Turkish mother of child refused school for having autism to camp outside ECHR
Sedef Erken with her son, Ozan.The mother of a child with autism, who was refused permission to attend a private school due to his condition, has vowed to camp in front of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), where his case is being reviewed, to draw attention to the difficulties faced by people with the condition.
“European NGOs focused on autism are following this trial with stupefaction. They tell us that Turkey hasn’t taken any steps on this issue,” said the mother, Sedef Erken.
Erken’s legal battles started after her son, Ozan Sanlısoy, was not permitted to enroll in any private primary schools to which they applied three years ago. She said she was reluctant to send her son to state classes with over 30 students, but no private schools would accept an autistic student.
Prosecutors ruled on a non-suit, which was then upheld by higher courts, until all domestic legal paths were exhausted.
Erken, a lawyer by profession, argued that her son’s right to education had been violated, and the current education system in Turkey is very insufficient for people with autism.
“That’s why I want to go to [the ECHR], to make the voices of children with autism in Turkey heard. It will be a peaceful demonstration, in fact, not even a demonstration,” she says.
Erken also revealed that she discussed the problem with senior officials at the Education Ministry and even received a promise from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then prime minister, that he will personally follow the draft of an action plan on autism.
“But everything was forgotten in Turkey after the elections were held,” she added.
Ozan, now 7, is currently continuing his education in a public school, without receiving any support. Erken fears that Ozan may lose ground on his classmates, because the school lacks a teaching method that will satisfy his special needs. She also said the special centers of education for autistic children cannot provide a good climate for teaching and also lack experienced instructors.
“They could understand the situation by just looking at the number of specialized instructors who have been trained in Turkey. I just want to see these problems solved. I don’t enjoy suing my own country; I write this petition with shame and sorrow,” Erken says.
Under her initiative, many parents have taken the first step toward a common goal by gathering in a Facebook group titled “Support team for mothers with autistic children.”