After murmurs of revival jerks, the anti-government demonstrations originating in Istanbul’s Gezi Park are coming back to life. Yesterday, an innocent 15 year-old became the latest casualty of the government’s controversial use of police force. The boy, Berkin Elvan, was struck in the side of the head by a tear gas canister launched by the Turkish Polis while he was out getting bread. From this extreme contrast of innocence and violence, the young teenager’s image has come to be a symbol for the resistance movement.
The protests commenced after the boy’s parents announced their beloved son’s death on social media. A vigil was conducted outside the hospital he remained in a coma for the past 269 days. Crowds flocked to the scene to pay their respects, but the police immediately resorted to their controversial tactics involving tear gas- even in such close proximately to the hospital’s entrance.
Yesterday’s protests marked as the biggest protests since Gezi Park. Thousands flocked to the streets in several districts all over Istanbul as well as over dozens of cities in Turkey and even around the world.
Do to the role as an organisational tool, social media outlets are seen as threatening to the government. Merely weeks ago, PM Erdoğan passed a controversial censorship law in which he can over-ride and shut down any site at any time- without a just cause. With the protests formulating predominately through Twitter, that site was completely shutdown yesterday evening in an attempt to stop others from taking to the streets. Other main media outlets, such as Facebook and YouTube, are next on the block list.
The protests of yesterday reflect a raw, emotionally charged sentiment and both the protestors and the reaction of the police exemplify this.
The demonstrators consisted of an array of people- transcending age as well as gender lines. Demonstrators marched with pictures of Berkin Elvan as well as carried signs condemning his killers and the assumed man responsible for the operation, PM Erdoğan. As the night progressed, the numbers decreased but protestors that remained became more aggressive by embracing tactics of vandalism, throwing debris, burning trash and public property, banging on buildings, screaming, anything to get the attention of the police and provoke them.
Turkish Police reacted in a way that has strangely become routine. Crowd control with men on the crowd firing tear rubber bullets and tear gas, men manning the TOMA water cannons, and hundreds waiting in armored police buses on-call. Even with the emotional tension being so pungent one could almost smell it in Istanbul’s air, the insecure government’s right hand could not play a passive role and was forced to play a mildly aggressive one to be a more equally matched and have a chance against the protestors.
Mass protests are expected to increase as the week progresses with foreshadowed images of correlating violence.
Today marks a new day- Berkin Elvan’s funeral service is this afternoon which will be followed by expected violence from the same force that took the youngster’s life. Already, the voice of sirens echo round the city and over power the call to prayer. As the work week wanes, it can be anticipated that protests will get progressively worse.
The protest commenced today (12 March 2014) at 12:00 as it surrounded Elvan’s funeral service at Okmeydani Cemevi. The funeral procession will proceed from Şişli Square to Feriköy cemetery at 15:00 followed by protests increasing in size as the day progresses.
(Şişli/Feriköy, İstanbul, Türkiye)
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)