Today (15th may) is International Conscientious Objectors day. As part of our theme Taking a Stand we’re highlighting those who are opposing war today, in very difficult circumstances.
Conscientious Objectors (COs) Today
Almost 30 countries still have conscription for young men (and in some cases women). In many countries, being recognised and respected as a genuine conscientious objector can be very difficult in practice.
The Object War Campaign calls on citizens to join the global effort to ensure protection and asylum for conscientious objectors and deserters from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
“They are our hope to refuse war and let peace prevail!”Object War Campaign
There are an estimated 120,000 Russian and Belarusian conscripts who have deserted or left their country because they don’t want to participate in the war of aggression in Ukraine. Everyone who has refused military service risks years of prosecution because of their stand against war. They are hoping for protection in various countries.
For those who have not been able to flee, there are accounts of illegal prisons in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine where Russian authorities are forcibly holding soldiers, including mobilised civilians who refuse to continue participating in the so-called “special military operation”. Russian authorities are using threats, psychological abuse and torture to force them to return to the front.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has also suspended the right to conscientious objection and closed the border for men aged 18-60. Ukraine has the right to defend itself, its citizens should have the right to refuse conscription.
At 1pm today you can watch the national CO Day ceremony led by the Peace Pledge Union from London, where the focus will be on COs in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, as well as the often overlooked role of women COs across history.
War Resisters International will be speaking at the event about the global struggle of COs around the world. They regularly highlight COs in places such as Columbia, Turkey and Israel (you can read the personal story of Israeli objector Noam Gur in our display at Peace Hub).
WRI are holding a conference on Antimilitarist Roots Fri 16th to Sun 18th June at the Human Rights Action Centre in London: nonviolent resistance for a world in crisis. Read more about the conference and sign up.