Turkish children, European same sex couples; who is to blame?

Turkish children, European same sex couples; who is to blame?

Millions of Turks live in Europe. So it is only natural to have different types of integration problems.

Recently, the Turkish public became familiar with one of those numerous complicated problems.

I am talking about the Turkish children given to same sex couples for protection. The case of “Yunus” in the Netherlands is about to overshadow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to the country this week.

I am not homophobic but Turkey is, and lags far behind Europe when it comes to the rights of gays and lesbians in terms of legislation as well as public approval. Yet civil unions of the same sex remain a controversy even in Europe. It is sufficient to recall how France was divided ahead of the vote in French Parliament, which finally passed last month the law allowing same- sex couples to marry and adopt children.

But the problem is bigger than same-sex couples chosen as protective families for Turkish children; which does not happen at a high frequency. The families that see their children taken away, especially in Germany, are also complaining about the fact that their children are being given to German families and raised, therefore, in the absence of any input from Turkish culture.

The youth departments in Germany have the authority to take children – independent of ethnic origin – away from their biological parents if they are convinced of abuse or mistreatment. In these cases, children are either sent to youth hostels under state responsibility or given to protective families. Some might argue that Turkish families that have mistreated or abused their children have no right to object. Some others who believe full integration should entail Turkish children be raised like German children, might even find the idea rewarding. But this is not so simple. Being separated from one’s biological family is already traumatic for children, no matter how badly he or she had been mistreated; being raised by a different family, in addition to different cultural and religious habits, creates another trauma. There are thousands of Turkish children that have been taken away from their biological parents in Germany. The estimates vary between 4,000 and 6,000.

German authorities have a simple answer when the issue is raised by Turkish officials: “There are no Turkish couples volunteering to become protective families.”

The notion of a “protective family” has been a rather unknown phenomenon to Turks living in Germany. The Turkish Consulate General in Düsseldorf started a campaign in 2011 together with a non-governmental organization, Umut Işığı (Light of Hope), to raise awareness among Turkish communities. The Turkish Embassy in Berlin has recently endorsed the campaign, which will spread throughout Germany. Umut Işığı has also started work in the Netherlands. So far, 113 families have contacted the Consulate General and Umut Işığı, but there is not sufficient information on how many of them have applied to German authorities to become protective families.

In the absence of Turkish protective families, Turkey cannot blame German authorities for giving mistreated children to German families; though they should at least avoid same-sex couples. As the number of Turkish protective families increases, German authorities should no doubt opt for them in the first instance.