A 14-year-old girl whose whereabouts were unknown for over 100 days has been found in the western province of İzmir.
Ebru Sakal was living in the Olgunlar village of the Kiraz district before being kidnapped 102 days ago. Upon finding her, she was delivered to her father, who said that he would send her to school after she recovers psychologically.
“After her psychology recovers, I will send her to school again,” Abdullah Sakal told daily Hürriyet, as he added that he wishes his daughter to become a nurse or a doctor.
Ebru Sakal was the only child going to high school from the Olgunlar village, which came to prominence after it emerged that underage girls were being abducted or sold to boys living in nearby villages as part of a “tradition.” While her siblings quit school, her family said they wished their daughter would become a doctor or a nurse because she was successful in school.
Ebru Sakal was staying in a state-owned dormitory and was visiting her family on the weekends. However, on Dec. 16, 2016, she left school and did not return home.
Later in the night her father and her mother, Ayşe Sakal, received a phone call from the village head, Muammer Yalçın.
Yalçın first asked the family if there was anyone missing, before informing them that their daughter was kidnapped by Hüseyin Aksakal, a 22-year-old who had just returned from military service.
“They should bring my child back immediately,” Abdullah Sakal told Yalçın.
Abdullah Sakal, however, grew frustrated after the lack of concern shown to the issue and went to the police headquarters.
The family was determined to fight against the “tradition” and wanted their daughter to continue her education.
“Even if our child was raped, she is still our daughter. We will continue to support her education,” Ayşe Sakal said.
Official and local authorities later mobilized to find Ebru Sakal with the help of Abdullah Sakal’s determination.
A team of five was formed under the leadership of District Governor Mustafa Akgül and police officer Gökhan Nacioğlu to negotiate with the family who had kidnapped Ebru Sakal. The group tracked Hüseyin Aksakal’s father Salih Aksakal and all his relatives.
After 102 days, Nacioğlu informed the Sakal family that Hüseyin Aksakal was forced to surrender to the security forces with Ebru Sakal.
The 14-year-old was in shock and did not want to speak at first when she saw her parents.
“My child was like a robot. Her psychology was damaged after what was done to her,” Abdullah Sakal said, adding that he is determined to continue the legal struggle in order for Hüseyin Aksakal to get the harshest punishment.
“In order for Ebru to be found, the media, the governor’s office, the district governor’s office, police and gendarmerie collaborated. Even if my daughter is pregnant, she won’t get married to Hüseyin. She will continue her school. I will fight and make sure Hüseyin gets the harshest punishment, not just for Ebru, but to prevent other girls from getting hurt,” he said.
Aksakal’s lawyer Ferruh Er, however, denied that Ebru Sakal was kidnapped.
“Even though Ebru’s birth year is noted as 2002, she is older. She was born in her house, so has no hospital record. Hence, taking the date she ran away into account, there is no crime. According to the laws, if a girl is 16, there is no crime. We will ask for her bone age to be assessed,” Er told daily Hürriyet, claiming that girls were running away from their families on their own will to “be with the man they love,” in order to escape the “tradition” of being sold.
“Is there any evidence on her being kidnapped forcefully? The investigation will proceed in accordance with what she will say. She has been saying that she ran away voluntarily because her father was planning to sell her,” he added.
Ebru Sakal, in her testimony on March 28, said she had eloped on her own will.
When asked if she missed her family, she said she missed her youngest brother Emircan.
Meanwhile, when asked whether she wanted to continue her education, she said, “My father wanted me to go to school.”
After medical checks, Sakal was determined not pregnant and was sent to a social services unit.