Child abuse in religious school in Turkey leads to public outcry

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More than 20 minors were allegedly subjected to sexual abuse by instructors at a religious school in İstanbul, according to a report on Sunday by the Cumhuriyet newspaper, sparking angry reactions over the weekend on Turkish social media.

Three suspects, Ömer Işıktekin, Hacı Serkan Bektaş and Tarık Bektaş, have thus far been arrested in an investigation launched upon complaints filed by six victims, who claimed more than 20 students were affected by the abuse.

The boarding school, supposedly established to teach the Quran to children, was run by Fıkıh-Der, an unlicensed religious association based in Üsküdar. The three suspects who were arrested were working as instructors at the school, according to the indictment. The suspects denied the allegations at the first hearing.

The prosecutors sought up to 145 years in prison for Işıktekin, up to 50 years for Hacı Serkan Bektaş and up to 25 years for Tarık Bektaş on aggravated sexual assault charges.

Speaking to Cumhuriyet, one of the victims said they were also subjected to corporal punishment which even included being beaten with a hammer.

“They would not send us home during the weeks when they beat us,” said İ.T., one of the victims identified only by his initials. “Those whose parents did not stick by them would get beaten more often.”

Another victim, 17-year-old H.R.Ö., who was one of the plaintiffs that triggered the investigation, told the daily that there were many other children subjected to same treatment who are afraid to speak out.

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