Majority of children left without care in Feb. 6 quakes reunited with relatives, states Turkey's Family Ministry

Turkey’s Family and Social Services Minister Mahinur Özdemir Göktaş responded to a parliamentary question about “missing and kidnapped children” in the Feb. 6 earthquakes that 1,874 of the 1,912 children left without care in the disaster were reunited with relatives.

Ceren Bayar / Gazete Duvar

The Family Social Services Minister of Turkey, Mahinur Özdemir Göktaş, stated that 1,874 out of the 1,912 children left without care in the Feb. 6 earthquakes either because their parents died or they were unable to identify themselves were reunited with their relatives.

The Minister responded to a parliamentary inquiry from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) about the alleged “kidnapped and missing children” in the Feb. 6 quakes that killed 53,537 people according to official reports. 

The remaining 38 children were accounted for, explained the Minister. Some 15 children were placed in state orphanages, one was still receiving treatment in hospital, and six were placed in foster care. 

Göktaş stated that 16 children who were on the unattended minors list have died. 

She explained that the 1,874 children were reunited with relatives through facial recognition technology in collaboration with the state-run Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), in addition to DNA matching efforts and identification controls. 

“The children are cared for and protected in childcare institutions appropriate for their age and genders operating under our Ministry,” stated Göktaş. 

The Ministry rejected all allegations about unattended children being placed in certain foundations. “None of the children were sent to third persons, parties, or foundations under any circumstances,” said the Minister.  

The fates of children who survived the earthquakes without their parents were a point of concern as in the weeks following the quakes, journalists reported that some unaccompanied minors were placed in dormitories run by religious cults.

According to reporting by Deutsche Welle (DW)'s Turkish service, nine children who lost their fathers in the quakes have been brought to the northwestern province of Sakarya from Gaziantep and have been placed in a boarding Quran course. 

Even though the course is affiliated with the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), it is run by a foundation close to the Islamist İsmailağa sect.

Then-Family Minister Derya Yanık had clarified that the children were not unattended and were relocated to the Quran courses with their mothers. However, the Quran course officials DW interviewed stated that the children did not have their mothers in the building with them. 

As the quake-stricken region remains in disorder after over one year since the disaster has passed, the fates of the missing victims are unresolved. 

Despite previous government assertions denying the presence of missing children, the Turkish police requested an investigation to be conducted in schools in Hatay province regarding the 26 children who went missing after the earthquakes. 

Just in one collapsed luxury apartment complex in Hatay’s Antakya district, 54 people remain officially missing as their bodies could not be found or excavated from the rubble

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)