of the public sector – as happened with the previous regulations – and they would be split into three categories: a) those who get a postponement, b) those who are either obliged to serve in special camps with helping duties or obliged to get borrowed to public services, and c) those who the examiners judge that they are unable to serve and they will be being called once a year for re-examination until they get 30 years old49. 45 47 46

48 As the article mixes up deserters with fygostrati, we don't know if this measure was about fygostrati as well and the reporter didn’t make it clear. 49


Finally, in 2011 the Parliament passed the ‘New United law about the National Guard 2011’. Among others, it established the National Board for Prevention and Dealing with Fygostratia50 and it brought an end to the previous alternative service for those who for different reasons avoid conscription. ‘They will be considered as conscripts in a special military service without a gun, lasting for 32 months’ an article reports51. It continues by reporting that ‘They will probably participate in shootings, if their commander judges that it is necessary – based on their improvement. Otherwise, camps have many works which those special soldiers can do, instead of the normal soldiers who go with a zeal and passion to serve their country’! The Head of the Parliamentary Board of Defence confirmed that information in our interview and he added that those conscripts had to serve from 7am to 7pm daily and after 7am they would leave the camp. Moreover, he informed me that those who refused it, they would get a discharge and he concluded that the measure couldn’t work effectively.

Current Measures The New Law Proposition The proceeding years after 2011 and until today, politicians continued with their efforts with the law regulations, despite the fact that at that time, press reports showed a decline in the number of fygostratia. The reason to that it seems to be the fact that the previous laws were still not workable and effective. The next step in the effort to deal with fygostratia, which is the latest one, came in 2012 and is a law proposition prepared by the Social Democratic Political Party EDEK’ MP and Head of the Parliamentary Board of Defence, Mr Varnava on behalf of his party. As he told me in our interview, the exact aim of his proposal is ‘to employ some disincentives to people who don’t have real reasons to avoid military service and they claim fake health (psychological) problems in order to get a discharge’. He recognized that it is a very hard case and for that reason, the Board called all the relevant public services (e.g. Ministries, the Public Administration and Personnel Department, the Commissioner of Personal Data Privacy) in order to inform them about their plans and to ask them to consider the issue and come back with ideas and suggestions. The process stops here as no new meeting took place between the Parliamentary Board of Defence and the public sector’s bodies. It is expected to 50

The main duty of the Board was to examine the issue of Fygostratia as well as to propose legislative and administrative measures which can prevent or minimize Fygostratia, 51


happen in the near future. After that, taking into account their suggestions, the proposal will go to the parliament for voting, as Mr Varnava informed me. A very recent article reports that the law proposal was accepted by all the political parties but it doesn’t refer to the expected meeting of the public sector representatives52.

Provisions This law proposition suggests three draconian measures against fygostrati but they are subject to consideration and change, based on the outcome of the forthcoming meeting mentioned above, as Mr Varnava told me. These measures are the following: a) Deprivation of the right to have a driving license b) Deprivation of the right to have a license for owning a gun c) Deprivation of the right to acquire a job in public services, educational services and in the wider public sector.

Can this proposition effectively work? Mr Varnava says yes and he bases his positive answer on the following occurrence: After the public conference and media coverage of that effort to minimize fygostratia, there were many prospective fygostrati who were calling at relevant public services (e.g. Ministry of Defence, Enlisting Offices) asking for information regarding the new law and its measures. Those services were previously asked by the Parliamentary Board of Defence to misinform people - by hiding the fact that it was just a proposal which hasn’t yet passed – by saying that it was already enforced and that fygostrati will face consequences. Varnava stated that the result of this strategy was a decline in demands for discharges, something which proves that many of the prospective conscripts who would abandon their service, in fact don’t have real reasons for that53.

52 53

Moreover, as he explained to me, he, on purpose, submitted his proposition and made a public conference to introduce it a short time before the 2012 enlisting – only 7 to 10 days before. As he said to me, prospective Fygostrati, as they don't know how exactly laws pass and get enforced, when they heard from the media about the new law and its measures, even though they didn't know if it passed from the parliament or not, they feared the provisions.


Weaknesses of legislations As stated at the introduction of this chapter, it seems that there is not a feasible solution in the horizon regarding legal regulations to eliminate fygostratia. One important proof to that is the statement from the then Minister of

Defence in 2011, through which he confirmed that they tried every possible mean based on what they were legally allowed to do54 and that also the new law about the National Guard was expected to work successfully. Two years earlier though, in 2009, he stated that they cannot eliminate fygostratia only through the law55. This is something that is probable if we consider the discussion in the previous pages. Even the last measure, the law proposal by Mr Varnava, is facing obstacles similar with those of the previously suggested provisions which were unconstitutional or never passed anyway.

Why do they fail? An interesting question that is rising at this point is why almost nothing was achieved the previous years. This question can be partly answered through the ex-Minister of Defence Mr Papakostas’ statement56 in which he informs about the failure in the alternative service regulations. One of the reasons to that is the following:  People approved for alternative social service are out of the control of the Minister of Defence and so they never go to perform their given duties or they go for only a while and then they leave away, or they even go and create problems to the other workers or they disobey to perform their duties57. Another reason which can be hypothesized is the difficulty and inability from the part of the Minister of Defence to supervise and lead the way, as, based on a very recent article (11 April 2013)58, the Head of the Parliamentary Board of Defence stated that the Ministry of Defence, which deals with the coordination of the public services in order to effectively apply the legislation, in fact didn’t do anything serious so far.

54 56 55




An amateur political arena These show even a lack of professionalism from the part of Cypriot politicians and the governance system in general. By carefully going through these points and facts, what it seems to me, not only by examining the press year by year but also through my experience in the Cypriot society, is that we don’t have a reliable political arena with serious politicians who co-work with technocrats and other professional agencies in order to produce effective, reliable, and modern legislations. There are many proofs to that and the previous are just a few. How is it possible to have a state in which the government consults an informal group of people (Group of Conscripts’ Parents) in order to produce legislations? Moreover, how can happen, to discuss these measures over and over again while it is obvious that they are unconstitutional and they cannot pass. Let’s keep aside their unconstitutionality. Why do politicians insist? Based on what rational? Isn’t it pointless and an indication of idiocy? These are just rhetoric questions but at the same time they are another way to dive into the core of Cypriot mentality which is reflected in our political arena.

The Cypriot mentality A further food for thought for that point, is given by the LSE Fellow, Dr Omiros Georgiou, who is a social scientist and he himself, as a Cypriot, has an important experience not only in the National Guard but also with the Cypriot mentality. I interviewed him for the purposes of this research and some of his remarks can shed a light at this exact point of the paper. ‘We have a problematic governance system in Cyprus. You don’t have to be an expert to understand that’ Dr Georgiou says to me in a combination of a sarcastic and puzzled tone. As he emphasizes, Cypriot politicians misuse their powers and at the end of the day they ‘cut and sew’ policies without any indication of seriousness and professionalism and that’s an important reason for their failure59. Dr Georgiou gives an example to that and says that ‘Even recently, a few days ago, they (Cypriot politicians) violated one of the four basic pillars of the European Union (free movement of capital) because they couldn’t think of any other way to handle the economic crisis. What would you expect from them to do with conscription? The exact same thing with different actions and characters. In the first instance they stole money from people by giving cheap justifications which present them as the only option, accompanied with 59

This can also be the answer to the crucial question which has arisen earlier, as to why politicians propose such profoundly undemocratic, unconstitutional proposals so easily and repeatedly, without any indication of respect towards basic human rights and international standards.


threats and an effort to produce panic in order to manipulate. In the second instance, they set up the institution of the military service and they keep maintaining it – while the majority of the rest European countries have abandoned it long ago, responding to social demands and democratic reason – because they cannot find any other way to provide security. The justification and the method to achieve it is the same (based on cheap argumentation regarding the occupational status of Cyprus – refusing to bear arms). How can someone expect something more from Cypriot politicians?’, he asks. Before he concluded, he confirmed that there is a profound lack of respect to human rights in Cyprus and insists that we must see these issues in a wider angle; in every aspect of the political and social life in Cyprus. He concluded by reporting a Nobel prize winner, Krugman, who recently published an article regarding Cypriot economy, in which he characterized Cyprus as the sum of all ‘FUBAR’ – ‘FUBAR’ as in ‘fucked up beyond all recognition/repair/reason’ or as in ‘fouled up beyond all recognition’! ‘Even though his accusation was based on the economy, I go further to say that this characterization, unfortunately but unquestionably, portrays the Cypriot mentality in general, in every aspect’!


Chapter Five

Challenging perceptions Unfounded accusations against fygostrati and their discriminatory implications

In the previous chapter I pointed out efforts by politicians to eliminate fygostratia by suggesting some very hard measures which disrespect the law, are unconstitutional and violate basic human and civil rights and which, if passed and enforced, can lead to successful appeals in the European Court of Human Rights. I have also argued that in Cyprus we have a problematic governance system which lacks professionalism and which can be characterized by sketchiness. This makes us reasonable to hypothesize that there are more problems in the way politicians and society deals with conscription and especially fygostratia. A question which might quite reasonably arise is as to where do politicians base this approach. In this following chapter I will try to challenge some of the basic perceptions which society and especially politicians employ, regarding the military service as well as conscription in Cyprus, in order to justify everything they try to do. Some of them may have been reported before, some others are new. This will help us to challenge the reasons politicians give to justify their punitive approach as I will try to prove that not only they don’t correspond to reality but also that they are lies.

Justifications Statement 1 ‘The National Guard enjoys the highest respect and trust’ Politicians consider service to the National Guard as the most sacred duty towards the motherland and the Head of the Parliament believes that the National Guard is the body which has the highest degree of trust and acceptance among Greek Cypriots60. This could be used as one important reason why politicians try to 60


eliminate fygostratia in order to keep the National Guard in the reliable levels they believe it enjoys and not to let fygostratia harm its reputation and importance. My survey research can easily reject this statements though, as, even though people who serve, see the compulsory nature of military service to be a patriotic duty (42.6%) and necessary to exist (47.9%) at the same time, they believe that it is a waste of time (47.9%), ineffective (42.6%), useless (28.7%) and a violation of democratic and humanistic values (19.2%) while only one out of three believes that the military service in Cyprus promotes/reinforces peace – while one out of three believes that it promotes nationalism or/and conflict. Not only that but only half of them (55.3%) responded positively to the question if they would serve if the length of the conscription was longer. Also, only the vast minority (6.5%) believes that, for reasons of human rights and efficiency, military security should be provided by conscripts while the majority of people believe that it must be provided by professional soldiers (38%) or a combination of both (50%). Moreover, only half of conscripts state that they serve because it is their duty. 61.7% serve because it is a legal obligation, or/and because they didn’t want to dissatisfy their family (27.7%) or/and because ‘all people serve’ (14.9%). Furthermore, if the military service wasn’t compulsory, 59.6% wouldn't serve and if they had the chance to go back in time, only 64.3% would serve again while the rest are uncertain or they wouldn’t. Finally, almost half of them (44.7%) thought to ask for discharge while serving, as during their service, even though they felt pride (47,9%), at the same time they felt oppression (47.9%), psychological repression (42.3%) and indignation (42.3%). We can argue that these figures show that many, if not the majority, among those who serve(d), don't do so with a real passion and genuine will, neither they agree with the statement 1. Most importantly, the figures show that there is a huge disrespect and lack of belief towards the importance and capabilities of the National Service. Of course, further reasons which refute that statement can be found in the local media throughout the latest years. There are many events which happened in the National Guard which confirm the previously argued. Some examples include the

Statement 2 ‘Fygostrati claim fake reasons’ I emphasized in chapter three that in most cases, whenever politicians talk about fygostratia, they refer to and they mean the phenomenon produced by those who without strong reasons, they claim fake psychological problems in order to get a discharge from the military service and these are the people they, politicians, want 31

to punish and deter from continuing to do so, as they exploit the system, as Varnava told me in our interview. Moreover, Varnava believes that by claiming extreme reasons (including suicidal ideation and intention), military psychiatrists are unable to deter them from quitting the army – and that’s another reason why it is hard to stop fygostratia. My survey refutes these as well, as more than half of fygostrati (54.6%) reported that they haven’t claimed fake reasons while 9.1% reported that they gave the true reasons despite the fact that they used exaggeration. 63.2% mentioned all their reasons while, as they reported in the open-type question, their reasons include both psychological and physical problems. For the 36.8% who didn’t mention all their reasons why they wanted to quit the service, the reason why they hided some had to do mainly with the fact that they were believing that they knew that the examiners wouldn’t accept them – in a proportion of 71.4% – or that they wouldn’t understand them (14.3%). Some of the rest of the reasons reported in the open-type question include ‘ideological reasons’, ‘I wanted to go to study, ’conscientious objection’, ‘sexual orientation and personal beliefs’. Apart from my survey, I asked Petridou about this issue and especially if it is easy to identify whether people claim fake reasons in order to avoid military service. She replied that no one can identify how they may feel deeply inside them. Moreover, based on the nature and components of the Cypriot society, she believes that someone who starts thinking of getting discharged must indeed have valid reasons, because he knows beforehand that he enters into a struggle with social expectations. A more specific reply which must be quoted is the following: I don't believe that someone avoids the military service just because he is bored to serve, or without deep consideration about it. It’s not feasible to define who have real problems and who doesn't *…+ All of my patience who faces difficulties in the military service have real psychological problems. None of them came here asking to avoid the military service without any problems.

Statement 3 ‘They avoid military service because they know it is very easy’ Having to do with the claims of politicians that Fygostrati avoid military service because they know beforehand that it is very easy to do it, as military psychiatrist cannot risk a negative decision, it is rejected by fygostrati as well. REFERENCE. Almost half of them (47.7%) stated that during the process of getting a discharge,


they had the impression that it was hard, or very hard to get a discharge, while some of them had no idea.

Statement 4 ‘Fygostratia consists an injustice for conscripts’ Varnava stated in our interview that fygostratia is discriminatory, unfair and provocative towards those who serve and towards their parents, because it produces discrimination. My survey challenge this claim as, despite the fact that only one out of three conscripts stated that to avoid military service is not unfair towards those who serve (19.2%) or in a small degree (13.8%), the majority of them believe that it is a democratic right (60.9%) or a political act which must be respected (45.7%). Only 21.7% replied that it is unacceptable. Further commenting

Statement 5 ‘Families are also responsible for Fygostratia’ The Head of the Parliament, Mr Omirou, stated61 that one of the reasons why fygostratia is increasing is because families don’t educate their children about the pride to serve our motherland! This shows that Omirou tries to argue that to serve in the National Guard has to do with your morals and values, which derive from the nourishment and upbringing of each of the prospective conscripts. My survey challenges that as well, through a question regarding parental reaction to the wish of their children to quit military service. Despite the fact that for fygostrati, their parents were more accepting (35% showed full understanding and 30% partial understanding while at a degree of 20% didn’t showed understanding), the majority of conscripts replied that their parents wouldn't have a bad reaction but they would only insist and try to make them stay (41.1%). Only 31.1% replied that the reaction would be bad and 22.2% said that they would respect their decision. This shows that it can’t be certain that the approach of the families can change the will and decision of a conscript about him joining the army but it has to do with each individual’s inner wish Having said this, Petridou reports that it varies because while some parents support their children to avoid the service, some others force them not to. The reason to the 61


latter is because they fear bad social reputation, something which was reported in my survey. More specifically, Petridou mentions that for many parents is an indication of masculinity to serve in the military, so they feel ashamed if their sons don’t serve and they even threat the son that they will disown him, or they fear that their sons won’t be able to find a job without the military certification. Sometimes there are domestic conflicts on that issue – mothers are supportive, fathers are against.



Chapter Six

A European authoritarian state? Misrecognition and disrespect of international and European laws regarding C.O.

In the previous chapter I managed to prove that politicians in Cyprus can be characterized with a lack of basic (and deliberate maybe?) understanding of reality, as I showed an orchestrated effort to justify their punitive approach towards fygostratia not only by repeatedly trying to pass hard law regulations but also by employing lies and understatements about fygostrati which can help them to impose their plans. This was necessary for a smooth proceeding to this chapter, in which I will try to prove that politicians’ stance affects people’s conscience and knowledge of their rights, which in its turn affects the way in which we see and understand fygostratia. I will begin by the hypothesis that fygostrati, are in fact conscientious objectors. After I will examine and analyze it, I will give a further account on how Cypriot politicians treat the issue of Conscientious Objection in order to identify the problems which arise. I will continue by arguing that these problems interrelate with the fact that a big proportion of people who avoid military service (the so called ‘fygostrati’), don’t do it on C.O.’s grounds, while they could very easily do so in a state which respects basic and fundamental human and individual rights. I will finish by explaining why I think that all these constitute Cyprus to be an authoritarian state which orchestrates a punitive approach and ruthlessly diffuses stereotypes and belittlements, which promote discrimination towards an opposing group of people.

A hypothesis In reality, are fygostrati conscientious objectors? If the desire to enjoy the right to CO has proved itself to be one of the most potent and contagious political forces the world has ever known62, then why this doesn’t apply to the case of Cyprus63? Why isn't CO popular in this state but only limited 62

‘Right to C.O. in the United Nations Human Rights Law, 19-21’ An AKEL MP (Aristos Aristotelous) stated in 2009 that the problem with people avoiding the military service doesn’t derive from conscientious objectors. Based on that we can hypothesize that the number of CO’s is limited. 63


mainly among Jehovah’s Witnesses? Aren't there people whose conscience and beliefs conflict with militarism? Are there a few or many and for some reasons they don’t claim their right? In order to give an as reliable as possible answer to this question, we have to examine what fygostrati themselves believe about several issues concerning, among others, militarism, peace, security and rights. This is one of the things I tried to do with my survey research, as many of my questions can illuminate the approach of fygostrati to those issues and the findings – which are offered below in bullet points – can help us to shape an answer to the question as to whether fygostrati are in fact CO’s.

In contrast to those who served their military service, the vast majority of fygostrati (90.9%) believe that being obliged to serve in the army is a violation of human rights as well as of democratic and humanistic values. The majority of fygostrati (68.2%) believe that for reasons of human rights as well as efficiency in the armed forces, military security should be offered by professional soldiers – while only 38% of people who served believe the same. They claim that conscription in Cyprus promotes nationalism (75%) instead of patriotism (25%) and conflict (50%) instead of peace (15%). Besides, only 4.6% believe that the existence of armed forces in Cyprus empowers peace and they also believe (72.7%) that conscription in Cyprus is a waste of time. Half of them believe that those who serve in the military should be ashamed at some degree, as they empower militarism and most of them (89.5%) would possibly explain to their friends and relatives the disadvantages of conscription. Moreover, more than half of them consider themselves liable to be proud because they don’t empower militarism. If the length of the conscription was much shorter, 77.3% are not positive when asked if they would serve. The findings compared with people who served are conflicting again as 81.9% of conscripts don’t give a negative reply when asked if they would serve if the conscription was longer. Despite the fact that only 4.8% fygostrati got a discharge with the official reason to be ‘conscience’, 55% claim that the reason why they wanted to get discharged from the military service had to do with their conscience.

These findings show, among the rest, that fygostrati are not pathetic citizens who uncritically obey the laws or who victimize their critical ability in order to conform to what’s demanded and what’s presented as the truth. Because of that, they have considered the issue of militarism and they came to their conclusions about it, which critically assess rights and values, efficiency of the armed forces, perceptions about peace and nationalism and others. These are findings which show that indeed, many 37

fygostrati have valid reasons to claim their right to CO as their beliefs and conscience conflict with the mandatory nature of military service. If that’s the case, then why don’t they do it and instead, at least the vast majority, try to avoid military service mainly on psychological health problems’ grounds? In order to give an answer, it is important to give background information regarding CO regulations in Cyprus.

CO in Cyprus Further to what was discussed in chapter four regarding legal regulations on The National Guard Law in order for the governments to deal with fygostratia, one important thing which needs to be mentioned here is the fact that in that effort, provisions on alternative services for fygostrati was interrelated with the alternative services planned for CO’s. One clear evidence to that is the statement of the then Minister of Defence who, in 2007, on the occasion of the passing of the new law regarding the alternative service for CO’s, he stated that he is totally satisfied about it and he continued to say that this law, the phenomenon of Fygostratia will be addressed64.

Misrecognition of the law The fact that the state recognizes the right to CO though, doesn't necessarily mean that it respects it; to the contrary I would say. This is one of the many cases with Cypriot laws which typically exist only in the papers and never get enforced65. Moreover, the fact that the state recognizes the right to CO doesn’t necessarily mean that it does so in order to secure it but as it seems, what happens is the opposite, as the law punishes CO. There are two strong proofs to what I have just argued: a) Lack of information My survey indicates that the vast majority of both fygostrati (85.7%) and conscripts (85%) have never received any information from a public body (e.g. The National Guard) regarding the right to C.O. and only a vast minority of people (19.1% fygostrati and 24,7% conscripts) knew about their right at the period of their

64 The same happens with anti-smoking regulations, disabled park places etc… It falls under the umbrella of unreliability of the state to respect and secure the laws. 65


enlistment66, something which clearly shows that the state doesn’t inform about this right because maybe (or probably?) it tries to hide this information in order to avoid loses in personnel by sacrificing basic human rights to information and conscience.

b) Disrespect for the right to C.O. from the governance system I have argued that the law exists just for typical reasons. The proof to that comes through the words of Mr Varnava, who, when asked in our interview about the right to CO, he stated and I quote: We live in a country which has the 40% of its territory under occupation, and it won’t risk another invasion or threat by Turkey. In such a case we cannot talk about CO. We cannot say that I feel that I cannot recruit in the army and I am against it67 *…+ Whenever someone joins a community, there are many things for which he is against but he is obliged to do them. You can object for many aspects in our lives (he brought as an example the workplace and the relation between employee and his boss which can be unhealthy but still, the employees must stay to earn their living despite any discomfort). Yes, this can happen in the army as well but it is something that we must face. It’s a law.

These clearly show that there is a profound silence as the result of disrespect towards already passed regulations and to a powerful demanding of many democratized societies, supported by international laws. Beyond that, I may remind once again what I argued throughout this paper regarding threatening for hard consequences and regulating the length of the alternative conscription in such a way so it will be a punishment and an inhibitor to many to claim their right to CO. Moreover, I may remind the brainwash and manipulation effort which takes place from politicians around this issue with the statements regarding military service and fygostratia and which I tried to refute. This is something very serious which of course doesn't come as a surprise as I have already mentioned many unacceptable phenomena regarding respect to laws among politicians. This case is as serious as all the rest as once again violates basic human rights and goes against suggestions by many institutions and organizations.


Moreover, 38.1% of Fygostrati, didn’t know about any alternative forms of service when their discharging was in process. Regarding conscripts, the number is bigger as 62.8% were unaware at least when they started their service. It seems that 50.7% of conscripts and 53.3% of fygostrati who were unaware, they didn't exclude the possibility to have decided to do an alternative service, if they knew. 67 Mr Varnava referred to lack of economic feasibility to justify that we cannot establish a professional army meaning that he would have recognized the right to C.O. under this circumstance.


An important information here is the fact that the UN Human Rights Commission, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, the European Parliament and other bodies stress the importance of the availability and access to sufficient information about the right to conscientious objection to military service to persons liable to conscription. This is obviously another issue on which the Republic of Cyprus falls short. I strongly believe that these facts can explain the reasons why in Cyprus CO’s are just a few and why people who want to avoid military service end up being classified as ‘fygostrati’. Another very strong proof to that is the fact that, according to Amnesty International, it has been observed that in countries where the concept of CO is comparatively unknown or little understood – like Cyprus, as I have proven – individuals who indeed are CO’s are not able to present their objection as being grounded in conscience or profound conviction68. This makes clear that, indeed, politicians’ stance towards avoiding of conscription, among the rest severe results, affects people’s conscience and knowledge of their rights.

An authoritarian state? In this part of the chapter, I argue that the previously mentioned approach by the official governments towards people who want to avoid military service is authoritarian. To elaborate it further, I base my argument to the facts that Cyprus has a small group of politicians which in most of the cases is recycled in every electoral period. Political actors are usually the same, at least for many years, in different positions. The politics and ideas are recycled as well, and legislation is produced for many issues in a way which opposes individualism and disregards marginal opinions and needs which end up to be repressed and misrepresented 69. In some cases, like the one under examination, there is punishment covered under a democratic disguise, justified by unfounded claims which underestimate people’s intelligence and dignity. One important characteristic of authoritarianism is the importance which arbitrary law has instead of the rule of law which leads to illogical and unfair deprivation of human and individual rights and liberties as well as

68 170012002?open&of=ENG-CYP 69

Shepard, Jon; Robert W. Greene (2007). Sociology and You. Ohio: Yin Chi Lo-Hill. pp. A–22. ISBN 007-828576-3.


intolerance and disrespect to opposition70. Finally, as Duckitt writes, ‘authoritarianism and democracy are not fundamentally opposed to one another, it is thus perfectly possible for democracies to possess strong authoritarian elements, for both feature a form of submission to authority’71. These are, in my opinion, the reasons which constitute it an unbiased conclusion to say that Cyprus is an authoritarian state, if we take into account at least the way in which the governance system treats conscription.

There are more specific proofs to those claims, which correlate with the way in which politicians tried to address the issue of fygostratia and on purpose I didn't mentioned before, as they much better fit here. As mentioned in chapter four, apart from the provisions of the Varnava’s Proposition, among the previous law provisions and suggestions were deprivation of the right to get elected, confinement for 40 days in clinics, monthly report from fygostrati regarding their health progress and anagrafi tou logou apallagis. They all move on the same lines of exaggeration, intensive punishment, strict control and disrespect to fundamental human and civil rights. The strongest examples confirming these are the following: -




For the 2007 propositions, the then ex-Minister of Defence Mr Socrates Hasikos, sarcastically reported that that law proposition had paradoxical points which consist a ’global novelty’72. The suggestion by Mr Koulias for confinement was rejected as a violation of human rights73. The Privacy Commissioner at first objected for the proposition which demands the reason of discharging (the nature of the health problem) to be stated on the army certificate as it was illegal. An MP reported that there were constitutional and legal problems74 Mr Varnava himself admitted in our interview that some of his consultants supported that his proposition is unconstitutional. Based on an article75

"Vestal, Theodore M. Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State. Greenwood, 1999, p. 17.


Kemmelmeier, M.; Burnstein, E.; Krumov, K.; Genkova, P.; Kanagawa, C.; Hirshberg, M. S.; Erb, H. P.; Wieczorkowska, G. et al. (2003). "Individualism, Collectivism, and Authoritarianism in Seven Societies". Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 34 (3): 304 72 One of the points which he reported was demanding that those who serve an alternative service and they get punished with more than 100 extra days of service, they will be obliged to serve the standard service. ‘Does that mean that, in a case of a conscientious objector, these people will be forced to serve an armed service’, Mr Hasikos critically asked. ‘The same appeals to mental ill patients. How is it possible to ignore medical opinions of those doctors who decided that some people are unsuitable for the standard service’ as he continued, Simerini newspaper, 29 june 2007 73 75 74


though, the Attorney General saw that the measures are not hard in relation to the unconstitutionality, it just posed ‘the issue of proportionality’ and accepted the proposal.

These clearly show that, indeed, politicians address the issue with an authoritarian way without any indication of concern about human rights and international legislations. Besides, punishment is a further proof to these.

Why is politicians’ approach punitive? Based on Petridou’s scientific views, we can argue that Varnava’s proposition is not one which respects ‘the image of a modern and democratic state which works lawfully, with proper administrative acts’ – something which was indicated by the Minister of Defence and the Chief of National Guard in 200976 – and one which is based on careful consideration of the modern societal trends and needs but only based on anger and sentimentalism which leads in legislations of punitive measures. And indeed, there are numerous proofs about the punitive nature of the law provisions. Just to mention the two most indicative: a) Mr Varnava believes that it is unacceptable some people to provocatively avoid the military service and still have full rights as citizens of the Republic 77, while in another statement78 he claims that it is wrong those people to enjoy hyper-privileges – meaning the same privileges as those citizens who fulfill conscription. b) The article which reports the first statement by Mr Varnava is entitled ‘They will get punished’, something which shows an inclination towards punishment as well as an ongoing speculation about it. I believe that these clearly prove what I argue and which Petridou supports by saying about the provisions that: The state wants to force people to serve, so it punishes those who want to avoid the military service. Of course it is a punishing stance. 76 %B1-%CF%83%CF%85%CE%B6%CE%B7%CF%84%CE%AC-%CE%B7%CE%B5%CF%80%CE%B9%CF%84%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%80%CE%AE%CE%B1%CE%BC%CF%85%CE%BD/ 77



Another strong and unquestionable proof about the punitive nature of the approach of the government towards those who refuse to serve the standard service is confirmed by the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection79 as well as from various reports by Amnesty International80.

We can see even clearer that they try to punish if we consider the fact that in 2007, MPs denied to vote in favor of the alternative service (for both C.O.s and Fygpstrati) which had the same length as the standard service. The reason they gave was their opinion that the length of it will lead many to prefer it. In the coming years, when a Law finally passed, the length of the alternative service was indeed longer. An important problem which arises here is the fact that the Parliament ignored the opinion by the then Minister of Defence who justified the same length of the two services by saying that if the alternative service was longer, there may be some people who would prefer not to mention existing psychological problems in order not to serve longer. ‘Who can reassure that we won’t have cases with conscripts having real psychological problems holding guns. In that way (both schemes having the same length) we don’t risk the safety of those people and those around them’, he continued.81

But, apart from that, if we are to see the issue more critically, probably it is clear that even for the latest proposition, Mr Varnava puts aside the scientific nature of the issue and proposals under question, as, it is obvious that his proposal is unacceptable if we take an advice and an opinion – among others – by experts in the field of human behavior and Psychology. For that reason I decided to interview Thekla Peridou, who is a psychologist, a psychotherapist and who works as an expert in the criminal and family court. I believe that her experience and knowledge is valuable if we want to critically assess the proposal in question as well as the whole issue of conscription, fygostratia, punishment etc.

79 One example is the following recommendation: ‘The Government of Cyprus should make provision for an alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors which would not be punitive in length. (2002), 2002?open&of=ENG-CYP ’ 81 Simerini newspaper, 29 june 2007 80


Criticism by a Psychologist / expert in court Petridou stresses that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that those who have psychological problems or those who are under psychotropic treatment are unable to drive or dangerous to have a hunting license, or even unsuitable to work. This is something which clearly confirms my assertions that Cypriot politicians misuse their powers and produce legislations without the slightest indication of professionalism in their work. Varnava doesn’t hold this opinion of course as in our interview, he insists that for someone who has psychological problems it is suspicious to see him being perfectly fine and ‘normal’ in his social and professional life outside the military camp. Moreover, Varnava believes that it is also suspicious if someone acquires health problems immediately after his enlistment. His punitive approach towards fygostrati is justified in the following quote: ‘We see that about 95-99% of those who claim fake reasons, have never before visited a psychologist/psychiatrist or went through medical treatment. My personal opinion is that someone who has problems of depression/anxiety etc must have been under the examination of a doctor some time ago. This is a proof that those people indeed have problems’ (Varnava, January 2013). Petridou makes clear that his justification is unfounded and invalid as she maintains that the military service is a particularly strenuous and peculiar situation and not an everyday situation like driving, working, and schooling. The fact that people never before their recruitment visited a doctor to discuss psychological problems is not an indication of production of fake problems as, a predisposition for anxiety – which could be handled before – can come onto the surface under a hard period in life, like the period when someone has to join the army. She concludes that the period in which someone goes to the army is a crucial period, because both of people’s age – at the end of puberty – as well as because military service itself is a ‘test’, which some people cannot handle. Based on that, the comparisons made by Varnava are invalid and cannot be compared.

Criticism by a Lawyer Further to what was argued earlier regarding the disrespect for human rights and national/international legislations in general, I offer the legal opinion of Dr Marios Costa (now, on Varnava’s Proposition), who is a Law lecturer at the City University 44

London and an expert in European Law. I interviewed him in order to gain some further advice and to avoid being limited only on interpretations by politicians and journalists. Costa maintains that Varnava’s provisions violate basic principles of Law and deprive human and civil rights which is something totally unacceptable to be happening in a modern state, especially when it’s a European member state. Moreover, they are against European legislations, as he emphasizes. Varnava, as well as the Republic of Cyprus have the duty to respect international conventions. It is not up to his jurisdiction to respect the laws. He MUST respect those conventions. This proposition is a clear and an illegal violation.

Moreover, Dr Costa remarks that conscription in a European country is unacceptable and it’s only an indication of a non-developed state. He also reports that he believes that after the proposition pass to the legislative services, it will be rejected. If not and if it passes from the parliament, every affected person will have the right to sue the Republic of Cyprus to the European Court of Human Rights as it will obviously contradict European acquit and jurisprudence as well as to decisions of European bodies.

Implications Throughout the paper I referred to many practices and instances by politicians which are unacceptable, e.g. their statements about fygostrati and conscription (which proved to be wrong or at least problematic which show that politicians, very easily make unsound and unreliable statements as they are not evident neither based on research, reports etc.), their effort to punish fygostrati, their misinformation and disrespect regarding laws and human rights and their authoritarian approach in general.

Apart from the above five refuted statements though, Varnava’s statement, who claimed that a proof that the majority of Fygostrati don’t have real reasons to avoid conscription is the fact that many feared the provisions of his proposal and many of them (prospective Fygostrati) stayed in the National Guard, can very easily be 45

rejected as well. My survey research refutes it, as only 25% of fygostrati know something about the law proposal and its consequences. After I explained the proposition, respondents didn't seem to have taken them seriously or to show high indication of fear. Despite the fact that 45% said that they provisions make them worry, at the same time, 45% are indifferent to it and 40% feel anger. Only 10% feel panicked and 5% feel afraid. Moreover, none of them believes that these propositions will apply to all fygostrati. 30% believe that they will not get applied at all, 30% believe that they will be applied to many but not all and 40% believe that they will be applied only to a few fygostrati.

Are fygostrati the ones who are discriminated? A further serious implication which I identify through my research is the fact that fygostrati are subject to discrimination, bullying and harassment. For these, I blame the politicians and the way they handle the whole thing. The fact that they try to punish antimilitarism is on its own problematic. The effort to stigmatize fygostrati is profound and can be proven through a 2010 article82, which clearly states that ‘provisions in the law proposal which ‘stigmatizes fygostrati’. Moreover, the rhetoric which politicians use in order to describe fygostrati is unacceptable. Among the words and phrases I have collected are the following: ‘those smart people who go earlier to study*…+ and laugh at the rest who stay*…+ and who will find a job earlier’83, ‘fygostratia shows cowardice and lack of real personality’84, ‘they will come with ‘madness-reports’ in their hands’85, ‘Those who serve are ENSEINIDITOI’ and so the rest are not. An effortless and obvious conclusion here is that fygostrati are subject to profound discrimination, an issue which I will analyze in the following paragraphs by offering the specific opinions by Dr Costa, as well as the opinions of conscripts (through their responses to my questionnaire) about fygostrati, and fygostrati’s vews as well. For the conclusion of this chapter, I will offer the opinion of a journalist regarding media representation of fygostratia and a final remark by Varnava, from our interview, in which we talk exclusively on the issue of discrimination. 82


84 85


Legal opinion As Dr Costa states, the whole way in which politicians treat and depict the issue of fygostratia with the continuous characterizations which were mentioned before, is problematic as it demonizes fygostratia and so it produces hatred, discrimination and promotes harassment and bullying towards fygostrati. He confirms that this produces further consequences to the lives of fygostrati.

Conscripts’ opinion Having to do with general opinion between people who serve, despite the facts that a) 58.2% of conscripts believe that someone who doesn’t want to serve has to listen to his conscience and avoid military service and, b) 63.4% wouldn’t feel ashamed if a relative of them was a fygostratos, at the same time, 45.2% of conscripts believe that serving in the National Guard is an indication of patriotism at a rate of 71.3% and so, 63.8% believe that fygostrati don't respect their motherland while 51% believe that fygostrati don't have strong values like patriotism. As 54.8% of conscripts believe that serving in the National Guard is an indication of masculinity, 36.6% believe that fygostrati are not real men. For reasons like these, 52.6% of conscripts believe that fygostrati should feel ashamed. Conscripts themselves confirm that there is a general bad image for fygostrati in the society, as only 12.8% refused it, while the rest gave various positive answers and 74.4% said that they believe that it is rational and fair to be happening.

Fygostrati’s reports Having to do with fygostrati’s reports, despite the fact that 63.6% believe that fygostratia is not unfair at all towards those who serve, all of them reported that there is a general disrespect at some degree towards their decision to abandon military service. Moreover, half of them became victims of discrimination/abuse (verbal or bodily) due to the fact that they abandoned military service86.

The role of Mass Media Mass Media is the main source and producer of discrimination, as they are the mean through which politicians make their statements. Based on my survey findings, the 86

10% experienced discrimination/abuse from their families, 20% from employers, 30% from their friends, and 50% from elsewhere, including conscripts.


majority of fygostrati report that the way in which Mass Media project fygostratia is subjective, as it represents only those who are against it. Moreover, 55% believe that it is negative and offensive towards fygostrati while 35% believe that it’s unfair and harmful as well. For these reasons, despite the fact that 36.8% of fygostrati are indifferent to that, 42.1% feel offended and 36% underprivileged or indignant.

In my effort to illuminate this issue more extensively, I interviewed Mr Giorgos Kakouris, a young journalist who writes for Politis Newspaper. His opinion about the approach of Mass Media is that they avoid the issue’s human rights side. Moreover, he believes that: It’s all about presenting a transgressive behavior by people who avoid an obligation. The solutions proposed focus on discouraging fygostratia or on giving incentives to people to stay in the army [as in "stay in school!" campaigns for underprivileged youths in the USA] by, for example, reducing service time. He continues by saying that the aspect of conscientious objectors seems not to be touched at all and generally, he admits that he would not even know that there is the option for non-military alternative service if he hadn't looked into it. He confirms that there are no private interests determining the coverage of this issue but if we could talk about an interest, this would be the perceived national interest. Moreover, he confirms that the coverage is the same in all newspapers. More specifically, «I haven't really seen much differentiation between newspapers and media in how it's covered, when it ever is». This is not to say that there is a specific censorship in the Cypriot media, as the journalist informs me that he believes that anyone can critically assess the approach of the government towards fygostratia, like what’s happening with other issues. He concludes that: The reason why they are only a few criticisms is because, I think, there’s selfcensorship and ingrained conservatism, or perhaps, less conservatism and more of an inclination to not consider it (the issue in question) as an important issue beyond the transgressive angle.

This picture was taken by me in January 2013. It’s a wall on the pavement by Kosti Palama Street in the center of Nicosia. It reads ‘Dirty Fygostrati’ or more specifically it implies that Fygostrati don’t take shower!


I believe that all the previously mentioned facts, show clearly that fygostrati are in fact those who suffer from discrimination and not the ones who serve.

Varnava on discriminating fygostrati In my interview with Varnava, I asked him directly about the issue of discrimination and I told him that, even if we accept that by fygostratia we only mean those who claim fake reasons and not those who have valid reasons87, as it is not easy to draw distinctive lines between the two, people with valid reasons become victims of discrimination. He avoided replying directly in my question and I asked him if he believes that this distinction becomes clear to the public, when politicians make statements about fygostratia. He replied by saying that, ‘If someone (from the audience) understands Greek language very well, then he analyses the word ‘fygostratos’ and he understands that it refers to what it really refers. We don’t try to force people with real problems to serve’, he stressed. This is unacceptable as it obviously shows that he doesn’t care to emphasize the clear distinction which he sees as well as he doesn’t care to avoid discrimination; he only leaves it on the people’s ‘very well’ knowledge of Greek language. Not only that, but, if we look at a dictionary, the Greek term doesn’t specify the means through which someone who avoids military service do so neither it does make any distinction. It only indicated the intention (to avoid). Literally, figostratos is the one who avoids to serve in the army in his own initiative and decision. Just that. This is something which not only Varnava ignores, but he ignores that he ignores and he prefers to give a cheap answer and handle the issue of discrimination in that simple way. Even if we compare his reply to my question with two of his public statements, it becomes obvious that he contradicts himself. More specifically, a) When he referred to fygostratia, he made the distinction, by saying that ‘our proposal aims to create inhibitors not to those who are indeed patients but to those who exploit the system and get discharged without special problems’88. b) In a TV appearance, he clearly said: ‘By trying to avoid military service through Fygostratia, and especially with reasons which are not real…’. If what he replied to me was the case, then why he made that distinction – if the word itself indicated that fygostratos is one who avoids the army without strong reasons? As I already said, the clarification can be seen in only a small amount of reports and articles and that the Greek word itself doesn’t make that distinction. That means that it is not evident who, among those who avoided military service on 87 88

The problematic nature of this argumentation was analysed elsewhere in this paper.


health grounds, have good and real reasons and who don’t. Apart from that, politicians base their distinction (we can sarcastically say between ‘good fygostrati’ and ‘bad fygostrati’) not in strong evidence and studies but only on the fact that while the proportion of people who avoid service on physical health grounds is steady through the years, the proportion of those who avoid service on mental health grounds is increasing89.




Chapter Seven



Bibliography REFUSING TO bear arms The comparative study of conscription Civil disobedience and cibil deviance International human rights to CO Conscientious objection Masculinities in confict – Kypros Savva


Abbreviations and Terminology

GEEF Geniko Epiteleio Ethnikis Frouras (National Guard General Staff)




Appendices The law Surveys Interviews




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