Serkan Alan / DUVAR

Following the suspicious circumstances of the death of 11-year-old Rabia Naz Vatan in the province of Giresun in 2018, a commission composed of the five major political parties in parliament has prepared a report concerning the prevention of suspicious deaths of children in Turkey. 

The death of Rabia Naz was determined to be a suicide by local officials, but her father Şaban Vatan has insisted that his daughter was fatally wounded after being hit by the vehicle of  relative of a local politician, and that a coverup was staged to make it look like a suicide. Şaban Vatan, who has been outspoken about his daughter’s death, along with two journalists looking into the matter, were periodically detained last year. 

The commission’s report emphasized that commonly-used phrases in Turkey that normalize violence against children such as “a beating comes from heaven” or “spare the rod and spoil the child” should not be used, while it also detailed certain measures such as ensuring that abandoned, derelict buildings be demolished and construction sites be closed off to prevent children from entering. It also called for children’s social media use to be monitored. 

The commission stated in its report that the families of children deemed by experts to be at risk of violence should be monitored, and that if necessary the children should be removed from their homes. 

The report indicated that one problem involves insufficient communication between the numerous institutions that are responsible for protecting children in Turkey. 

“When collaboration is not ensured between institutions, a process that is launched by one institution and that is not continued by another makes it very difficult to monitor the child and the family and to provide protection and support,” it said. 

The report also warned the media against certain kinds of coverage in cases where children have been victimized, abused or killed, emphasizing that reports should not be sensationalized in a manner that will bring increased pain to the victims and their families, and that victimized children should not be interviewed by the media. 

According to the commission, the prevention of suspicious child deaths should not just be left to police detectives, but that other government branches including the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services, and the Directorate of Religious Affairs, should also engage in initiatives concerning the issue.