Turkey: Child Rape Widespread, Media Blackout
Turkey has once again threatened to tear up a controversial migrant deal and send hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers to Europe if its citizens are not granted visa-free travel to the European Union within months. Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, demanded the EU drop visa requirements for Turkish citizens by October. Meanwhile, Syrian children are being raped and abused inside and outside of refugee camps in Turkey.
A 9-month-old Syrian baby was raped in the Islahiye district of Gaziantep on August 19. The baby is the child of a Syrian family who fled the war in Syria, according to the newspaper Birgun. The family, agricultural day-laborers in Gaziantep, had set up a tent in the field where they work.
On the day of the rape, the parents left their baby with an 18-year-old man before leaving to work a field 100 meters away.When the parents returned, they saw the young man, a Turkish citizen who works as a shepherd, walking away from the tent. The mother noticed that her baby girl had been raped and took her to a local hospital, where the attack was confirmed.
The governor’s office of Antep announced that the young man had been arrested and brought to court.
Huseyin Simsek, the journalist who covered the incident for the newspaper Birgun, said that that he and the newspaper received countless death threats on social media for reporting the rape.
“Today, a 9-month-old baby was raped in Antep. There is a medical report. I am being sworn at, informed on, and threatened with death. “The incident is real. The doctors say the baby is 7 or 9-months-old. We will keep on writing.”
Some Twitter users called the reporter “a PKK terrorist,” “a FETO [Gulenist] terrorist”, “a traitor” and “a son of a bitch”, among others. Other users referred to Birgun as “toilet paper” and called for destroying the newspaper building.
When Samil Tayyar, an Justice and Development Party (AKP) MP from Gaziantep, confirmed the rape on his Twitter account, another Twitter user responded:
“Dear MP, such news should not be used. We are shooting ourselves in the foot. We are giving material to the enemy. Be responsible, please.”
He was apparently referring to the recent criticism by Sweden that Ankara was legalizing sex with children.
Turkey’s constitutional court, in July, annulled a criminal code provision punishing all sexual acts involving children under the age of 15 as “sexual abuse”, giving a six-month period for parliament to draw up a new law.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström tweeted on her official account that the “Turkish decision to allow sex with children under 15 must be reversed. Children need more protection, not less, against violence, sex abuse.”
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek tweeted back: “You are clearly misinformed. There is no such stupid thing in Turkey. Please get your facts right.”
Turkey summoned Sweden’s ambassador and displayed a billboard in Istanbul’s main airport that warned travelers against visiting Sweden.
“Travel warning!” stated a large advertisement on display in the departure section of Ataturk Airport’s international terminal. “Do you know that Sweden has the highest rape rate worldwide?”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said that Wallström had failed to act “responsibly.”
However, the facts on the ground indicate that the sexual abuse of children in Turkey is extremely widespread and it is the Turkish state authorities that are not acting responsibly.
The Islahiye Penal Court of Peace in Gaziantep has issued a media blackout on the rape of the Syrian baby.
“Until the investigation is finalized, all kinds of news, interviews, critiques, and similar publications regarding the investigation file have been banned in the written, visual and social media as well as on the internet,” the ruling said in part.