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“Regarding the girls’ psychological state, an expert said that what has negatively impacted their psyche is predominantly the sensational reproduction of the case on the media.” “If such sexual abuse had been going on for over 20 years,” Ertekin later offered, “why didn’t anyone say anything?” Ertekin, who pointed out that he is the father of a daughter himself, also questioned Özkan’s credibility, alleging that many parents filed complaints against her for consistently skipping classes.
“He would take one or two girls inside his office and lock the door. ” “We are playing a game,” he responded sheepishly. Look, we are tickling each other.” Özkan asserts that the incident, which took place in May 2014, confirmed her suspicions that the 63-year-old principal had been sexually abusing students.
A mother of one of the school’s students asked her: “Why are they doing this to us? The piece sent shockwaves through Turkey, and coupled with lobbying efforts by the Izmir Bar Association and the Federation of Women’s Associations of Turkey, the case continued to be followed around the country.
On June 2, 2016, lawyers from every corner of Turkey, representatives of children’s organizations, artists, philanthropists, activists and others occupied the court’s booths.
The climate seemed ripe for justice, Özkan recalls. Due in part to the publicity the first trial received, as well as its outcome, more of Şahintürk’s victims came forward, and on May 28, 2017, during a new pre-trial, the judge levied charges against him of serial sexual exploitation of six children, between the age of six and 11, for a period that lasted up to four years, as well as possession of “obscene publications.” A second criminal trial was set for July 13.
After all of the evidence was presented and argued, Şahintürk was given a sentence of 102 years in prison without the chance of parole. On July 12, I contacted Şahintürk’s lawyer, Atilla Ertekin, who told me through an interpreter that his client still denies the accusations, and that this is a trial of “perception management,” meaning that Özkan and Şahintürk’s other accusers are trying to influence public sentiment by singling out certain facts while ignoring others. Şahintürk was surrounded by children, children were happy around him, and witnesses saw that,” Ertekin said.
All the teachers were hired on a contract basis, for stints lasting no more than six months. But Özkan now had the girls’ testimonies, and headed to the authorities with all the gruesome details.