Family attachés to protect rights of Turkish families, children in Europe

The government is expected to send a bill prescribing the establishment of the post of family attaché in Turkish embassies to Parliament in the following days.

Family attachés to protect rights of Turkish families, children in Europe

World Bulletin / News Desk

Obviously disturbed by the fact that seemingly a non-negligible number of Turkish children are being raised by foreign foster parents in various European countries, Turkey will post family attachés to protect Turkish families' rights in its embassies in countries where a relatively large Turkish diaspora lives.

“Not a single Turk abroad is forgotten [by the Turkish authorities and should not feel abandoned]; no matter where he is in the world,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said. “We will continue to support them in every way,” he added, speaking to a group of reporters during his two-day visit to Tunisia, which ended on Monday, during which he delivered a $35 million aid package to Tunisian officials.

The government is expected to send a bill prescribing the establishment of the post of family attaché in Turkish embassies to Parliament in the following days. The personnel to be assigned to this post will be officially registered on the staff of the Ministry of Family and Social Policy but will serve in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The issue of Turkish children being placed in the care of foster families in some European countries has once again returned to Turkey's agenda as a result of some recent developments. A 9-year-old Turkish boy, Yunus, was taken from his family while still a baby, together with his two older brothers, due to suspected abuse by the parents, and placed in foster care by officials in the Netherlands. The mother of Yunus, Nurgül, appearing on a Turkish TV channel about a week ago, said she wanted to ask Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, who is to visit the Netherlands this week, for help to get Yunus back from a lesbian couple who have been fostering him.

Noting that the issue has become a legal one, Bozdağ, who strongly believes the consent of the biological family should also be sought when choosing a foster family, said, “I hope, the court [in the Netherlands] gives a verdict in favor of the [biological] family.” “It's something unacceptable for the Turkish family that the child be given to a gay couple,” he commented. Referring to the case of Yunus, he added: “The Netherlands should respect the cultural values of the [biological family]. The family's values should not be disregarded in the upbringing of the child.”

The Turkish government has decided to keep a close watch on cases in which Turkish children have been given to foster parents in some European countries as the government has some misgivings about the grounds on which Turkish children may have been taken from their biological parents.

Stressing that Turkey is not against children being placed in foster families when it is in the interest of the child and with good reason, the deputy prime minister stated: “We have got wind of cases in which Turkish children were also taken away from their families for reasons not based on solid or subjective grounds. We are against this.”

Turkish children in Europe are being taken away from their families by child welfare offices over claims of abuse or financial problems, leading to the break-up of many families and the assimilation of children -- who grow up being unfamiliar with their culture and traditions and eventually lose contact with their families -- into European cultures.

Ayhan Sefer Üstün, head of Turkish Parliament's Human Rights Investigation Commission, also maintained in February that three children of Turkish origin were given to gay couples in Belgium by child welfare offices. He condemned that case as a violation of human rights, with children being forced to grow up in families whose lifestyles and beliefs are incompatible with theirs.

A Turkish girl who was given to a German family seven years ago was reunited with her biological mother in Sakarya province in January. Elif Yaman had been taken from her mother when she was 12 years old by the German state on the grounds that the mother could not afford to care for her daughter as she was unemployed. Yaman was then given to a Christian foster family and her biological mother was deported to Turkey. The mother and daughter last saw each other three years ago. When Bozdağ heard that Yaman was trying to contact her mother, he helped the young woman obtain a visa and a plane ticket.

Being concerned that Turkish children lose their identity in the process, Turkey also emphasizes that a child who is given to a foster family should be allowed to keep in contact with his biological family and relatives. Turkey is also engaged in legal efforts to protect Turkish families. “We have been talking to lawyers in Europe to be able to carry out an efficient legal struggle on the issue, Bozdağ indicated. The European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR] is also an option for protecting the rights of Turkish children forced to live with foster parents.”

A diplomatic row seems to have erupted between Turkey and the Netherlands right before the Turkish prime minister's visit because of the issue.

As Joost Lagendıjk, who is Dutch, recently said in his column of March 10 in Today's Zaman, Turkey's stance on the issue is not well received in the Netherlands. He said in his column that the Dutch government believes the Turkish government should have no say and no right to intervene in the lives of foster children in the Netherlands with Turkish nationality, noting that the accusations from Ankara regarding children with Turkish origin being Christianized have touched on some very sensitive issues in the country.

But Bozdağ is of the opinion that misunderstandings may also be present regarding the issue. “I have the impression that Dutch officials don't evaluate the issue in the right way,” he commented. Noting that the people with whom Prime Minister Erdoğan will get into contact with during his visit are jointly decided by the foreign ministries of the two countries, “It's therefore wrong for the Dutch side to make remarks not in line [with this fact],” he added, maintaining that the remarks may have to do with domestic politics.

Turkey complains about Turkish children losing their identity, but it's a rare occurrence for Turkish families living in Europe to apply to act as foster families. It's for this reason the Turkish government -- while trying to raise Turkish families' awareness on the issue -- is encouraging them to become foster families.

Last Mod: 19 Mart 2013, 17:59
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