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Turkish intelligence service draws ire with children’s competition on ‘secret agents’

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Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has sparked outrage by inviting children between the ages of 5 and 14 to take part in a competition related to the topics of “security,” “secret service” and “secret agents.”

This competition, intended to mark April 23, National Children’s Day in Turkey, has provoked harsh criticism from educators and children’s rights activists, who are calling for the competition to be canceled immediately.

The intelligence agency called on children to let their imaginations run wild and express what “security,” “secret service” and “secret agents” mean to them through drawing or writing projects. The organization promised to publish selected contributions on its website.

In a statement, the Education and Science Workers Union (Eğitim Sen) condemned the competition as inappropriate for children and incompatible with educational principles.

The union argued that the themes of the competition are not suitable and that such activities do not fall within the remit of MİT.

“The question of whether the Ministry of Education was consulted before this event was launched is problematic. If they were consulted and permission was granted, that is even more worrying,” Eğitim Sen said.

The Green Left Party (YSP) also issued a statement, calling on MİT to “keep its hands off our children.” The party criticized encouraging children to imagine scenarios involving intelligence activities, which it believes harm children’s cognitive and emotional development.

“MİT’s attempt to draw children into a world where guns, conflict and similar activities are normalized goes against the spirit of Children’s Day. What our children need is not indoctrination into a life of war, weapons, blood and death, but examples that pave the way for a humane life based on peace, love, sharing and friendship,” the Green Left Party (YSP) said.

This is not the first time MİT has engaged with children. In 2012, on the 85th anniversary of its founding, the agency set up a children’s page on its website, which was also met with criticism.

Children’s rights organizations have long criticized MİT’s engagement with children on national security issues. Disapproval has focused on the potential harm to children’s well-being and development through early exposure to concepts of espionage and intelligence work.

Critics argue that such initiatives can have a negative impact on children’s psychological development and are not compatible with an appropriate educational environment.

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