‘We could not even see the ashes of our child’

‘We could not even see the ashes of our child’

“Whatever happened, all of it happened to us. Nothing happened to anybody else. We have not even seen the ashes of our dear child; they did not show it to us, they did not… I live with the picture of my child,” a grieving mother said, as she was crying at the first hearing of a case - which was moved to the hall of the Chamber of Industry when the regular court room was inadequate - into a dormitory blaze. A fire broke out due to an electrical failure at a girls’ dormitory that belonged to the Süleymancılar religious group in the southern province of Adana’s Aladağ district on Nov. 29, 2016. 

Eleven girls from fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades and one young supervisor lost their lives in the building that had synthetic wall-to-wall carpets, which were totally against the regulations. The building also had plastic doors, fire exits with no doorknobs, which were all locked. All of these were violations.   

The director of the dormitory and six other people were arrested. They appeared in court the other day, after 182 days.  

Let us take a look at what happened in the 182 days in chronological order of headlines and stories, as I selected from the archive of the website of online news portal Diken.  

Tragedy in Adana student dormitory: 11 children and a supervisor burnt to death. This is how the children were burnt: Carpets, wooden top floor, locked fire exits and barbed wire around the exits. 

A media ban was imposed on the stories coming from Adana to prevent the “disruption of peace and order of the country.” The director of the dormitory and six people were detained. An injured student in the fire was forced to give a false testimony.  

Following the fire, an employee of the dormitory was very concerned about the 35 kilograms of meat in the refrigerator. Four administrators who were released were rearrested. 

The girls’ dormitory was not properly checked because inspectors were men. Families from Aladağ said they were directed by the Education Ministry which said their daughters could stay at the Süleymancılar dormitory so that the place is not closed down because of lack of students. An inspector found that they tried to get away with a fake technical report. 

Is this the price paid for 12 lives? The accused in the Aladağ disaster are sought 15 years at most. 

This was how the 182 days passed. The building was knocked down. The lawyer of the families, Can Atalay, said the evidence was deemed void with the demolishment while the investigation was ongoing. 

Families said money has been sent to their bank accounts without their approval or knowledge. They were offered hush money by the members of the group. Families also said there was pressure on them; they were forced to retract from the trial. 

The defendants generated excuses, saying, “The door handles must have fallen while the children were playing.” They also accused the fire department. The lawyer of the families insistently emphasized that evidences were countered.  

Surviving kids were heard. One of them, F.Z.A., said she climbed back to the third floor and jumped from the window. Her ankles were broken. She said there were fire extinguishers but they did not know how to use them. 

And the mother spoke, saying, “We did not even see the ashes of our child. They did not show it to us; they did not…” 

The court postponed the hearing to July 17, as the arrests of the defendants are continuing. 

We will continue monitoring how justice will make the price of those 12 lives be paid…