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Tarkan stands to attention!

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Swearing his oath, crawling across the military terrain with a 40kg pack on his back, sleeping in a bunk bed - during his military service in the Turkish city Malatya, Tarkan experienced the toughest time of his life...

Bravo Magazine (Germany), February 2000


   A frosty wind is blowing over the barrack-square.  All is deadly quiet.  The stamping of the ponderous army boots is all there is to hear.  Concentrated and with grave face, Tarkan marches parade-stepped towards the desk of his superior.  A solemnly moment, as on this Friday, January 28th, the Turkish superstar is taking the oath in his homeland.  "I swear to give my life for my homeland", Tarkan says with steady voice.  At the guest tribune:  Tarkan's mother Neşe, his sister Handan and uncle Hassan.  The three of them proudly watched the ceremony.
   At January 16th, Tarkan began his
shortened 28 days military service in Malatya, Anatolia, as a normal soldier without preferential treatment.  He had to give in his photo camera and was enforced not to give interviews or signatures.  The law is very strict.  In the military domain high security measurements rule.  As only 400km away lies the Kurdish city Diyarbakir, center of the rebellious PKK,  which is in state of war.  The effect on Malatya: leaving the military domain in olive-green uniform, would be life-threatening because of ominous Kurdish acts of violence, and is therefore strictly prohibited.

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Towards the end of his last 
concert before his military service, 
Tarkan appeared on stage with an army haircut.

  Tarkan's working-day in the 1st company was tough:
get up at 5.30 (!), making the beds, breakfast with bread, goat-cheese, olives and tea.  Starting of the service at 6.15 a.m., lights down at 9.00 p.m. 
"In the first weeks we basically learned how to march", says Tarkan, who, in a 50 men dormitory, luckily could get hold of the upper part of a stack bed.  
"I constantly marched out of time,
as I'm used to taking dance steps in my shows.   My comrades laughed at me and said "Hey, man! you're not on stage here!"  In the military, Tarkan found some of his old friends.  Next to his music composer Ozan Çolakoğlu, also Gürkan Söğütoğlu, his producers brother, served.  Besides them, pop star Mustafa Sandal served in the 3rd company.

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  After taking the oath, the daily drill became noticeable tougher.  Tarkan: "We had to crawl through pipelines and under barbed wire fences, climb sheer walls - many times with 40 kg pack on our backs.  Luckily my condition is okay due to regular sports and dance training."  
Tarkan was also spared from punitive expedition, thanks to his strong discipline. 
"My friends who already have been in the army, informed me about the "Turkish box on the ears", says Tarkan.  "They said that every soldier gets them from their superior officer, in order to remember the pain and never to forget their military service.  I was lucky and didn't get my ears boxed, therefore I will have good memories of my military service."    

The Turkish military in detail:

* Normally, military service in Turkey lasts for 18 months.  Whether a recruit gets called into a crisis- or catastrophe region, he only gets to know when enrolling into the barracks.

* People refusing to do their obligatory military service are looked upon as weak, and conservative Turkish people consider them as betrayers or terrorists.  Turkish people who live abroad (like Tarkan) get the opportunity to reduce their military service by paying a 8000$.

* Almost everyone gets approved.  Withdrawal is looked upon as unmanly.

* A rule that many Turkish men stick to is that a man can only get married when he fulfilled his military service.  The background is that, in some regions, many young men get married at the age of 15.  If they get called into the army later, the care taking of wife and children gets endangered.

* The worst misbehavior in the army is desertion, disobedience and alcohol abuse.

* A soldier earns about 6$ a month, in 18 months that's 108$.

* The food: mess of potage, beans and peas with onions, rice and yogurt in winter, vegetables in summer.

Bravo Magazine, February 2000.  Translated from German by Marleen


© Marleen 1999-2004