ANTEP – A total of 30 Syrian refugee children, aged between 8 and 12, have been sexually assaulted over a period of three months by a cleaning worker in Turkey’s Nizip refugee camp located in the southeastern province of Gaziantep and administered by the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). The disaster agency confirmed the claims, which it was “following closely,” while the suspect faces up to 289 years of jail time.
A cleaning personnel worker identified as E.E. “sexually assaulted” some 30 Syrian boys, the oldest of whom were only 12 years old, in the camp’s washrooms, daily BirGün reported on May 12.
The report alleged that the worker lured children into “blind spots” which were not seen by surveillance cameras by offering them money, around 1.5 to 5 Turkish Liras.
The children’s families became aware of E.E.’s persistent attempts to assault the children after a boy, identified as H.İ., talked to his father about the attack. H.İ.’s father filed a complaint with the gendarmerie, bringing the matter to the attention of the authorities, Doğan News Agency said.
The families of eight children filed criminal complaints, while the families of the other victims refrained from taking legal action, afraid of threatening their status in Turkey, BirGün claimed.
Military officers inside the camp started investigating surveillance cameras and noticed that the suspect took the children to blind spots, providing evidence for the case.
289 years of jail time
The 29-year-old suspect was arrested after the complaints in September 2015 and now faces a total of 289 years of imprisonment. The indictment underlined that although no evidence of rape could be discovered during medical examinations, the children’s testimonies were consistent and there were no grounds for slander, as the families and E.E. had no prior enmity with each other.
Meanwhile, the suspect, who initially admitted to sexually assaulting one child, denied his earlier testimony, claiming it was “taken under pressure.” E.E. has been jailed pending trial since Sept. 5, 2015.
Upon hearing of the case, the Child Rights Center of the Gaziantep Bar Association said it would hold a committee meeting and file an application with the court to join the trial against E.E.
“We will definitely follow this issue,” it said.
The reports of claims of assault were approved late May 12 by AFAD when the agency announced in a statement that it had been following the case closely since day-one and has since taken all necessary measures to prevent a recurrence of such assaults.
“AFAD has closely followed the process from day-one and took necessary administrative measures. Similarly, AFAD took the necessary measures to prevent a recurrence of the incident. Psychological support has been offered to those who were traumatized by the event from the beginning of the process,” the agency said, underlining E.E. had a clean record at the time of his employment.
However, it also claimed the claims and information were “distorted” in reports of the incident, slamming news stories as “ill-intentioned.”
Meanwhile, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said it would send a delegation from its Investigatory Commission on Migration and Migrant Problems to look into the reports.
CHP deputies from Gaziantep, Adana, Ankara and Eskişehir are set to meet with camp officials and Syrians inside the camp and will hold a press conference afterwards.