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|Updated: 26-Mar-2002||Committee on Women in NATO Forces|
When Turkish history is examined, it is apparent that Turkish women have voluntarily taken tasks in the defence of their country, showing the same power and courage as men. One woman, whose monument has been erected in the city of Erzurum (Eastern Turkey) because of her gallant bravery during the Ottoman-Russian War, constitutes a very good example of this fact. Furthermore, the Independence War has taken its place in history with the unsurpassed heroism of Turkish women.
Prior to 1955, women had been assigned as civilian personnel (doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, etc.) in the Turkish Armed Forces. Beginning in 1955, women were accepted to military academies and they started service as officers in 1957. Among these were women fighter pilots.
This recruitment process was interrupted due to various reasons and instead, recruitment of officers from civilian universities was preferred.
Starting in1992, together with recruitment from other sources, women cadets were allowed to enter military academies.
Women personnel are being employed as officers in the Turkish Armed Forces today. Special troops comprised of women do not exist. The women officers serve together with the men under the same respective chains of command.
The personnel policy regarding women in the Turkish Armed Forces is based on the principle of "needing qualified women officers in suitable branches and ranks" to keep pace with technological advancements in the 21st century. Women civilian personnel have been assigned to the headquarters staff, technical fields, and social services without sexual discrimination.
According to Turkish law and culture, sexual harassment is viewed as a crime, and is punishable by law.
Amendments to laws concerning maternity were added in 1998. According to the new legislation, out of the nine weeks of authorised paid leave, three weeks can be taken prior to and 1½ months after giving birth. If requested, six months of unpaid leave can also be taken. Furthermore, women officers are entitled to 1,5 hours of breast-feeding leave each day for six months. Spouses are taken into consideration for the assignments of women officers married to colleagues, and utmost care is given to the co-location of families.
Women officers serve in all branches except armour, infantry, and submarines. Twenty-one women are currently undertaking pilot training to be jet fighter or helicopter pilots. Assignments, promotions and training are considered on an equal basis with no gender bias.
The number of female officers employed in the Turkish Armed Forces is 918. In the Army there are 533, in the Navy 192, in the Air Force 160, and 33 in the Gendarmerie.
Women officers serve in branches such as ordnance, signals, transportation, quartermaster, finance/budgeting, personnel, air traffic control, and intelligence, but they also work in combat roles such as artillery, aviation and engineering.
Currently, the percentage of women admitted to the service academies is capped at four percent of the total number of cadets. Women enter the Turkish military on a voluntary basis. There is no conscription for female personnel. No formal plan has been implemented in terms of the recruitment of women as corporals-privates, because there is no shortage of male volunteers in the Turkish population.
Equal opportunity applies to women and men in terms of training. Training is provided in the academies and higher schools of military education. Leadership training and basic training is provided to both genders. All entrance tests, except the physical proficiency test, are conducted under equal conditions with male candidates.
Military Academies, Gülhane Military Faculty of Medicine and other civilian schools constitute the three main institutions supplying personnel for commissioning as officers. The Gülhane Military Higher Nursing School, which trains military senior nursing officers, began training civilian senior nurses for the military in 2001. The graduates of this school were commissioned as senior nurse officers prior to enrolment. In the 2000-2001 educational year, the number of women cadets educated in military academies was 196. Female civilian university graduates joining the military undergo a three-month basic training course, together with male candidates. Both men and women receive the same training at the same schools and training centres.
Turkish servicewomen have deployed in support of IFOR, SFOR and KFOR peacekeeping operations as nursing supervisors in a special medical unit. Recruitment for such peacekeeping operations is no different from that of men. All military personnel are recruited from the same sources, as stated in the training section above.
Recent and Projected Developments
The Turkish Ministry of Defence is continuing their work on emphasising changes and advancements for the benefit of women in respect to policies concerning military uniforms, hair cuts, make up, duty for women and maternity leave entitlements. The developments regarding women officers are dependent upon the national military requirements and there has been in creasingly more space allocated to them. The proposal for a law on contracted-commissioned and non-commissioned officers, which also permits women to serve as NCOs, is still under consideration by the Turkish Great National Assembly.
Several indicators point to the conclusion that conditions are improving for female officers in the Turkish military. Enrolment of female cadets in the military academies is increasing, and qualified women are filling more and more positions. It is expected that the female officers in the Turkish Armed Forces will be assigned to more effective and functional posts in the future.
National Co-ordination Office
Delegate to the Committee on Women in the NATO Forces