Search

 

Cablegate: Duchess of York's Secret Orhanage Visit Prompts

VZCZCXRO7006
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0563/01 3150526
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 100526Z NOV 08
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8584
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000563

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL OSCE AA TU
SUBJECT: DUCHESS OF YORK'S SECRET ORHANAGE VISIT PROMPTS
OUTCRY AND CALLS FOR IMPROVEMENT

1. Summary and comment: The November 6 airing of a British
documentary made by the UK's Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson
evoked strong reactions in Turkey due to the undercover
manner in which the Duchess obtained the film's footage.
Donning a wig and headscarf to disguise herself, Ferguson
entered a two care centers for children with physical and
mental disabilities and filmed footage of the disturbing
treatment and condition of some of the children that was
aired in the UK on November 6. Turkish officials condemned
the secret filming as an attempt to sabotage Turkey's bid to
enter the European Union. British officials do not expect
the incident to change the UK's stance on Turkey's EU
accession, and human rights organizations view the incident
as an opportunity for Turkey to reinvigorate its stalled
human rights reforms. The GOT's outcry epitomizes the
reflexive defensiveness that distracts Turkey from enacting
reforms on sensitive issues and that Turkey must overcome if
it is to meet EU standards. End summary and comment.

2. In March 2008, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson and
Independent Television News correspondent Chris Rogers posed
as aid workers and potential charitable donors to gain access
to two rehabilitation centers for mentally and physically
handicapped children in Turkey. With Ferguson in disguise,
the pair secretly filmed their visits to Saray Rehabilitation
Center in Ankara and Istanbul's Zeytinburnu Center for the
Care of Disabled Children as part of a documentary aired on
November 6 titled, "Duchess and Daughters: Their Secret
Mission." The documentary covers the travels of Rogers,
Ferguson and her two daughters to state-run institutions in
Romania and Turkey. On November 2, Rogers released a written
description and photos of what he termed "profoundly
shocking" conditions in the Sunday Daily Mail prior to the
documentary's release.

3. Turkish authorities condemned the secret filming and
Minister of Health and Social Services Nimet Cubukcu, in
charge of the Social Services and Child Protection Agency
(SHCEK), launched an investigation into the "negligent" SHCEK
employees who provided access to visitors with hidden
cameras. Taking footage with concealed cameras in state
institutions is against Turkish law. Cubukcu and other
politicians accused Ferguson of attempting to sabotage
Turkey's bid to enter the European Union by sullying its
image. While most conservative newspapers also shared the
criticism of Turkish authorities against Ferguson, Radikal,
Hurriyet, and Aksam published columns suggesting that Turkey
should investigate the shortcomings of its orphanages and
other state-sponsored facilities instead of trying to deflect
blame. Reacting to the outcry by Turkish authorities,
Ferguson defended her position but apologized for any
embarrassment caused to Turkey. In a BBC interview, she said
she supports Prime Minister Brown's decision to support EU
accession for Turkey provided it put in place human rights
safeguards for children.

4. British Embassy human rights officer Philippa Saunders
told us that the incident will not change the UK's support
for Turkey's EU accession. Saunders noted that the GOT is
undertaking a genuine effort to improve foster care and
improve training for SHCEK staff. The GOT also recognizes
that over 60 percent of children are put into care for
economic reasons, said Saunders, and it is working to prevent
such economic decisions in the future. AKP MP and member of
the Parliament's Human Rights Commission Abdurrahman Kurt
said that although Ferguson's tactics may not have been the
most appropriate, this incident will encourage the GOT to
find creative methods to address the issue. He noted that
Turkey has taken steps to improve the situation by providing
financial support to parents who struggle with childcare
costs and who have disabled children.

5. Contacts from human rights organizations were critical of
the reaction by Turkish authority and certain members of the
media to Ferguson's secret visit and expose. The Human
Rights Foundation issued a press statement criticizing
Cubukcu's reaction. Vice president of the Human Rights
Research Association Ayse Bilgen said the Turkish media's
coverage of the issue was a disservice to improving human
rights in Turkey. The reporting focused Ferguson's
circumvention of authorities and the government's reaction to
her tactics and ignored the reality of the continuing poor
state of orphanages and other social service facilities in
Turkey. Bilgen said this coverage epitomized the reflexive
defensiveness Turks often exhibit when evidence of a human
rights deficiencies arise. When domestic or international
human rights organizations point to a deficiency in the
Turkish system, she explained, the government often tries to

ISTANBUL 00000563 002 OF 002


point to similarly existing situations in Europe. A vital
step Turkey must take in order to becoming a modern democracy
is to acknowledge its own shortcomings instead of trying to
pretend they do not exist, according to Bilgen.

6. Turkey's first NGO dedicated to advocating for human
rights in the field of mental health, Human Rights in Mental
Health Initiative, released a detailed report on the state of
mental health facilities in the country last week. Between
June 2007 and October 2008 HRMHI conducted the research in
collaboration with Human Rights Agenda Association and
Bogazici University Social Policy Forum, with the permission
of the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Child
Protection Agency. The research team including human rights
lawyers, mental health specialists, and activists visited
twelve of the 41 centers across Turkey, including Ankara's
Saray Rehabilitation Center also visited by Ferguson. In
addition to highlighting best practices, the team offered
recommendations for the improvement of conditions in all
orphanages. Common areas for improvement included:

- increasing the number of professional staff available
-improving hygienic conditions and the bed to child ratio (in
some cases, two children slept in one bed)
- increasing the number of treatment facilities available at
the institutions
- varying treatment from only antipsychotic drugs and
antidepressants
- allowing for greater freedom of movement
- providing planned and regular rehabilitation activities for
all residents
- obtaining consent for the use of electro-shock therapy

7. HRMHI president Sehnaz Layikel explained that the GOT
must change its mentality with regard to mental health
patients. As an example, she cited SHCEK's focus on building
new housing in Saray rather than training staff or offering
rehabilitation. "No expert in Turkey feels that a disabled
child can improve. The government must change its mentality
to one that considers disabled children to be humans with
needs and emotions." In the future, Layikel suggests the
government provide expanded training for its staff and
cooperate with NGOs dedicated to advocacy and support for the
mentally disabled. She is pleased to see that Ferguson's
visit has become a "human rights incident rather than a
diplomatic incident."
WIENER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: