Turkish education ministry issues reprimand, imposes forfeiture of one day’s pay after deadly dorm fire
İsmail Saymaz – ADANATurkey’s Education Ministry has issued a reprimand to a district director of national education following complaints by parents whose children were killed in a dormitory fire in the southern district of Aladağ in the Adana province in November 2016 which had killed 12, including 11 teenage girls.
The ministry launched an investigation into Mehmet Aktaş, the Aladağ district director of education, after the families of the killed children applied to authorities with claims that the Aladağ office “had led them to the dormitory.”
Additionally, upon the investigation result, a district governor’s office staff and a district national education directorate staff were imposed forfeiture of one day’s pay for issuing a fabricated report in the latest dorm inspection indicating that all the precautions regarding the building were taken.
The two staff, Cihan Ünal and Davut Gökçeli, released the inspection report as though the necessary provisions against a potential fire were made, although this was not the case. Aktaş was indicated not to have performed his “supervision” task, later being dismissed from his duty as the Aladağ director of the local education office and reassigned last month as a teacher to an Imam Hatip religious secondary school.
The criminal investigation launched by the Aladağ Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office into the incident, on the other hand, is still ongoing. Aktaş, Ünal, Gökçeli, and two other civil servants are accused of “causing many people’s deaths involuntarily.”
In the investigation report, the dormitory manager, Cuma Ali Genç, was also found to be at fault as he did not have the relevant fire trainings at the dorm, not to have hired a cook, and not to have established an internet room in the dorm. The dorm’s sections were not used in line with the original settlement plan - again a duty that should have been carried out by the manager, the report said. Although these deficiencies were issued in an October 2015-dated inspection report, Genç did not handle them, the report added. But because Genç was not assigned a chief, no sanction was imposed on him.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry canceled the business license of the private all-girls dormitory on Dec. 8, 2016.
Eleven children and one adult were killed, while 24 others were injured in the fire on Nov. 29 last year. As inspections and investigations continued over the deadly blaze, early reports had suggested that major negligence caused the fire to erupt.
The dorm was run by the Süleymancılar, a conservative religious group that evolved out of the Naqshbandi Sufi order, but has focused on religious education since the late 1950s.