Congressional Record Statements
|PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 106th CONGRESS, 1st SESSION
||Washington, Wednesday, April 21, 1999
CHILDREN'S DAY IN TURKEY
Wednesday, April 21, 1999
CHILDREN'S DAY IN TURKEY
HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH
of New Jersey
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, later this week the Republic of Turkey will celebrate ``Children's Day'' as has
been the custom every April 23rd since the early 1920s. Such festive occasions are important reminders of the
wonderful blessing that children are to family and society alike. Regrettably, the joy of this celebration will not be shared
by all children in Turkey. Recently, I chaired a hearing of the Helsinki Commission that reviewed human rights practices
in Turkey, an original signatory to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. The disturbing testimony presented at that hearing
underscored the vulnerability of children.
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Harold Koh, cited the case of two-year-old Azat
Tokmak to illustrate how terrible and dehumanizing the practice of torture is for everyone involved, including children.
Azat was tortured, according to Mr. Koh, in an effort to secure a confession from her mother. He testified: ``In April
 the Istanbul Chamber of Doctors certified that Azat showed physical and psychological signs of torture after
detention at an Istanbul branch of the anti-terror police. Azat's mother, Fatma Tokmak, was detained in December 1996
on suspicion of membership in the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Azat was burned with cigarettes and kicked in an
effect to make her mother confess.'' Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a two-year-old child--a baby--being tortured by
At the same March 18th hearing, Stephen Rickard, Director of the Washington Office of Amnesty International USA,
observed, ``There is something Orwellian about calling units that torture and beat children and sexually assault their
victims ``anti-terror'' police.'' Mr. Rickard displayed a photograph of Done Talun, a twelve-year-old girl from a poor
neighborhood in Ankara, to give a human face to the problem of torture in Turkey. ``For five days, she was beaten and
tortured while her frantic family asked for information about her whereabouts and condition,'' Rickard said. Done was
accused of stealing some bread. Her torture reportedly occurred at the Ankara Police Headquarters. ``Is this young girl's
case unique? Unfortunately, it is not,'' he concluded. Mr. Rickard presented the Commission with a recent AI report:
``Gross Violations in the Name of Fighting Terror: The Human Rights Record Of Turkey's `Anti-Terror' Police Units.''
The report includes a section on the torture of children.
Mr. Douglas A. Johnson, Executive Director of the Center for Victims of Torture, testified that there are thirty-seven
different forms of torture practiced in Turkey today. Addressing the torture of children, Johnson observed, ``twenty
percent of our clients over the years were tortured when they were children, and usually that was to use them as a
weapon against their parents,'' similar to the case of two-year-old Azat Tokmak.
Mr. Speaker, I urge the Clinton Administration to press the Government of Turkey to eliminate the climate of impunity
that has allowed children like Azat and Done to be subjected to such gross abuse at the hands of the police. Then, and
only then, will children such as these--``the least of these''--be able to fully partake in the joy of this special Children's
Day set aside to celebrate their lives and those of all children in Turkey.
International Humanitarian Law
Prevention of Torture