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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid