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All we wanted for Christmas was our orphaned nieces

Ann Dogan and her husband Fikret pictured with Fatma and Yagmur
LONGING FOR A RE-UNION Ann Dogan and her husband Fikret pictured with Fatma and Yagmur in the Antalya orphanage in December 2009.?Pic: Brian Farrell

All we wanted for Christmas was our orphaned nieces

Áine Ryan

ALL they wanted for Christmas was that two little girls would be sleeping soundly in their comfortable west of Ireland home and not in a distant Turkish orphanage.
This wish will not be fulfilled now. But after resorting to a hunger-strike last week outside the Castlebar offices of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Ann and Fikret Dogan have renewed hope of becoming adoptive parents of his nieces.
The Taoiseach’s office confirmed to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) that Deputy Enda Kenny was aware of ongoing correspondence between the Adoption Board and this couple.

Speaking at the weekend, Ann Brennan-Dogan, a native of Mullinabreena on the Mayo-Sligo border said: “Honestly, we were just blue in the face desperately wondering if they [officials] would ever take us seriously. We really thought when he [Taoiseach Enda Kenny] realises that we were real people trying to give innocent children a life, he would just grant us the visas. We thought if he just saw us he would realise we were human beings trying to do our best.”
She says that over the last months they have been shunted from one government department and agency to another.
Like many of her generation, Ann emigrated in the mid-1980s and trained to be a nurse in New York, living in the Bronx and working in a Manhattan hospital for the following 12 years.
‘I came home to a bright Ireland in 1998 and moved to Sligo town to be within travelling distance of the family home and my mother. Then, I met Fikret while on holiday with my friend in Turkey in 2004.”
Two years after they met, the love-struck couple got married on St Patrick’s Day 2006, at a low-key ceremony, attended by both families.
They then returned to Sligo town where they set up home in one of the country town’s new leafy suburbs. Ann continued her work as a geriatric nurse while Fikret got a job as a tiler.    
Three years later, Fikret Dogan’s nieces, Fatma and Yagmur, were orphaned after their mother died in tragic circumstances and their father was no longer available to rear them. Fatma was aged seven and Yagmur five at the time. At first it was hoped that Fikret’s brother and wife would adopt them but, due to familial circumstances this did not work out.

Adopted in Turkey
As time passed and the couple had no children of their own, it was only natural that they began to consider the possibilities of adopting Fatma and Yagmur when they ended up in an orphanage. So in mid–2010 the couple started  making inquiries about guardianship and adoption in Turkey and Ireland.
Ann recalls they were originally advised by the Adoption Board that, while an inter-country legal framework was not in place, they could carry out a domestic adoption in Turkey and then apply to bring the children back to Ireland.
“And that is what we did. The Turkish adoption came through in July of this year, we got their passports and applied for visas then. Four weeks ago we got a letter stating the visas had been refused. We just couldn’t believe it. Life has been a nightmare since,” says Ann Dogan.
She says that since then they have been shunted from one government department to another.
During this stressful time, all that was in their minds was the image of two children sitting in an orphanage in the southern city of Antalya awaiting their fate.
“We haven’t seen Yagmur or Fatma since September. And we wish now we had never told them that we were going to adopt them and bring them to Ireland. They were so excited. If we only knew back then what we know now,” Ann said.

By last Wednesday, the dreadful weather that was lashing the west coast had taken its toll and hunger-striker Ann Dogan was rushed to Mayo General Hospital suffering from stress and hypothermia. Ironically, it was while she was recovering in the hospital she heard of the breakthrough.
“At last the Adoption Board had agreed to assess our Turkish adoption to judge whether it is compatible with Irish law. We now have a stack of paperwork to get through. But we are so relieved. It was the frustration that drove us to our actions in the end. If the adoption agencies had worked with us from the beginning all this could have been avoided, and Yagmur and Fatma could be with us for Christmas,” Ann said, emotion spilling over in her voice.