News / Europe

Thousands March in Turkish Teen's Funeral

People carry the coffin of Berkin Elvan, a Turkish teenager who was in a coma since being hit on the head by a tear gas canister fired by police during anti-government protests in the summer of 2013, during his funeral in Istanbul, Turkey, March 12, 2014
People carry the coffin of Berkin Elvan, a Turkish teenager who was in a coma since being hit on the head by a tear gas canister fired by police during anti-government protests in the summer of 2013, during his funeral in Istanbul, Turkey, March 12, 2014
Dorian Jones
People across Turkey are mourning 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who died Tuesday after spending months in a coma after being struck by a police gas canister during last summer’s anti-government unrest.

Despite appeals for calm, violence broke out shortly after Elvan's burial in an Istanbul cemetery on Wednesday.

Amid chants of "Elvan is immortal!" armored police vans fired water cannons and gas canister to disperse thousands of protesters who attended the ceremony, which drew tens of thousands from across the city.

The eighth person to die from injuries sustained during last summer's anti-government protests, 15-year-old Elvan, his parents say, was struck in the head by a police gas canister while buying bread.

But observers say that because of his young age and the fact that he died after spending months in the hospital, Elvan has become a focal point of concerns over police tactics and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's tough stance toward the unrest.

Many who marched in the funeral procession chanted in unison, calling both the police and the prime minister murderers. Some protesters hurled stones at a ruling party building, smashing its windows.

As the cortege weaved through the city, people applauded from office windows as the predominantly young mass of marchers, comprising college students and young school children, passed by.

"He was innocent. He did not do anything wrong," said one student who withheld her name. "He was just out buying bread for his family and the police shot [him]. We all blame Erdogan for this."

Commemorations for Elvan unfolded in many of Turkey’s main cities, including the capital, Ankara, where police dispersed mourners with tear gas and, according to some unverified reports, rubber bullets. Similar clashes between police and people protesting Elvan's death occurred Tuesday night in several cities.

“Please be aware that we all in Turkey are mourning today," said Justice Minister Bekir Bozda on Wednesday. "We were plunged into deep sadness by his loss of life in such an incident. May he rest in peace."

While Erdogan has not commented on Elvan’s death, President Abdullah Gul appealed for calm and says he instructed police to act with restraint during Elvan’s funeral. In Istanbul, police appeared to heed calls for restraint only until the funeral concluded, when thousands began walking toward Taksim Square, the epicenter of last year’s unrest.

Demonstrations in Taksim Square have been banned since last year, but the latest clashes are likely to put the spotlight back on the government and police tactics.

Emma Sinclair Webb, senior Turkey researcher for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, says the Elvan case raises wider questions about police impunity.

"There really is no proper investigation into the circumstances surrounding Berkin’s death," she said. "Basically, it crystallizes the feeling that the state is fundamentally unaccountable when it comes to police violence. In a sense, Berkin’s case is like many other cases we have documented, where the investigation into the police conduct is absolutely absent."

Justice Minister Bozdag insists the investigation into Elvan’s death is ongoing, but with the government still mired in allegations of graft and authoritarian rule, observers warn of further civil unrest.

With Erdogan accusing demonstrators of being part of an international conspiracy against him, a change in police tactics is not expected.

On the campaign trail ahead of March 30 municipal elections, Erdogan recently addressed a rally in the southeastern city of Siirt but failed to mention the teenager's death in a lengthy speech.

The embattled prime minister has acknowledged the polls will act as a referendum on his rule.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: C 74 from: Saudi Arabia
March 12, 2014 2:22 PM
This is a revolution... we reject Islamic theocracy, we reject Muslim Brotherhood filthy ideology, we reject Hamas and Hizbullah. I am a proud Turk. I used to be so afraid talking about the filth and corruption of my government. Turkey, my beloved country, has become an islamic cesspool of corruption and disintegration. I had to run away from my beloved country to feel secure. i served 12 years in military - until I found out that we are facilitating Al Qaeda in Syria and Hamas in Gaza and Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This is a revolution... we want our country back

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs