ISTANBUL (AP) — Cevher and Hesna Kupsi, whose son who went missing in Istanbul more than seven years ago, are pinning their hopes for his return on white plastic grocery bags plastered with a photo of their young Bayram.
Onur Supermarkets recently began printing the faces of missing children on 3 million to 4 million bags it hands out each month at its 76 stores in Istanbul and three other cities in western Turkey.
"I wake up in the mornings, I always wait for him. When the bell rings, I think of hearing his voice. That's my hope," Hesna Kupsi said this week about her son, who was 6 when he disappeared around 5 p.m. on July 19, 2007 while playing in the street.
The grocery bag campaign is reminiscent the U.S. -based National Child Safety Council's well-known program in the 1980s to put the faces of missing children on millions of milk cartons. That effort spawned other programs where missing children's photos were put on pizza boxes, grocery bags and junk mail envelopes.
Gen. Servet Yoruk, a former gendarmerie commander, said earlier this year that 14,412 children have been reported missing in Turkey during the past five years and more than 800 still have not been found. He said some are kidnapped by people who want to sell their organs, enslave them for work or indoctrinate them into terrorist networks.
The grocery bag campaign in Istanbul was suggested by Zafer Ozbilici, director of the Association of Families Whose Relatives Went Missing. Three to four times a week, he drives a van emblazoned with the photos of more than two dozen missing children through the streets of Istanbul.
Under their faces is the message: "If you see me, let my mother know."
Berza Simsek with Associated Press Television in Istanbul contributed to this report.