Abusing Turkey’s children sexually and mentally

Abusing Turkey’s children sexually and mentally

Stories of the sexual abuse of minors have been pouring in for the last couple of weeks. In almost every case, the molester is a character that the child should be trusting: A teacher, an imam or a family member such as an uncle.

The number of child abuse cases has not significantly increased recently, however a major case involving an Islamist foundation has brought the issue onto the agenda. With many more people showing an interest in the suffering of children, cases which would have gone unnoticed in the past now make their way to social media, newspapers and televisions.

What made a big difference was a case in the Central Anatolian province of Karaman. A teacher was arrested for the alleged sexual abuse of the eight male students in Karaman. The teacher had been teaching private courses for students in apartments rented by the provincial branch of the Ensar Foundation, a foundation with very close links to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Although the official allegations are for eight cases, it is believed that the number of minor victims could be as high as 45.

The public uproar reached its peak when the foundation denied any responsibility, although the children were entrusted to it and the houses hired by the foundation to accommodate the children were in fact illegal. The foundation should be held accountable for creating an environment that led to the sexual abuse of the children and measures should be taken to prevent perverts from infiltrating into its system.

Not only did the Ensar Foundation fail to do that, but it also received the support of the government and the ruling party.

A motion by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to establish a parliamentary panel to investigate the child abuse cases was rejected with the votes of AKP lawmakers on March 23, before the party agreed to a joint motion the next day.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the Ensar Foundation was “the target of a smear campaign spearheaded by the ‘parallel state,’” putting the blame for yet another problem: The Fethullah Gülen movement.

Turkey’s family and social policies minister said, “A one-time incident should not be used to defame a successful organization.” 

Amid reports of abuse in the foundation’s different branches across the country –no details, since none have been proven yet – it is not surprising that the ruling party and the government have run to the rescue of Ensar.

The foundation, along with the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), which has President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son, Bilal Erdoğan, as a board member, is among the handful of tools used to reshape the education system, the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Gürsel Tekin said as early as August 2014. At the time, Bilal Erdoğan, along with the representatives of such organizations, held a meeting with senior civil servants from the Education Ministry, despite not holding an official post. According to a voice recording made public by Tekin, Bilal Erdoğan told the civil servants that the number of students graduating from imam hatip schools – religious vocational schools – should increase and they should reject projects outlining mixed-sex schools and dormitories.

According to the information on the foundation’s website, Ensar “has taken the subjects of ‘religious and ethical education’ and ‘values education’ at a national and international level as a goal.” That goal is consistent with the AKP’s polices, which have included Islamic religious education in kindergarten disguised as “values education.”

What such education actually means became clear in two cases earlier this week.

The first incident includes the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Turkey top religious state institution, which spends its budget of over $2 billion on paying the wages of Sunni religious officials and imams and promoting the Sunni belief in Turkey and abroad.

A cartoon that appeared in the April issue of a kid’s magazine published by Diyanet glorified “martyrdom,” dying for your beliefs.

“Why would someone ever want to be a martyr?” a child asks his dad in the cartoon, and the dad answers, “Who would not want to be in heaven?”

When the daughter says, “I wish I could be a martyr,” her mom says, “If you want that much, Allah will, insallah [God willing], give you that good deed.”

The second propaganda aimed at children of “how nice it is to die” also came on public money, this time from state-run television station TRT. In the teaser of a documentary on the Syrian war, a small Syrian girls is asked “what would you do if you had to fight?” and she answers: “I would blow myself up at a checkpoint.”

These odes to death and martyrdom come in a country which has lost more than 200 people to suicide bomb attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the last year alone. It is not surprising that terror groups can easily find people willing to be “martyrs” in their barbaric actions when the state itself is poisoning elementary school children with the idea of “dying for the cause.”

The education system that has been changed to the core by the AKP goes for our children’s minds. The lurking predators disguised as teachers and imams are out there to sexually abuse them.

The future does not seem bright for Turkey, and it will get darker if we continue to fail protecting our future generations.