Child Rights Violations in Turkey: Dimensions, Causes and Consequences
Every day, Turkish children face various violations of their rights at home, at school, in hospitals, on the streets and in prisons. They witness discrimination, abuse and violations of the right to life. Prevention policies to address these violations are not implemented; on the contrary, the state is often negligent in these violations.
Research shows that a wide range of children, from working children to refugee children, from children with disabilities to children discriminated against because of their ethnicity, are not only psychologically affected by rights violations, but also face violations of the right to life.
1336 ARRESTED AND 624 CONVICTED CHILDREN IN PRISONS
According to the data of the General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses (CTE), as of 28 February 2022, there are 1336 arrested and 624 convicted children between the ages of 12-18 in prisons in Turkey.
Children living with their mothers in prisons have to cope with unfavourable conditions. The number of infants and children aged 0-6 years in prisons is close to a thousand. This number decreased during the pandemic, but data announced after the pandemic shows that the number of children who have to live in prisons has increased again.
NO HYGIENIC ENVIRONMENT AND NOT ENOUGH FOOD FOR THE CHILDREN
The HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) deputy for Kocaeli, Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, answered +GercekNews' questions stating that there were big reactions from the public when the number of children increased and that the Prisons and Detention Centers refrained from disclosing these figures for some time.
"They announced the numbers when they went down, but the reason the numbers went down was because mothers sent their children home due to the pandemic."
In 2020, with the enactment of the execution reduction law, the postponement of execution for women who are pregnant or have a 6 month-old baby was extended to 18 months, but the older children remained within four walls and are exposed to adverse conditions.
Stating that "in prisons, there are mothers who wash the food they receive because they are not comfortable with it, and mothers who sleep with their children because they do not have confidence in the bed they are given. Hygienic environments are not provided for proper nutrition and care for children, and transportation is not provided for children who want to visit their imprisoned parents," Gergerlioglu continued by calling attention to the violations in Diyarbakir.
Stating that "in prisons, there are mothers who wash the food provided to them because they are not comfortable with it, and mothers who sleep with their children because they do not trust the bed they are given. Hygienic environments for proper nutrition and care of children are not readily available, and transportation is not provided for children who want to visit their imprisoned parents in other cities," Gergerlioglu went on to draw attention to the violations in Diyarbakir.
CHILDREN ARE SUBJECTED TO TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT BY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS
In the first ten months of 2021, at least two children died and two children were injured in incidents where security forces used weapons. At least four children died and two children were injured in incidents involving police and military vehicles during the year. In the first ten months of 2021, at least two children were killed and another injured by landmines or unattended bombs and explosives. In the first ten months of 2021, at least 23 children were subjected to torture or ill-treatment by security forces in custody or in public protests.
According to the Report on Violations of the Right to Life of Children under Armed Conflict between 2011 and 2021 prepared by the Human Rights Association (IHD), 228 children lost their lives in the last 10 years due to the state's pro-war policies and negligence, including 64 children as a result of fire opened by law enforcement officers, nine children as a result of being shot by law enforcement officers during a public protest, three children as a result of being caught in clashes between opposing groups during a public protest, 62 children as a result of bomb attacks, 33 children as a result of being caught in the midst of armed conflict, 39 children as a result of mine explosions and 18 children as a result of being hit by armoured vehicles.
THE FAILURE TO CLEAR MINES REFLECTS THE PRO-WAR POLICIES OF THE STATE.
IHD Child Rights Commissioner Sevinc Kocak made statements to +GercekNews on the issue and stated that the presence of armored vehicles, the fact that mines have not been cleared and the presence of military ammunition on the field is a reflection of the state's pro-war policies.
Recounting that 5-year-old Efe Tekin lost his life in 2019 when he was hit by an armored vehicle, Kocak said: "For an armoured vehicle to hit a child is not something that can happen in ordinary circumstances. In the years since, Efe Tekin's father has been the one held responsible. In a context where state officials go unpunished, where the state has taken no such action, where shooting exercises are conducted near settlements and where mines and military ammunition in mined areas are not cleared, of course we continue to hear about the killings of children."
40 CHILDREN DIED OF PREVENTABLE CAUSES IN FEBRUARY 2022
According to the data obtained by FISA Child Rights Center through media monitoring, at least 40 children died in February 2022 in Turkey due to preventable causes. According to the report, five of the children who lost their lives are refugee children who had to leave their country due to the war in Syria in 2011. In January, at least 25 children had lost their lives due to preventable causes.
According to the data of Occupational Safety and Health Council (ISIG), at least 513 children have lost their lives in occupational " murders" in the last eight years. With Covid-19, "distance education" was introduced, but hundreds of thousands of children without a computer or internet connection were deprived of a proper education.
THREE BASIC OBLIGATIONS OF STATES REGARDING CHILDREN'S RIGHTS
The Report on Discrimination against Children in Turkey published by the FISA Child Rights Centre points out that states have three basic obligations regarding children's rights. The first of these is that states must not violate children's rights.
For example, a police officer must ensure the right to life of children by not using “proportionate” or disproportionate force and not killing them during a demonstration. It means that a child who has been deprived of his/her liberty and arrested is not subjected to ill-treatment by a correctional officer in an institution, and that a teacher at school does not inflict violence on a child.
Underlining that the state has “negative and positive obligations” towards children, Koçak said that “negative obligations require the state not to violate children's rights, while positive obligations refer to preventing violations of children's rights” and emphasised that it would be sufficient to fulfil the obligations.
The second obligation is for states to protect the rights of the child from violations by third parties. In other words, it is to prevent a father from inflicting violence on his child, a conflict in which a child loses his or her life, participates as a soldier, is sexually abused by relatives, is married off or is forced to work.
Koçak continued: "The state thus becomes the mechanism that violates children's rights when it should be protecting them. Therefore, by putting itself in the position of the violator, it cannot implement preventive policies.
Thirdly, states are obliged to take the necessary measures to realise the rights and freedoms of children. States also have an obligation to prevent discrimination against children. To this end, firstly, states must cease to discriminate, both through the practices of public administration and through legislation themselves.
Emphasising that Turkey is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but the convention is not implemented, Esin Koman of the FISA Child Rights Centre stated: "When we look at the practices of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, we find an overbearing, oppressive, authoritarian and reifying perception of the child. She also said that there should be a child-specific justice system in which the rights to economy, health, nutrition and shelter are upheld.
*Rozerin Yuksel was born and went to school in Istanbul before studying journalism at Onsekiz Mart University. Her studies focused on rights-based journalism and new media during her university years and she participated in various social responsibility projects.