By Paula Manoli-Gray
As a mother of a son living on the island, the fact that my son will have to do compulsory national service is never far from my mind, with mixed feelings on the topic.
As such, I was very encouraged to hear the radio adverts calling on young adults to choose a career in the army – a process that is now closed, with the successful candidates being announced in August.
My hope is that the recruitment drive will create a motivated and committed force of professional soldiers who have been properly and willingly trained, rather than a bunch of teenage boys who have been forced to serve at a time in their lives when their minds are on having fun, dating, studying and enjoying their youth.
It was announced that the recruitment drive has gone well, with over 4,000 applications. And so it appears, a career in the army is an attractive prospect for many men and women on the island.
The reduction of compulsory service to 14 months as a result of this recruitment is also a step in the right direction, but should the state have any right to dictate these young men’s lives?
Granted, some of the conscripts may very well go willingly, but there are many who don’t (setting aside the draft dodgers who fabricate reasons not to serve).
For some, it is a time of isolation, depression and bullying, whilst others are simply bored. Some come out with a new sense of responsibility and skills. Others do not.
When my father was a teenager, he was set to complete his compulsory national service, but the war broke out and he ended up fighting (mainly in the Nicosia area); thrust from conscript to real-life soldier in an instant.
When the war finished, he had to stay in for an additional year, making his total served time in the army over three years.
And so, with his bride-to-be, he left Cyprus for the UK because he couldn’t bear to remain on the island after what he had experienced and witnessed during the war.
When I was 11, my sister 9 and my brother 1, my parents decided to move back to Cyprus. My father believed that there would be no compulsory national service by the time my brother was ‘of age’.
Of course, he was wrong, and my brother completed his national service. He found nothing positive about the experience.
Although my son is only 8, my father’s attention is now turned to his grandson’s future, and he dearly hopes that he won’t have to do national service.
After all, there is no benefit in forced soldiers when you have a queue of candidates eager for an army career.