Three Syrian children missing from probed refugee camp in southeast Turkey

Three Syrian children missing from probed refugee camp in southeast Turkey

İdris Emen - GAZİANTEP
Three Syrian children missing from probed refugee camp in southeast Turkey

DHA photo

Three Syrian children have been reported missing from Turkey’s Nizip refugee camp in the southeastern province of Gaziantep, where 30 Syrian refugee children aged between 8 and 12 were sexually assaulted over a period of three months, allegedly by a cleaning worker. 

The Family and Social Policies Ministry became involved in the case on May 12, hours after media reports emerged of sexual assaults in the camp, which is administered by the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

A cleaning worker, identified only by the initials E.E., “sexually assaulted” boys in the camp’s washrooms, daily BirGün reported on May 12. 

The children’s families became aware of E.E.’s repeated attempts to assault the children after one boy, identified only as H.İ., told his father, who then filed a complaint with the gendarmerie, Doğan News Agency reported. 

A complaint was filed against the 29-year-old suspect and he was arrested in Sept. 2, 2015, with the prosecutor demanding a jail sentence of 289 years. 

The first hearing of the case was held on Dec. 2, 2015, but three children - two victims and one witness - could not be found in the camp. In the second hearing of the case on Dec. 30, 2015, an order was given to the gendarmerie to find the children. 

The Family and Social Policies Ministry was reportedly aware of the sexual assaults in the camp that took place on September 2015, but did not intervene in the case until the reports of sexual assaults surfaced earlier this month. 

The court sent a request to the ministry to become a party to the legal proceedings on Dec. 31, 2015, but ministry officials did not attend three subsequent hearings. 

“The ministry requested to become a part of the case, of which the third hearing was held on May 11, only after it emerged in the press. Meanwhile, as a result of the necessary measures not being taken, the children left the camp,” Gaziantep Bar member lawyer Önder Alkurt told daily Hürriyet, pointing to the negligence of both the camp management and the ministry. 

“The whereabouts of the children remains unknown. Maybe they died like baby Aylan. We will follow this case as the Gaziantep Bar,” Alkurt added, referring to the drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi. 

Meanwhile, a lawmaker from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said the camp had not fired the suspect E.E. but instead simply changed his work location. 

Gaziantep deputy Akif Ekinci also claimed that 14 cameras directed at the points where E.E. allegedly assaulted the children were out of order. 

“Is it true that out of 85 cameras in the camp, 14 of them seeing the sites of the incidents were out order? Is it also true that rather than firing him, the suspect’s workplace was changed?” Ekinci asked, addressing Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.