When the topic is compulsory military service in Turkey, everybody listens. Every year, in batches, about 700,000 young men are enlisted for 12 months of what is called “national service” by the constitution. A small number of them are university graduates, who are enlisted for six months. A similar number are discharged each year after completing their compulsory service. It is therefore no wonder that anything to do with this service is of interest to millions of people.
To properly understand the issue, some statistics are needed. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Turkey's military is made up of about 600,000 people. This number includes about 195,000 in the gendarmerie and 5,000 Coast Guard personnel. About 350,000 of the total — 60% — are conscripts. When conscripts outnumber professional cadres, the result is called a “mass army." In that sense, the Turkish military is similar to those of Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Israel. One must remember, however, that there are about 230,000 professional noncommissioned officers and specialists in the Turkish military. When compared with other modern Western countries, the number of commissioned personnel in the Turkish military is relatively high. Turkey’s defense expenditures in 2013 came to $18 billion. That means that each Turkish citizen was spending about $200 each for defense.