Turkey: Missing Children from Earthquakes Risk Human Trafficking, Organ Harvesting, Sexual Abuse
by Uzay Bulut - for The Gatestone Institute - 29.03.23
The newspaper Cumhuriyet reported on February 23 that a doctor from Ankara, who has been volunteering to help find missing children since the first day of the earthquake, claimed that the number of missing children was approaching 1,000.
The fatwa stated that it is not right to treat adopted children like one's own children and that "accordingly, the relationship between the adopter and the adopted child does not create a barrier to marriage."
"[I]t is reported that unaccompanied children are not handed over to authorized state institutions, but to people who say that the children are relatives, tariqats [radical Islamist groups] or organ mafia." — Association of Children and Women First, once.org.tr, February 17, 2023.
"The Ministry of Family and Social Policies must first determine the identity of the children.... It is unacceptable to deliver these children to third parties, individuals, institutions, or associations other than the Ministry. Adoption and foster family institutions should also be done lawfully in line with the Ministry's rigorous and meticulous investigations." — Hediye Gökçe Baykal, attorney at the Association of Children and Women First, to Gatestone, March 9, 2023.
"The basic rule in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is 'follow the best interests of the child.'" — Hediye Gökçe Baykal, to Gatestone, March 9, 2023.
When multiple earthquakes first struck Turkey on February 6, the death toll, according to the Turkish government after a month, reached 48,448. Unofficial sources estimate that the real number is much higher. Around 200,000 people were still waiting to be rescued from under buildings that had collapsed, according to a prediction from early February by geophysical engineer Professor Ovgun Ahmet Ercan.
The death toll was reportedly high not only because of corruption in the construction sector but also because of the government's lack of timely aid to survivors. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to send rescue aid promptly to the earthquake-stricken area. Survivors were ignored for days. After the first earthquake, even access to Twitter was restricted for over 9 hours. More than a month later, survivors are still saying that they have not received enough help. Millions are homeless, in tents, struggling to survive.
The government, it appears, had allowed corrupt builders to erect unsafe buildings all over Turkey. The authorities and the corrupt construction sector there are therefore complicit in the deaths and destruction caused by the earthquakes.
A most alarming problem is the wellbeing of children. Many have been orphaned; some are missing. The orphaned children are extremely vulnerable: they are at risk of human trafficking, organ harvesting and sexual abuse -- and Islamist indoctrination.
One missing child is three-year-old Ali Kemal Akpınar from the Antakya district of Hatay. According to news report from February 10, Ali Kemal's parents were still looking for the boy, who they think could be at a local hospital.
Another missing child is a 15-year-old refugee from Syria, Hatice al Husso, who was trapped with her parents and siblings under the rubble of their home in the city of Adiyaman the day the earthquake struck. She was rescued 20 hours later, taken to a local hospital; since then, she has been missing.
Six-year-old Neval Akgöl, rescued from the rubble of her home in Hatay's Antakya district on February 6, was allegedly put into an ambulance. Her family searched for her for weeks until, on February 25, her body was found through a DNA match in a "cemetery of the nameless," with the registration number "50". According to a news report, her body would be taken from there and buried in a place of her family's choosing.
Other children have also reportedly gone missing. The apartment where 9-year-old Berkcan Akdağ lived, in the town of Antakya, collapsed in the February 6 earthquake. His father and sister lost their lives. His mother, who was rescued from the rubble 36 hours later, is still looking for him.
Ten-year-old Mukaddes Erva Aktaş, after being pulled out from the rubble of her home in the city of Maras, was taken to a hospital. She is still missing.
Unaccompanied children are vulnerable to Islamic radicals known for leading indoctrination centers where children are abused. The newspaper Cumhuriyet reported on February 23 that a doctor from Ankara, who has been volunteering to help find missing children since the first day of the earthquake, claimed that the number of missing children was approaching 1,000.
The article ends with these words of caution:
Children have been affected the worst by the earthquakes in Turkey. International organizations specializing in children's rights and countering human trafficking immediately need to prioritize investigations and aid in Turkey's earthquake-stricken areas and cooperate with Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Policies, human rights organizations and lawyers in Turkey such as Association of Children and Women First, to help rescue the missing, unaccompanied, and orphaned children there.
"Information regarding the number of missing or orphaned children is constantly changing. The website of Turkey's Ministry of Family and Social Policies claims that the 'number of unidentified children is 79.' However, Turkey's General Directorate of Security announced that 213 children could not be identified in the earthquake zone.
Fifty-one of these children are said to be under the care and supervision in the institutions of the Ministry of Family and Social Services and 162 unidentified children are said to be treated in the institutions of the Ministry of Health.
"One-hundred-thirty-seven of these children are between the ages of 0-1, and the DNA samples of these children continue to be taken. And 55 children are reported to be missing. As the Children and Women First Association, we continue our investigations in the earthquake-stricken area. We continue to receive information [about missing or unidentified children]."
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Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute. She is also a research fellow for the Philos Project.
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Pictured: A child in a tent camp set up for displaced people, following the recent earthquakes, in Adiyaman, Turkey on March 25, 2023. (Photo by Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images)