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Paul de Leeuw
World Music Awards
Bravo magazine 1
stands to attention!
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...
(Germany), February 2000
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.
January 16th, Tarkan began his
|shortened 28 days military
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
the end of his last
concert before his military service,
Tarkan appeared on stage with an army haircut.
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.
marched out of time,
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.
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
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."
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$.
everyone gets approved. Withdrawal is looked upon as unmanly.
A rule that many Turkish men stick to is that a man can only get married
when he fulfilled his military service. The background is that, in
some regions, many young men get married at the age of 15. If they
get called into the army later, the care taking of wife and children
The worst misbehavior in the army is desertion, disobedience and alcohol
A soldier earns about 6$ 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