Turkish Orphanages

Figure 1.--This is a portrait of the children at an unidentified orphnage for Christian (Armenian and Greek) children in Constantinpole during 1934. The children look well fed and reasonably clothed. Most wear smocks. We have no further information on the orphanage, but believe it was supported by Christian charities and not the Turkish Government. Put your cursor on the image to see the rest of the group.

We have been able to find very little information about Ottoman and Turkish orphanages. One of the problems here is family is very important in Turkey and many other Muslim countries. Orphans are generally taken in by family members. If this does not occur than the child is basically an outcast. This was poignently shown in the classic film, 'Lawrence of Aeabia' by how the two orphan boys taken in by Larence were treated. The same was true of Turkey despite the Koranic promotion of charity. A good indication of this is a 1894 publication which indicates how active Christian charities were in the Ottoman Empire. The author notes a letter complaining that there wre no orphanages in the Ottoman Empire and printed a letter about the religious supported orphabages in the major cities. [Kellogg, p.78.] The first specific orphnage we know of is the Kalfayan School & Orphanage was founded by to assist the victims of a cholera epedemic (1866). Today it is supportrd by international charities to support abandoned and at risk girls. We note an orphanage for Armemian and Greek children in Constantinople during the 1930s. We believe that the orphanaage was supported by Christain charities rather than the Turkish Government. These were Christian children. The Armenians were of clourse the victims of the genocide the Turkish Government perpetrated during World War I. Turkey and Greece fought a war after World War I in which the Greek population was largely expelled from eastern Turkey as part of a population exchange. Turkey today has a growing economy. It was a rather poor country and thus the Government had only limited resources to limit orphanages. Unlike Christian churches and Jewish groups, however, Islamic groups devoted little effort to supporting orphanages. Nor has the Government, despite ariwing economy, made a major effort to support orphanages. We notice an orpanage maintained by the Turkish Governmnt in which children were kept in apauling conditions. This became an international incident When the Duchess of York, Sarah Fergusson, and her daughters visited the orphanage and released photographs in 2012. Instead of taking action on the apuling conditions, the Turkish Govenment threatend the Duchess with jail and accused her of both violating the children's privacy and carrying out a politically motivated stunt to embarass Turkey and the Government. A press article read, "The Duchess of York faces 22 years in jail after a Turkish court pressed charges against her for secretly filming in an orphanage. The charges relate to an undercover documentary Sarah Ferguson made with ITV in 2008 to expose 'appalling' conditions in state run institutions. A spokesman for the Duchess said: ĎThe Duchess of York has fully co-operated with both the Turkish and British authorities at all times on this issue. British ministers refused to accede to the further requests for legal assistance from Turkey. From a UK perspective, the Duchess has been told by the Home Office that the case is closed. Yesterday a court accused Prince Andrew's former wife in absentia of 'going against the law in acquiring footage and olating privacy' of five children. She faces a maximum term of 22 and-a-half years in prison if convicted. No trial date has been set. 'Anywhere else it would be the authorities running these homes who were in the dock,' a source close to the Duchess said." And now Turkey's increasingly Islamic government instead of improving the care of orphans has launched an anti-Western campaign attacking the West in their name. A press reoort reads, "Government officials in Turkey are campaigning to take back Turkish children who were adopted by overseas Christian or gay couples, saying those lifestyles donít coincide with the nationís Islamic values. The Turkish site Hurriyet Daily News reports on the campaign to retrieve the adoptees who were given to Christian couples in European countries. According to the article, the first step in the campaign is to take them away from gay and lesbian couples." [Schwartz]


English, Rebeccaa nd Jack Doyle. "Fergie faces 22 years in Turkish prison over secret film of children abandoned in orphanage," Daily Mail (January 13, 2012).

Kellogg, John Harvey. "Turkish orphanages," The Medical Missionary, (1894), p.78.

Schwartz, Sharona. "Report: Turkey wants to take back Turkish children adopted by foreign Christian or gay couples," The Blaze (February 20, 2013).


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Created: 1:46 PM 12/27/2014
Last updated: 1:47 PM 12/27/2014