By Ahmet Abdulaziz ….
I came to the TRNC in 1991 when I was 36 years old and I became a citizen of the TRNC in 1997. I did know even before that there is compulsory military service for everyone in Turkey and the TRNC. However, at that time people like me who had come from some third world country were exempt from it.
But in the year 1998 through an amendment in the relevant law, military service became compulsory for everyone, without any discrimination. So all those who had citizenship of the TRNC after the implementation of the new amendments were required to do military service.
However a clause in the law had made it compulsory for persons like me to carry out the compulsory military service, but for a shorter period, based on the age of the person.
So according to the new law, I was called for military duty in 2001. There were two options offered to me. The first option was for a one month long military service and payment of 2,000 pounds. The second option for me was to serve for 4 months without paying anything. I opted for the first option because I knew my boss was not going to wait for me for 4 months.
So ultimately I went for the month long military service, at the height of summer in 2001. I reported on the time and day given at the Gülseren Military Centre in Famagusta. There were many more like me there, to report for the duty. The first thing that I noticed was that all of them had come well prepared for the duty. But I was there as if I was going for a month long holiday. I had not got my hair cut and of course I also had my life long moustache.
Most of the recruits were below thirty, but some were older. However, at the age of 46 I was the oldest in the new recruits.
As I entered the building the officers started listing us down. At that moment, one of them sent me to the barber of the centre. As I sat in the chair, the barber laughingly asked me if he should clean my moustache first or the head. I smiled back, and in a few minutes he had made a soldier out of me, by removing my moustache and shortening my long hair.
I spent a month there. The officers had put all of us to strict discipline. We used to march for most of the day, on the long long roads inside the military centre. Of course the officers were kind enough to give us frequent breaks to relax under the trees, as the weather was terribly hot in those days.
The first week was really tough for me. Though walking the whole day was not creating much of a problem for me, I was finding it difficult to match the pace and the formation of the march. Of course the boots were also a source of uneasiness for me. However, I managed to get myself adjusted to all of this in the next few days. The first week was indeed difficult for me.
I can easily say that those long marches in the Gulseren military centre, played an important role in improving my stamina and willpower. It also provided me a chance to concentrate under difficult and tiring conditions.
The long long marches were not all that we used to do for the whole day. Frequently I worked in the kitchen. Along with some other fellow soldiers I washed the dishes, cleaned the tables and the floor of the kitchen. Twice I distributed meals to the soldiers.
However, in the kitchen what I liked the most was the quality of the food. Basically I eat a bit more than others. So that kitchen was the best place for me. The food used to be very nice, and I had the chance to eat as much as I wanted. The fruits were in abundance, so I made the best of the opportunity.
Frequently I cleaned the toilets and the bathrooms. I never felt tired or uneasy while working. In fact I learned a lot about hygiene and cleaning techniques there.
However, discipline was the most valuable thing that was taught to us. Waking up at 5am sharp, shaving daily within the short available period of time, wearing the uniform and boots and getting ready to report was something that I liked. The way we all used to sit on the already marked seats to eat, the way we used to line up to get the food, and then putting the plates etc back after finishing the meal, were really fantastic. I learned a lot there.
Apart from long marches, we were taught how to use guns. Frequently we were asked to clean the guns. One day we were taken to an open area where we were told how to use a gun. Each one of us was told to fire three shots. I was lucky that day, as I managed to hit the target twice, in three shots.
For me the period of one month was too short, as I really enjoyed being there. It was a great chance to learn something new in life and it was a nice opportunity to make new friends.