TODAY, 15 MAY, is International Conscientious Objectors Day, when people around the world and across the UK speak out in solidarity with conscientious objectors now in prison, and in grateful memory of conscientious objectors of the past.

In the UK many such events are organised by the Peace Pledge Union. After two years when the event was online due to the pandemic, the national ceremony will once again be in person in front of the memorial for conscientious objectors in Tavistock Square at 1pm, though it will still be possible to take part online.

There will be speeches, songs and time for quiet reflection. This year there will be a special focus on the courage of those resisting war in Russia and Ukraine.

Speakers will include:

  • Semih Sapmaz from War Resisters’ International, bringing messages from Russian and Ukrainian war resisters
  • Sahar Vardi, an Israeli conscientious objector imprisoned for refusing military service
  • Kika Markham, actor and daughter of Second World War Conscientious Objector David Markham

War Resisters’ International maintains a database of information on the situation for conscientious objectors and conscripts around the world. This resource exists to assist activists, researchers, lawyers and other interested parties to find out more about trends in conscription worldwide, and specific information on individual countries. It has been used to assist COs seeking asylum, to give solidarity activists information in planning campaigns, to give campaigners against conscription examples from other states to put pressure on their own governments, and in academic research.

The database was first compiled in 1998 and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. A comprehensive update of European states was done in 2005 in collaboration with the Quaker Council for European Affairs, and it is now updated on a rolling basis.

* More information about events around the UK is available here. You can also watch the livestream of the event on this page at 1pm. There is no need to register.

* Access the World survey of conscription and conscientious objection to military service here.

* Sources: Peace Pledge Union and War Resisters’ International