Child deaths raising concern among public

Turkey has been shaken by recent reports of child deaths, some incidents of murder, others caused by negligence.

First of this year’s tragic losses was Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old who was struck in the head with a tear-gas canister fired by police during June’s anti-government protests and died at a hospital in March after lying comatose for nine months. Berkin’s murderer has not yet been identified with certainty.

Then in early April, Pamir Dikdik, a 3-year-old, left his home in Istanbul’s Zekeriyakoy district while his parents were asleep. Pamir’s father launched a social media campaign to search for the little boy, which led to hundreds of volunteers coming out to help search-and-rescue teams. However, the 30-hour search ended in failure when Pamir’s body was discovered in a swimming pool near his house. According to some, the search-and-rescue teams were looking in the wrong places, while others suggested that having covered the swimming pool with fishnets would have prevented the accident.

On April 6, only one day after Pamir was found dead, 9-year-old Mert Aydın went missing after he left his Kars home to bring food to his father’s office.

His body was found in an empty field. It was later discovered that Mert had been raped and killed by a 23-year-old who was identified as a business associate of the boy’s father. The murderer confessed to inviting Mert into his car for a ride and cold-bloodedly described the crime. Shortly after Mert’s tragic death, 6-year-old Gizem Akdeniz was killed in a brutal murder in Adana. She was stabbed, strangled and partly burned.

Her cousin, who had been rejected by the little girl’s older sister, confessed to the killing. On the same day, Umut Zambak, a 10-year-old, was found dead in an abandoned well in Manisa four days after he went missing.

Milliyet columnist Belma AkCura wrote on Monday that now people sitting in cafeterias are discussing their concerns about the recent child deaths in the country. AkCura pointed out that these concerns mostly stem from the fact that in most of these cases, the killer turns out to be a close relative of the child. AkCura cited figures from the Interior Ministry: 5,681 children in Turkey are currently missing, and an average of 2,500-3,000 children go missing per month due to abduction or other events. Families reported 4,085 children missing in March and 215 of these have not yet been found, AkCura wrote.

The columnist added that at least 633 children died in 2013 as a result of violations of their right to life. “The incidents of violence against children, the majority of which result in death, have been on the rise over the last few years and this causes a ‘moral panic’ among society,” AkCura said. According to AkCura, the media should be sensitive about the presentation of news reports on missing children, because this “moral panic” can lead to overreactions, and families can be made to feel that they are under constant threat.

AkCura argued that the media should avoid focusing on victims and their families. The columnist also warned that a constant stream of reports on child rape and murder might encourage such crimes.

The Hurriyet daily’s Melis Alphan wrote on Monday that the government, in recent statements on the child deaths, said the murderers would be punished severely. “What does the government do for the children who are still alive? Nothing. One of the most significant issues of this country is child labor. There are nearly 1 million child workers.”

According to Alphan, as part of a program carried out in Turkey by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to reduce child labor, the government drafted a roadmap in 2004 that stipulated ending child labor in furniture production and farms by 2014. However, the government was not able to solve the problem, and the number of child workers in Turkey rose 3,000 between 2006 and 2012, Alphan noted.


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