Two further incidents regarding the sexual abuse of children are being investigated in the northwestern province of Kocaeli, Turkey, after news about a teacher raping eight male students at a private foundation hit headlines and sparked public outrage last week.
Witness accounts of children crying “save us” from inside a building in Kocaeli created a frenzy on social media early on March 30.
While reports revealed that the building was a rehabilitation center for children who had faced sexual abuse, officials claimed that children had “reacted to a regular search” inside the center.
See what I mean? Were these children removed from their families because of sexual abuse? Were they 'housed' together in the rehab center? If so, is that really a good idea? What is a regular search? Does it involve touching the children, perhaps in intimate areas? If so, that is not conducive to rehabilitation but further traumatizing already vulnerable kids.
The provincial director of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, Bekir Yümmü, said the children had shouted through the windows in reaction to a search conducted as a safety measure.
However, a witness account posted on Ekşi Sözlük (“Sour Dictionary” or “Sour Times”), one of Turkey’s most popular online forums, claimed to have heard female children screaming that they were locked up and being mistreated.
“They were locked inside and said there were video cameras in fitting rooms, they were being tortured and they were not allowed to communicate with their families,” the online poster claimed. The facility did not have a sign bearing the name of the institution, but a security guard said it was a “secret rehabilitation center,” the same user added.
Yümmü rejected all claims, saying the building was temporarily locked as a security precaution.
A separate incident from Kocaeli was also reported March 30, when parents of students at the Karşıyaka Barbaros Primary School in the Başiskele district filed a complaint against a fourth grade teacher, accusing him of inappropriately touching 15 female students.
Police teams launched an investigation into the allegations, while Fehmi Rasim Çelik, Kocaeli’s provincial director of national education, also appointed an inspector to investigate the accused.
“We do not tolerate such matters. If he is guilty, he will suffer the consequences,” Çelik told reporters as parents insisted that the suspect be immediately dismissed from duty.
The issue of sexual abuse of minors has recently come under the spotlight in Turkey, after a 54-year-old teacher sexually assaulted his male students at an apartment rented by the Karaman branch of the Ensar Foundation in Central Anatolia, where he had been teaching private courses to students. Parliament decided on March 24 to form an inquiry commission to conduct an in-depth probe into the alleged sexual abuse of children following news reports on the issue.
The decision received approval from all four political parties in parliament following a tense debate late March 23, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) rejected the opposition’s motion for an in-depth investigation on specific child abuse cases in Karaman.
An inquiry commission is always a good place to start. I hope it is adequately funded and appropriately commissioned. I also hope that it looks at Turkey's process of rehabilitation of sexually abused children.