On World Children’s Day, celebrated world-wide on 20 November to enhance international awareness of problems surrounding children and to promote improvement in children’s welfare, many children in Turkey are facing serious problems.
A recent report by the Human Rights Association (İHD) of Turkey indicates that the right to life of children has been frequently violated by the Turkish military and police within the last 10 years, in the course of which 64 children were shot and killed by state forces. The İHD earlier reported a further 20 incidents in which children were killed by police and military armoured vehicles between 2008 and 2021.
Also according to the İHD, 62 children were killed in bombing incidents between 2011 and 2021. These include 19 children killed in the Roboski Massacre on 28 December 2011, when a group of Kurdish children kolbars (unsanctioned border traders – usually trading in foodstuffs) crossing the Iraqi border into Turkey were bombed by Turkish war planes. In another incident 34 children were killed by a bomb reportedly placed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Turkey’s southeastern province of Antep (Dîlok) on 20 August 2016.
Toddlers behind bars
Meanwhile another children’s issue in need of urgent revision in Turkey is that of babies and small children being put behind bars alongside their mothers. In a statement released in March 2021, the Turkish Ministry of Justice announced that at the time there were 345 children between the ages of 0-6 in prisons in Turkey.
A 2019 report by the Turkish Institution of Statistics (TÜİK) indicated that there were 720,000 working children under the age of 17, but the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said in a statement on Friday that the true number of working children is currently around 2 million.
According to TÜİK data, 15.9% of working children are between the ages of 12 – 14, 4.4% between 5 – 11, and the remainder between 15 – 17.
A June 2021 report by Health and Safety Labour Watch Turkey indicates that in the past eight years 513 children died at work, including 58 children of refugee families. According to the report, 294 died in agriculture and forestry jobs, 50 in construction and 37 in metalwork.
Sexual offences against children
Data provided by the Turkish Ministry of Justice reveals that over 46% of legal cases regarding sexual offences in 2019 consisted of offences against children.
Meanwhile, in 2020, according to the TÜİK, 17,047 girls aged 16-17 were married, and 9,714 between the ages of 15-17 and 142 under the age of 15 gave birth.
The rate of primary school enrolment for females is reported to have dropped from 98.9% in 2012 to 93.1% in 2020.
Denial of education in the mother language
A further major issue for children in Turkey is the fact that Turkish is the only language of education in the country, thus excluding millions of Kurdish-speaking children, and in recent years in particular, hundreds of thousands of refugee children from eduction in their mother-language.