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Alternative civilian service, also called alternative service, civilian service, non-military service, and substitute service, is a form of national service performed in lieu of military conscription for various reasons, such as conscientious objection, inadequate health, or political reasons. See "labour battalion" for examples of the latter case. Alternative service usually involves some kind of labor.


Alternative civilian service is service to a government made as a civilian, particularly such service as an option for conscripted persons who are conscientious objectors and object to military service.

Civilian service is usually performed in the service of non-profit governmental bodies or other institutions. For example, in Germany (before conscription was abolished), those in civilian service worked extensively in healthcare facilities and retirement homes, while other countries have a wider variety of possible placements.

Common synonyms for the term are alternative service, civilian service, non-military service and substitute service.

Alternative service is often rejected by antimilitarist conscientious objectors, who still regard it as part of the military system. Many argue that it is not inconveniencing the military in any way, and in fact paints them in a good light. Moreover, in the past non-military service has often freed up people for work in the military, or enabled people to return to the military e.g. nursing. Those conscientious objectors who also reject alternative service are known as absolutists or total objectors.

History and human rights

The Twenty Classes was a program used by the Turkish government during World War II to conscript the male non-Turkish minority population mainly consisting of Armenians, Greeks and Jews. The prevailing and widespread point of view on the matter was that, anticipating entry to World War II, Turkey gathered in advance all unreliable non-Turkish men regarded as a potential "fifth column".

Lack of alternative service in Armenia in 2003–2004 was considered to violate freedom of religion by the European Court of Human Rights in 2011.[1]

Countries and regions with mandatory alternative service programmes

Countries that abolished mandatory alternative services

Voluntary services as a substitute to mandatory alternative services

Earlier voluntary services as a substitute to mandatory alternative services

See also

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