Police in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority Hakkari (Colemêrg) launched a campaign under its community policing department that entails collecting fingerprints from whole populaces.
The campaign, entitled My Compass is the Police, aims to allow for citizens to be “more easily reachable in case they go missing, reducing their victimisation”, Hakkari Police Directorate said, announcing the project in September.
An earlier report in August by state-run TRT Haber only mentioned persons with reduced mental capacity as the target for fingerprinting. It is unclear when the project was expanded to children and non-disabled adults.
“My blood ran cold when I saw the photos of the police ‘lovingly’ taking fingerprints from elementary school children and younger, as well as disabled citizens,” journalist Tuğçe Tatari wrote in an article published on news website T24 on Tuesday.
“It does not matter whether those prints were taken lovingly or by force,” Tatari said. “Any love shown would not be enough to cover for the violation at hand.”
Fingerprinting young children poses both practical and ethical problems, with the children’s growing bodies making consistent identification difficult in addition to concerns over privacy and profiling.
“Those aware of past experiences and the reality today cannot find a ‘good faith’ result, a positive outcome if they wanted to,” Tatari wrote. “How could we overlook the possibility that the state would make future ‘terror suspects’ out of these children?”
“Another question to lay bare the striking reality is this: Could this project be implemented in Istanbul, Ankara or Izmir?” the journalist asked. “If this is truly a project based on the possibility of children going missing, how could it skip past the three most populous cities? Are missing persons only a problem in Hakkari and the surrounding region?”
“They are profiling Kurdish children. Find Gülistan first,” journalist Akın Olgun tweeted.
Gülistan Doku went missing on 5 January 2020 in the Kurdish majority province of Tunceli (Dersim). Despite constant campaigning by women’s rights groups and Kurdish politicians, her case has not advanced and the main suspect, the son of a police officer, was allegedly allowed to flee the country. The young woman has become a symbol of the women’s movement, and the question “Where is Gülistan Doku?” (#GülistanDokuNerede) remains a popular hashtag among young women on Turkish-language social media to this day.
“First answer for the children, mothers and fathers you made disappear. Answer for the Kurdish children you murdered with tanks and armoured vehicles,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Ali Kenanoğlu said, while HDP MP Dilşat Canbaz called the project a “clear apartheid practice”.
“This is clear child abuse. Nobody ‘goes missing’ in a country where the interior minister has mothers beaten up for seeking their children disappeared in police custody,” politician and activist Veli Saçılık said.