Nowadays, protecting and even improving the rights of the children are among the key requirements of being a democratic country. It is an incontestable right for the children, who are a part of the social life, to take part as individuals in the community. The convention on the rights of the children, which contains the most extensive regulation about legitimatizing and protecting the rights of the children in international law, is based on the fact that the children must be regarded as individuals who take active and independent role towards shaping their own lives.
Turkey legitimized the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994 with a cabinet decree. Although the children must have priority in the national politics, the children, who are being raised in an environment full of pressures, cannot even use the rights they normally have. Despite the fact that it has been 24 years after legitimizing the convention of the UN, the policy makers in Turkey still regard children not as individuals, but as dependent and passive family members. According to the Turkish data, 30% of the population consists of children. Despite this high ratio, for a child in Turkey, where everything is basically made difficult, it is very hard to protect the individual rights as well as using the available rights.
So, which rights the children in Turkey are unable to use because they are violated?
The individuals, who become brides after being sexually abused, are being whitewashed by the moral laws because of the loopholes. The female children, who became a sexual meta, are being sold under the disguise called a “bride price”. The reality of the problem with the Syrian children refugees, which started in 2012 and increased the number of human trafficking, and correspondingly child abduction and sexual abuse incidents, is being overlooked due to the fact that it is swept under the carpet.
It is a known fact that the range of the sexual abuse cases against children starts from pedophilia, and continues with incest, pornography, child sex tourism, child prostitution, and sexual abuse. Ayse K, who resorted to the government for help due to the fact that she had been sexually abused by her step father since she was 10 years old in Antalya, was forced to live with her step father again in the same house after her mother, who had accused her husband of rape and divorced him, withdrew her complaint about her husband, because they reconciled.
Although there is nothing to debate or talk about sexual abuse, the abuse law, which is still pending as a draft at present, is being discussed for a while now. Emotional and physical health of our children, who are our future, is more important than anything. The children are waking up with another nightmare on their shoulders, which they will be carrying for the rest of their lives, instead of hope every single day caused to escape. Being excluded from the society and the sexual abuse they experienced engrave deep torments in their souls.
Aren’t the Kurdish Children Humans?
Child rights are universal. These are the natural rights given after birth without any religion, race, nationality, or gender discrimination. The lives of the Kurdish children are worthless in this country, since they are divested of being individuals, have education, receive health care, and most importantly the right to live.
Before the July 15th coup attempt on 15 July 2016, the factors like gender segregation, regional disparities, income distribution, and level of education had caused serious inequalities in respect of children’s rights, even though Turkey is a country which has already recognized the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
After the declaration of the state of emergency on 20 July 2016, Kurdish children to reach the most basic rights and services stopped being a problem. The children’s right to live became the source of the problem.
Muhammed and Furkan brothers lost their lives inside their beds on 3 May 2017, after a police panzer ran into the house and crushed them in Silopi, Sirnak. The essential problem for the children of Kurdish origin is the lack of their safety of lives, because of the danger they face to be crushed under armored vehicles.
According to IHE (Human Rights Association), 75 children were killed in the region because of the shootings, explosives, and shrapnel pieces only in the last 2 years. While the children united with the earth, they were forgotten. Their mothers never forget the pain they have, and when they even want to share their pain, somebody tries to silence them.
Children’s Native Language Problem
The Kurdish children, who do not speak Turkish as their native language, confront a completely different language when they start going to school. While they are still trying to be acquainted with the Turkish education system, their school mates already start learning the alphabet, addition and subtraction. Because they are forced to learn a language other than their native, understand the other lessons and be successful. While it is every individual’s fundamental right to receive education in their native language, the Kurdish children are included in an education system where they are deprived of this right.
703 Babies Behind Bars
The number of children in prisons increases day by day and the total number reach over 700 recently. We are facing a government which is unscrupulous enough to hold children inside prisons. Some of the women, who have been facing trial for “being a member of a terrorist organization” and waiting for a definitive judgement after the declaration of state of emergency because of the July 15th coup attempt in 2016, are currently incarcerated together with their babies under 6 months old. 1-year-old Arin baby, who is in prison with his mother in Urfa T-type Prison No. 2, is suffering from asthma, and her health is deteriorating due to the fact that she has been losing weight constantly. Turkish Government continues to leave Arin and all of the other innocent babies to die.
According to the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures no. 5275, it is an obligation to postpone the imprisonment of the convicted women who are pregnant or have babies under 6 months old. Although it is stated in the law that the “offenses committed related with terror and organization activities” shall not be postponed, this statement can only be used for the “women who are charged”. Women, whose bill of indictments are not even prepared, are being held in prisons with their children.
It was known that the people who wanted to reach Greece were being drowned every single day. Since they did not have anybody and they were not Turkish nationals, the news was being followed as ordinary events.
Maden family were also purged, just like many other families were purged and imprisoned with the decrees in accordance with the everlasting OHAL (State of Emergency), without the need of any investigation, charges, or bill of indictments. The family, frightened to see the prison process start, were drowned together with three children, since the boat they embarked in order to reach Greece illegally had sunk. It was not the end for the children to drown further. Continuation of
OHAL and increasing pressures caused more escape attempts. A total of 17 children lost their lives by drowning. The children, who are heard in Turkey thanks to the social media and whose names, ages, and identifications were evident, were left to be forgotten just like outcasts.
OHAL ended as of 18 July 2018. But the permanent effects still continue, as well as its remnants. Children are facing more and more human rights violations. Children continue to die due to the fact that preventive measures are not being taken, and they are constantly sexually abused, imprisoned and mistreated since their mothers are denied freedom of speech.
After the pressuring environment created with OHAL, we will not be able to inherit a livable country to the children as long as the civil society organizations working on human rights, defenders of rights, real intellectuals and political opposition do not reveal their common sensed intellectual powers.
Deniz Zengin is a journalist and doctoral researcher focusing on refugees and immigration.