Israeli Military Discharges Transgender Conscientious Objector - on Mental Health Grounds

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Israel Defense Forces Military Prison 6, in 2002.
IDF Military Prison 6, where Katri was detained with men. Her request to be sent to the women's wing there was denied.Credit: Nir Kafri

The Israel Defense Forces has discharged Aiden Katri, a transgender woman who refused to report for basic training on the grounds that she is a conscientious objector – on mental health grounds.

Katri, 19, was born male and has not undergone any kind of sex-change treatment or surgery.

Due to be inducted into a combat unit, she underwent legal proceedings in the army and was discharged Sunday after being incarcerated in Military Prison 6, in the wing for men; her request to be transferred to the women's wing had been denied.

An army source said Katri was not discharged because she was a transgender individual, noting that there are dozens of transgender soldiers serving in the IDF.

Aiden Katri.Credit: David Bachar

“I feel like a woman and had conducted myself as a transgender woman even before I was drafted,” Katri wrote in a letter to the commander of her prison about a week and a half ago. She added that she understood that she was under incarceration as a punishment, “but being in a men’s facility constitutes additional punishment. I beg of you to transfer me to the women’s company.”

Over the last several days, however, the IDF launched procedures to release Katri from military service on mental health grounds, and on Sunday a medical panel ruled her unfit service.

For her part, Katri said that the army's decision shows that it refuses to recognize her as a conscientious objector. She also claimed that when she met with a mental health officer in the course of her detention, the officer wrote that there were no mental health grounds requiring urgent intervention, although he said – referring to Katri as a male – “it will be difficult for him to serve in light of his ideological positions.”

“Although the mental health officer from the prison ruled that I was completely healthy, at the recruitment center, they labeled me mentally ill instead of dealing with my ideological statement against the occupation,” she wrote, referring to her grounds for conscientious objection. Katri is receiving support services from an organization called Mesarvot, which assists conscientious objectors.

In response to a petition that she filed with the High Court of Justice, the army has said she will not be sent to prison in the future without further clarification of her case.

An IDF source said in response: “The ruling on [Katri’s] military profile was carried out professionally by the authorized parties based on medical and professional considerations alone. [Katri] asked to meet with a mental health officer, which was granted. She was referred to a psychiatrist who determined that she was not fit to serve in the IDF. There are dozens of transgender individuals serving in the IDF who, when necessary, receive support and assistance from the relevant parties. In the event that she chooses to volunteer, her placement as a volunteer will be examined.”

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