Latest Gezi Park casualty, 15 year-old Berkin Elvan, sparks the latest protests in Turkey (11 Mart 2014)
Today, Istanbul is somber. This grey, dreary day marks the death of the latest casualty of the Gezi Park protests. 15-year-old Berkin Elvan sustained a head injury on the 16th of after being struck by a tear gas canister by Turkish police while he was out buying bread in the Okmeydanı neighbourhood of Istanbul. After 269 days in a coma, the boy lost the fight and died at 07:00 at a hospital in Yenibosna, a district of Istanbul outside the center of the city on the European side.
His heartbroken parents tweeted the following this morning:
“To our people: We lost our son Berkin Elvan at 7 a.m. in the morning. Condolences to us all.”
Since his brutal attack, Elvan’s image has become one of the symbols violence faced by protesters throughout the nationwide protests. This young boy’s death marks as the eighth death in the political protests of Turkey’s Gezi Park demonstrations and has caused another roll of thunderous out-roar for citizens across Turkey, especially in Istanbul.
Hundreds of people gathered in front of the hospital where Elvan laid idle for the past nine months, organised by social media outlets.
Even within the morning hours, tension immediately escalated between the demonstrators and the police. The time of day accompanied by the location of the protest (the hospital’s entryway) showed to be useless factors against the opposition for the resortment of the usage of tear gas was immediately used in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
Medla Onur, a lawmaker and key member of the CHP (Republican people’s party of Turkey), was quoted as stating the following as he participated in the boy’s vigil:
“Riot police arrived in front of the hospital as the funeral was ongoing to be sent to the forensics department. Some people also went that way and protested against the police. A scuffle occurred. The police officers did not restrain themselves at all from using gas. They once again used disproportionate force.. Tear gas even entered inside the hospital.”
Despite the initial reaction to the vigil and demonstration of the morning, the call to protest has grown significantly and has consequently resulted in the organisation of dozens of large-scale protests throughout Istanbul and around the entire country. The protests of the 11th of March have now become the biggest demonstrations since the Gezi Park protests of last spring as thousands have taken the streets in various districts.
As a reactionary jerk to the mass organisation via social media outlets (most notably being both Twitter and Facebook), the censorship law that was passed a few weeks ago has been used by the current acting powers of the government to completely over-ride sites and shut them down in an attempt to keep people from taking to the streets. After the hashtag #BerkinElvanÖlümsüzdür (“Berkin Elvan is immortal”) started trending in Turkey, Twitter, the biggest organising force was completely blocked follwed by live feed cameras around the city and freelance, alternative news sources.
As tensions will continue to rise throughout the night and continuing to the boy’s funeral (scheduled tomorrow in proximity to the family’s neighbourhood in Feriköy), the protests will develop and the efforts of the police in terms of attempting to contain the masses are virtually unpredictable. Stay tuned for updates of the demonstration’s developments as well as further analysis.
(For those in Istanbul: Take caution and conduct your actions and coordinate your plans with your best interest and safety as priority. Foreigners especially, don’t take these protests light-heartedly. Reduce your ignorance and keep yourselves informed)
Student march from Beşiktaş to Taksim (Taken with iPhone 4s)