Turkish state killed at least 228 children in 10 years

The Human Rights Association (İHD) Amed Branch made a statement to mark World Children's Day on 20 November, when the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted.

The Human Rights Association (İHD) Amed Branch released its “Report on Violations of the Right to Life of Children During Armed Conflicts Between 2011-2021” in a press conference at its headquarters. Ezgi Sılademir, deputy chair of the İHD Amed Branch, read out the report.

Sılademir said that 196 countries signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was accepted by the UN General Assembly for the protection of children, and added that Turkey recognized the convention in 1990 and put it into effect in 1995. However, Sılademir revealed that Turkey has not approved Articles 17, 29 and 30 which relate to the right of children to education, freedom of expression and to promote their own culture and language freely. She said, “There is no doubt that these reservations of Turkey are contrary to the spirit of the convention and constitute an obstacle to obtaining the expected benefit from it. As a matter of fact, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended Turkey to remove these reservations in 2012. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is the outcome of many years of work, is not enough to protect children from violence because the signatory states do not show enough attention to implement it. The right to life of children who are not a party to any conflict has been violated during the armed conflicts that have been going on for decades in Turkey.”


Sılademir provided data on children whose right to life was violated between 2011 and 2021: “A total of 228 children lost their lives in this 10-year period, 78 percent of whom were boys and 22 percent girls. 30 of the children who lost their lives were between the ages of 0-5. Likewise, the number of children between the ages of 6-15 who lost their lives is high. Living spaces of the children who socialized on the streets have become areas where they lost their lives. It is seen that the child's best interests and the right to live in a healthy environment are completely ignored and violated.

Sılademir underlined that the provinces with the highest number of deaths are Şırnak, Amed, Hakkari, Mardin and Antep; “When we look at the causes of death of 228 children, 64 children were killed as a result of gunfire by law enforcement officers, and 62 children were killed by bombs. Law enforcement officers’ use of weapons beyond their authority violates children's right to life as they are required to use weapons gradually and within the limits defined by the law.”


Sılademir pointed out that there has been a serious increase in the violations of children's right to life since August 2015 when the curfews started. “The failure to conduct an effective and fair investigation by the administrative and judicial authorities concerning the violations of children’s right to life and to capture perpetrators and bring them to a court encourage law enforcement officers to continue their violations. In addition to the violations of children’s right to life during the curfews, the mistreatment against them is far from basic human values. Helin, who was murdered at the age of 12, waited in the middle of a street for hours with serious injuries and lost her life because an ambulance was not allowed to enter the street. The mortal remains of Cemile, who died at the age of 13, was kept in a freezer for days, and the dead body of 15-year-old Bünyamin was kept in a mosque courtyard for days. Extraordinary conditions including armed conflicts cannot be cited as an excuse to violate children's right to life.


Sılademir underlined that many children lost their lives due to the residues of ammunition since the military zones are close to civilian residences. “Children lost their lives as a result of the explosion of military ammunition and materials left in residential areas. Although Turkey promised to clear the land mines within its territory until 2014 pursuant to the OTTAWA Convention to which it has been a signatory since 2004, no concrete work has been carried out to remove them. Dozens of children lost their lives, particularly in cities on the borderline, since the landmines were not removed.”

Sılademir emphasized that one of the most threatening situations for children's right to life is the presence of armoured vehicles in civilian residential areas. “There are many violations related to the armoured vehicles that crashed children in their primary living areas, neighbourhoods and homes. "Many children lost their lives because of the armoured vehicles in the cities of the region where security precautions and the state of emergency practices caused serious violations. The armoured vehicles were used in violation of the traffic order, the officers have no sufficient technical knowledge to drive them and there has been a lack of due diligence while using these vehicles.”

Sılademir stated that children were seriously affected by the killings as a result of the bomb attacks: “The reason for this fact is that most of the bomb attacks took place in public areas where children spend time. The majority of those who lost their lives during the incidents known as the Antep Wedding Attack and the Roboski Massacre consisted of children. It is known by the public that the people who held public power had very serious negligence in both incidents. In accordance with the international conventions and child protection law, it is the state’s obligation to take all kinds of measures since it has first-degree responsibility.

Ending the violations that have emerged as a result of the armed conflict related to the Kurdish issue will only be possible through peaceful policies. New policies that promote the language of peace will enable children to continue their lives in a safe environment like everyone else living in the region. However, public officials who are responsible for violations of children’s right to life should be subject to an effective criminal and disciplinary investigation through a restorative justice mechanism. If the authorities abandon protecting public officials who are perpetrators in criminal investigations in a policy of impunity and carry out all the necessary actions to secure justice in the real sense, the trauma caused by the violations will be somewhat reduced and justice will be established.”