Death of Turkish Boy Causes Unrest in Turkey
After a 15 year old Turkish boy died during an anti government demonstration last summer after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister, the protestors clashed with the police in cities across Turkey. The police The police unleashed water cannon and tear gas on thousands of demonstrators, which comes as another burden for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan as he battles the corruption scandal which has become one of the biggest challenges of his decade in being in power. .
In the recent weeks, Istanbul and Ankara have seen protests against what the demonstrators regard as Erdogan’s authoritarian reaction to the graft affair, which has included new laws tightening Internet controls and handing the government more influence over the appointment of judges and prosecutors.
Berkin Elvan was caught up in the street battles in Istanbul between the police and protesters on June 16 while he was on his way to buy bread for his family. He slipped into a coma and became a rallying point for the government opponents, who held regular vigils at the hospital where he was laying in intensive care. On Tuesday evening, the police fired water cannon and tear gas in Ankara’s central Kizilay square to disperse the thousands of protesters who chanted, “Government of Erdogan, government of Corruption, resign resign.” The police brought the protesters into the side streets where the small clashes continued.
The crowds were chanting “murderer Erdogan” and “the murderer state will be brought to account” as the mourners carried Elvan’s coffin which had been wrapped in red cloth and covered with red carnations to a “cemevi”, an Alevi place of worship in central Istanbul.
Alevis is a religious minority in mainly Sunni Muslim Turkey who supports a liberal version of Islam and have often been at odds with Erdogan’s Islamist rooted government. Among the crowd of 1,000 people, some were waving plain red flags, while the shopkeepers in the Okmeydani district pulled down their shutters as a mark of respect. Elvan’s mother surrounded by a group of women stood crying at an open window. “We have come here because of the murderer police. They will be held to account. Berkin Elvan’s blood will not be left on the ground,” said Ahmet Ekinci, one of those in the crowd. Elvan was the sixth person to die in violence during nationwide protests in late May and June over Erdogan’s plans to bulldoze an Istanbul park. The
President Abdullah Gul, the first senior figure to publicly comment on Elvan’s death, sent his condolences to the family. In the Aegean city of Izmir, school children and university students staged sit-ins. The Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DISK) said it would join Elvan’s funeral in Istanbul on Wednesday. DISK said in a statement which referred to the corruption scandal which had erupted on December 17th with the arrest of the sons of three cabinet ministers that “their children steal billions, our children are killed going to get bread.” In a message of condolence to Elvan’s family published in the Zaman newspaper, U.S. based Islamic cleric Ferhullah Gulen said that Turkey was experiencing difficult days and that the “mind of the state has become overwhelmed by anger and hatred”.
“This atmosphere of hatred is undermining society’s need for love and peace and efforts to understand one another,” he said. “Little 15-year old Berkin Elvan is the latest victim of this atmosphere.”