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Duchess of York smears Turkey's image: officials

Says Ferguson’s expose documentary “ill-intentioned”

Published:

Turkish officials have accused Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, of smearing Turkey's image on a British television program about state orphanages in Turkey ahead of a European Union membership report.

Ferguson, ex-wife of British Queen Elizabeth's second son, went under cover with reporters for ITN to visit state-run orphanages in Ankara and Istanbul and expose conditions there.

"It is obvious that Sarah Ferguson is ill-intentioned and is trying to launch a smearing campaign against Turkey by opposing Turkey's EU membership," Nimet Cubukcu, a minister in charge of women and family affairs, told Anatolian agency late on Monday.

According to a reporter who accompanied Sarah Ferguson on the trip, which also included visits to orphanages in Romania, children were found tied to their beds or left in filthy cots.

"Dressed in bedclothes and rags, some had shaven heads -- which gave them the appearance of convicts rather than patients. In every corner, a child showed signs of distress, with many exhibiting the awful violent rocking of the institutionalized,"

Chris Rogers wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

EU member

The European Commission will publish on Wednesday a report on countries wanting to join the 27-member bloc. Turkey, a large Muslim country, began membership negotiations in October 2005.

The EU has repeatedly criticized Turkey for its human rights record and has urged the government to speed up reforms.

"This is a valid area of public interest at a time when the UK government is endorsing the accession of Turkey into the EU, a process which is conditional in part on Turkey improving its human rights record with children," an ITV spokesperson said.

A spokeswoman said on behalf of the Duchess, "She is apolitical; therefore she has no political motivations. This is all about the welfare of children."

A government official told Reuters on Tuesday, "We object to the undercover methodology of the documentary. We should have been informed about their plans to do a documentary on orphanages. This could have an impact on our image in Europe."

Turkish newspapers have reported details of the documentary. State orphanages and psychiatric centers in Turkey have been the subject of several domestic and international investigations over their poor conditions.

The documentary will be on ITV on Nov. 6.