15-year-old Gezi victim Berkin Elvan dies after 269 days in coma
People carry Berkin Elvan's coffin to the cemevi after the autopsy, in Istanbul, March 11. AA photo
Berkin Elvan, who has been in a coma since June 2013 after being struck in the head by a gas canister during a police crackdown on protesters, died March 11, his family announced via Twitter.
“To our people: We lost our son Berkin Elvan at 7 a.m. in the morning. Condolences to us all,” Elvan's parents said in the message.
The young teenager, the eighth person to be killed in the Gezi Park protests, went into a coma after sustaining a head injury from a gas canister as he went to buy bread during a police crackdown in Istanbul’s Okmeydanı neighborhood last June. Elvan has since become one of the prime symbols violence faced by protesters throughout the nationwide Gezi demonstrations.
He had only turned 15 in January while still in a coma. A ceremony will be held at a cemevi in Okmeydanı before the burial in Feriköy cemetery on March 12.
Tension rose between a group of demonstrators and the police, which again resorted to tear gas regardless of the fact that the hospital's entrance was nearby.
“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,” said Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Istanbul lawmaker Melda Onur, who was participating in the vigil. "Tear gas even entered inside the hospital," she added.
Onur also said a child was brought into the hospital after being injured due a tear gas canister.
Another man, who was going to the hospital to visit his sick wife, was also injured after being hit in his head by a tear gas canister.
Tributes also poured in under the hashtag #BerkinElvanÖlümsüzdür ("Berkin Elvan is immortal").
Dozens of protests are planned in cities around the country for this evening.
Berkin Elvan's mother Gülsüm (C) and father Sami (L)
cry as they are joined by activists in front of the
Istanbul hospital where their son was in a coma for
The teenager’s parents were shattered when they joined activists keeping vigil for Berkin.
“It is not Allah who has taken my son away. It is [Prime Minister Recep] Tayyip Erdoğan,” said the mother, Gülsüm Elvan.
Erdoğan had memorably praised police for “heroic action” during the Gezi resistance last June, despite the murdered victims and serious injuries sustained due to the repeated brutal crackdowns on protesters.
The mother of Ali İsmail Korkmaz, a 19-year-old protester who died after being beaten during the Gezi protests in Eskişehir by a group of men including plainclothed police officers, came to the hospital to offer her condolences to Elvan's family.
Lawyers representing the family had said Elvan’s condition worsened over the last week, with his weight dropping to 16 kilos from 45 kilos.
Elvan suffered an epileptic fit on March 6, his heart stopped a day later, and on March 9 doctors diagnosed an air pocket in his lungs.
Emel Korkmaz, the mother of Ali İsmail Korkmaz, offers
her condolences to Gülsüm Elvan.
In a first for a government official, President Abdullah Gül had contacted the family on March 10 as a police intervention was ongoing against a vigil held in front of the hospital in Istanbul’s Okmeydanı neighborhood.
Gül expresses condolences
Gül has publicly expressed his condolences after Elvan's death March 11. "He was only fourteen when the incident happened. I share the family's sorrow," Gül said.
A top business officials also expressed "deep regret" over the death.
"Nothing is more important than the life of a 15-year-old boy and other young people who we lost during the Gezi incidents," Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) Chair Muharrem Yılmaz said in a written statement.
Yılmaz also said he hoped that Elvan would be "the last loss on our conscience."
US warns citizens over calls for protests
Calls for protests across Turkey in the afternoon of March 11 were releyed on social media. Meanwhile, the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul has warned American citizens in Turkey after calls for demonstrations in Istanbul and elsewhere were made. "You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings or protests. U.S. citizens are reminded that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence,” a statement said.
Earlier, March 11 three busloads of mourners went to collect Elvan's body at the Istanbul forensic lab, while another group of around 500 protesters marched from the hospital to a cemevi in the boy's neighborhood of Okmeydanı to wait for the remains. On the way, protesters shouted "Police, sell simit and live with honor" and "Berkin's murderers are Tayyip's cops" when they passed dozens of riot police deployed at the Perpa Electrical Market. Although the crowd jeered, police refrained from attacking.
The family has repeatedly slammed officials for protecting the perpetrators and announced that they would be starting a legal process at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), as no effective domestic investigation had been carried out over the last seven months. The officers who took part in the crackdown that cost Elvan's life are still on duty.
Five protesters, Mehmet Ayvalıtaş, Ahmet Cömert, Ethem Sarısülük, Ali İsmail Korkmaz and Ahmet Atakan, died directly as a result of crackdowns on the Gezi protests last summer. Two others are also counted as part of the Gezi victims, including Medeni Yıldırım, who was shot during a demonstration against the building of a new gendarmerie post in Diyarbakır’s Lice district, and Hasan Ferit Gedik, a leftist protester who was murdered by drug gangs in September 2013 in the Gülsuyu neighborhood of Istanbul's Maltepe district.