More than two dozen Syrian children, aged between 8 and 12, have been sexually abused at a refugee camp in Turkey’s southeastern province of Gaziantep for months.
According to a report published by the Turkish left-wing daily BirGün on Thursday, a cleaner “sexually assaulted” a total of 30 Syrian boys, the oldest of whom were only 12 years old, in the bathrooms of the state-run Nizip refugee camp from September 2015 through the beginning of the current year.
The rapist, identified only as E.E., has confessed that he lured children into blind spots, which were not detected by surveillance cameras, to have sex with them in return for 1.5 to 5 Turkish liras (USD 0.51-1.69). The 29-year-old suspect, currently held in pre-trial detention, reportedly faces a total of 289 years of imprisonment.
The children’s families became aware of the sexual abuses after a boy, identified as H.I., talked to his father about the man and his persistent misconduct.
The families of eight children have so far come forward with a legal complaint. The rest of the families have not taken any measures for fear of deportation.
The sexual abuses were never detected by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), which runs the camp.
The matter was brought to light after military officers inside the camp started reviewing surveillance cameras, and noticed that the perpetrator was taking children to blind spots.
An unnamed high-ranking military officer from the camp later blamed the AFAD for the rapes. “The AFAD is in charge of the camp and responsible for this disaster,” he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had praised the Turkish refugee camp during her visit on April 23.
She was presented with flowers by a group of Syrian girls before touring the camp. Security forces at the camp, which houses 14,000 Syrians, prevented the press from speaking to any refugees other than those hand-picked to greet the German leader.
The shocking news comes amid reports of Turkish border control officers abusing and shooting Syrian refugees.
Human Rights Watch says Turkish border guards shoot and beat Syrian refugees trying to cross into Turkey, calling on the country to investigate abuses.
Turkish border guards in March and April used excessive force against Syrians and a smuggler trying to reach Turkey, killing five people, including a child, and injuring 14 others, the New-York based watchdog said.
The rights group also urged Ankara to abide by international laws and stop attacking refugees or banning them from crossing the borders.