Municipal police beat child street vendor after destroying his stall in Istanbul's Esenler

Municipal police officers in Istanbul's Esenler district on Nov. 30 battered an eight-year-old child after destroying his street-vending stall. The child had been trying to help his father earn money as the latter was left unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aynur Tekin / DUVAR

An eight-year-old child has been battered by the municipal police officers (“zabıta” in Turkish) after he protested them for taking away his street-vending stall.

The incident happened in Istanbul's Esenler district on Nov. 30. Yusuf was selling fish along with his father, who was left unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nov. 30 was the first day that Yusuf and his father attempted to sell something on the street. Shortly after their move, Esenler municipality police officers appeared at the scene, seizing their stall.

Yusuf's father told the municipal police that the COVID-19 pandemic had left him unemployed, while Yusuf said, “We are taking home bread.” However, their plea has not led to anything, with the municipal police officers breaking the stall. When Yusuf protested the situation and cried out loud, he was battered.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Esenler district head Bültent Ütebay visited Yusuf at his home, along with a psychologist from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Ütebay later told Gazete Duvar what Yusuf went through.

“He said that he got so scared, thinking that his father and family would be hurt. He told us that the municipal police had strangled his throat, which is where the main problem is. This is why we were accompanied by a psychologist. The father told us that the municipal police officer who strangled Yusuf's throat said, 'This child will get to know the municipality,'” Ütebay said.

Yusuf's father used to run a coffeehouse (“kahvehane” in Turkish) but is currently unemployed as all coffeehouses have been ordered to shut down in Turkey as part of COVID-19 measures.

“Yusuf has three siblings, and these four children are trying to take online education with a single tablet. These are the results of what the economic conditions of Turkey have brought about,” Ütebay said.

After the municipal police's action has received widespread condemnation on social media, Esenler mayor deputy Osman Gökçebaş announced that an investigation was launched into the relevant municipal officers.

“An administrative investigation has been launched into the relevant municipal police officers over the image shared on social media, which we can never approve of,” said Gökçebaş on his social media account.

Hacer Foggo, the founder of the Deep Poverty Network that has distributed food to thousands of families in Istanbul since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, said that what Yusuf has gone through is a “summary of the situation of unemployed, vulnerable people in Turkey's poor neighborhoods.”

She said that many families in Turkey have difficulty in even accessing food, which got worsened with the pandemic, and children have now started to help their parents earn money, although they should be receiving education.