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It's time to look in the mirror!

HDN | 11/2/2005 12:00:00 AM | AYŞE ÖZGÜN

AYŞE ÖZGÜN

The tapes secretly recorded and aired on Star TV channel's "Deşifre" program last week in connection with the maltreatment of tiny children at the Malatya Children's Center has rocked the Turkish nation like a 9.0-magnitude earthquake.

State Minister Nimet Çubukçu, responsible for these government-funded institutions, has finally returned from her business trip to England and stated that she had asked the prime minister whether she should resign from her post but Erdoğan told her not to.The multiple scenes of caretaker women pushing, hitting and shoving the small children around were certainly heart wrenching, mind-boggling and cruel. These were children who had been either totally abandoned by their families or had been lent to the institution until the family finances were in a better state to feed, cloth and educate them. The latter, therefore, could not be given up for adoption as there was no parental consent.

We learned that the five uneducated women seen on television beating up the children in every which way, and who were later taken to court and are being prosecuted, were mere weekend caretakers who had been hired (at the minimum wage of 300 YTL/mth) by the center for cleaning and kitchen work, but were forced to take care of the children during Saturday and Sunday when the capable and trained members of the staff were off duty.

I can envision the following scene when these women are in court and the judge asks them these questions:

"Why were you beating up the children?""I was merely disciplining them.""Don't you know that is not the right way to discipline children?"

"No! That's the way we do it at home in our village."

"Don't you know it is not right to keep hitting children?"

"Since when? I did not treat them any different from the way I discipline my very own children. I did not discriminate. Why am I being prosecuted?"

In spite of the fact that I have been aware of the acute damage being caused to children at such institutions throughout the years in most parts of Turkey and did many programs on television to bring the wrongdoings into light, I must say that with the advent of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) coming to power three years ago, a new priority list emerged from the government, driven by financial obligations owed to various banks around the world and keeping up with IMF policy guidelines. These guidelines ultimately have led to cutbacks of funds from a multitude of similar government-funded institutions which eventually blew up like Mount Vesuvius at the Malatya Children's Center, where the hidden cameras happened to be. It could very well have blown up in some other center in another province but fate picked Malatya.

Now the IMF needs to review the tight grip they have placed on the funds available for such institutions and provide enough to enable them to hire properly educated and trained social workers, pedagogues and other necessary personnel so that these scenes will not be repeated in any other part of this country at anytime in the future.

Likewise, we have to form an army of men and women volunteers who will MAKE time in their weekly lives to visit such centers and show interest, affection and care for these children who, without such care, could very likely turn into fight-loving, aggressive, angry and problem-causing individuals. This, of course, raises the question Just how accustomed andready are the Turkish people to do civil service work in a given situation? I regretfully admit such practices are uncommon in this country however high pitched the voices become upon the disclosure of such problematic and difficult files being revealed on a TV program.

In spite of the difficulties, I am glad of the harmonious and quick reaction of the Turkish nation to this event and believe the government will take the necessary and proper steps to set better the standards at such institutions.

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