Turkish minister deems child marriage 'human nature issue' after scandal of Islamic cult

Turkish Family and Social Services Minister Derya Yanık has said that violence against women and child abuse are not the subject of politics because they are “human nature issues and can be seen in every society.” Yanık’s remarks came after the scandalous reportings that one of the leaders Islamist İsmailağa Community, Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel, had “married” her daughter at the age of six.

This collage shows Kadir İstekli and H.K.G. when she was 13

Duvar English

Turkish Family and Social Services Minister Derya Yanık on Dec. 9 deemed violence against women and child abuse “human nature issue.” 

“Violence against women, child abuse cases are not the subject of politics. These are highly human nature issues that can be seen in any society, on any ground. What we have to do is accept this as a common issue and see how we can overcome it,” Yanık made the comments to broadcaster A Haber.

Yanık’s remarks came after the scandalous reportings on one of the leaders Islamist İsmailağa Community, Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel, had “married” her daughter at the age of six.

Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel

Journalist Timur Soykan on Dec. 3 started to publish his series of reportings regarding the incident. Public outrage has continued to increase since then.

H.K.G., who is the daughter of Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel, the founder of Hiranur Foundation affiliated to İsmailağa Community, filed a criminal complaint about her father. She said that her father “married” her with one of the followers of İsmailağa, and that she had been sexually abused throughout her childhood. 

Religious marriages, which are not recognized by the state, are performed by imams. Some Muslims organize both civil weddings and a religious ceremony which is not illegal. Some Muslim couples in Turkey are binded with only “religious marriage” which leaves women in a vulnerable position because they lack access to the legal rights of civil marriage.

Soykan on Dec. 3 published his first reporting on the incident, giving evidence from the indictment. Accordingly, Gümüşel “married” her daughter at the age of six, with 29-year-old Kadir İstekli who was a follower of İsmailağa.

The daughter was dressed in a white dress, resembling a wedding dress, and was brought to a photography studio for “wedding footage.” İstekli started to sexually abuse her one day after “religious marriage,” again at the age of six.

They were “engaged” when she was 13, and started to live in the same house one year later. 

Four months after “the wedding,” on Aug. 17, 2012, Fatma Gümüşel took her daughter to the hospital as her periods were irregular. The doctor understood the abuse of the child and informed the police. The prosecutor's office launched an investigation.

Since someone else had taken her place in the bone test and she was forced not to confess by her family, this investigation was closed after her bone age was determined as 21.

This time, the Istanbul Anatolian Chief Public Prosecutor's Office completed the indictment on Oct. 30, as Soykan reported.

The indictment said that H.K.G.'s parents condoned the rape and that Kadir İstekli, Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel and mother Fatma Gümüşel, committed the crime of sexual abuse of child. The indictment demanded the three defendants be sentenced to at least 27 years in prison each.

H.K.G is now divorced from İstekli and living a life away from her family. 

After the first reporting, Soykan shared some of the evidence from the indictment, like the statement of H.K.G, the recordings of the conversations between her and İstekli, her photos in a “wedding dress” and so on.

On the other hand, her two sisters denied the accusations, saying that their parents “never forced them to marry.”

The sisters said in a Youtube video that her photos in wedding dresses were taken to celebrate because she read the whole Quran, and they also had similar photos when they were children.

Following all these developments, Yanık said the Ministry was involved in the case and the necessary support would be provided to H.K.G.

“Child sexual abuse is a terrific issue. It cannot be accepted, approved or justified for whatever reason. As a ministry, we are always involved in similar cases,” Yanık further explained.

Later on the same day, Dec. 9, Yanık said that "Earlier, the highest level of support was provided by the application of the victim to our institutions, her confidentiality was ensured and her protection was ensured. This is not a new case for the ministry."

On the other hand, Hiranur Foundation, which was founded by Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel, announced that they do not have any “institutional ties with the case,” and said that “Trying to defame an institution and trying to stigmatize all people with Islamic sensitivities over a lawsuit that is on a case that was allegedly lived in a family is, to say the least, bad faith.”

Even though Soykan first reported on the incident on Dec. 3, politicians from the ruling and opposition condemned it on Dec. 7.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Spokesperson Ömer Çelik said on Dec. 7 that “We condemn the abuse of children. Child abuse is a cursed crime that will never be forgiven. We will stand by the victim and give all kinds of support. We stand by whoever is the victim, we are against whoever is guilty. We will follow the legal process as closely as possible.”

The Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) announced that they launched an investigation against the prosecutor who closed the first investigation on H.K.G.

After the series of reportings, pro-Islamist figures targeted Soykan, demanding his arrest.

Based at the İsmail Ağa Mosque in Istanbul, İsmailağa Community is affiliated with the Naksibendi cult. Its members dress radically, usually wearing cloaks and displaying long facial hair. According to several reports, some ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians are engaged in business deals with the movement.