Aynur Tekin/ DUVAR

Reactions mounted following the circulation of a footage on social media of children with autism at a school in the Central Anatolian province of Aksaray being booed by the parents of other children, demanding that the autistic kids to be sent to other schools. 

Out of 334 children at Aksaray’s Mehmetçik Elementary School, 42 receive special education. The parents in question had claimed that the children with autism were behaving violently to their children, demanding that the special education unit at the school be shut down and the students in the unit sent to other schools. 

The Ministry of National Education (MEB) announced that they will be conducting an investigation into the matter. 

According to Istanbul Autism Volunteers Association President Sedef Erken, the incident in Aksaray is not unique: 

“There are hundreds of events [like this]. The one in Aksaray was heard about because it was reported in the press. Between September and October, I dealt with at least 50 events similar to this one,” Erken told Duvar. 

“When children with autism are accepted to schools, it’s as if they are doing us a favor. They are expecting us to thank them taking [the students] into their schools. Forget that sort of thing, I pay taxes and am a citizen like everyone else,” said Erken, pointing out that all children have the right to an education in Turkey. 

According to Betül Selcen Özer from the Seed Autism Foundation, children with autism in Turkey constantly face discrimination, and not just at school. 

“They are taken off public transportation vehicles, they have problems at shopping malls, and they have different problems when they go on vacation. There is this discrimination in every face of their life,” Özer told Duvar English. 

“The discrimination continues in the school environment. There are instances of students going out to recess at different times, sometimes the special education lower sections are put in different sections of the schools and the students almost never see each other. What is really important is for them to be together,” Özer said. 

It is estimated that there are 1,142,586 people in Turkey with autisim, 352,000 of which are in the 0-18 age group. Only 30-50 percent have access to education.