22-year-old protester dies in demo in southern Turkey
HATAY – Doğan News Agency
A 22-year-old protester in the southern province of Hatay has died in continuing protests tied to the Gezi Park demonstrations, amid conflicting reports about the cause of the youth’s death.
Ahmet Atakan passed away at around 2 a.m. on Sept. 10 in Antakya’s flashpoint neighborhood of Armutlu. He had taken part in a march that was called to show solidarity with students and locals in Ankara protesting the construction of a road through the Middle Eastern Technical University (ODTÜ) campus, as well as to commemorate Abdullah Cömert, another Armutlu local who was killed by police in early June at the beginning of the Gezi protests.
Witnesses and activists claimed that Atakan was allegedly hit in the head by a gas canister fired by the police. However, the police released a statement saying that footage from a local police camera showed that Atakan fell from a building, and that no intervention by the police was visible.
“It can be understood from the examination of the voice and images of the footage belonging to a police camera that was made public that no intervention took place from the police vehicles toward the attackers, either before or at the time of the fall of the person [Ahmet Atakan],” the statement said.
The statement also said the preliminary autopsy report, which rested upon information given by officials from the Justice Ministry, stated that Atakan died due to “cerebral hemorrhage, internal bleeding because of damaged internal organs, and the severance of the spinal cord, together with fractures in the skull and its surroundings, due to a general blunt trauma.”
According to daily Radikal, however, the preliminary autopsy report stated that there was a 6x5cm bruise (ecchymose) on the left side of Atakan's skull, and no fractured bones in his body.
The report also stated that were various bruises on Atakan’s body, none of them major, and that 1.1 liters of blood had been emptied from his lungs during first aid at Antakya State Hospital.
State-run Anadolu Agency claimed that it had footage showing Atakan falling and rolling on the ground, as well as footage of stones and a water tank being thrown at police vehicles from the surrounding roofs.
The Hatay Governor’s Office also released a statement regarding the death of Atakan, stating that an ambulance had been sent to where the protester was injured but that he was taken to hospital by other protesters.
“Upon an announcement made by the security forces, which were patrolling on Gündüz Street, that one person had fallen on the street from a building, an ambulance was sent [to the scene] by contacting the 112 Emergency Service, but the people at the scene wanted to take the injured person to the hospital on their own. Our citizen named Ahmet Atakan, who was brought in injured to Antakya State Hospital, could not be saved, despite all medical efforts,” the statement said.
Atakan was briefly resuscitated at the hospital, but his heart stopped beating once again 15 minutes later.
He is the sixth protester killed in anti-government protests in Turkey this summer, after Abdullah Cömert (22), Ali İsmail Korkmaz (19), Ethem Sarısülük (26), Mehmet Ayvalıtaş (20) and Medeni Yıldırım (18). Police officer Mustafa Sarı also died after falling from a bridge while pursuing fleeing protesters in Adana.
The killing of another protester has sparked outrage, and calls were made on social media for demonstrations across Turkey to denounce Atakan’s death.
Protesters in Istanbul were planning to gather at Taksim Square at around 7 p.m. on Sept. 10. In Ankara, where demonstrations have been ongoing since last week due to a road dispute on the campus of Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), protesters were aiming to march to Kızılay Square from nine different gathering points.
Similar calls for protests have also been made in İzmir, Eskişehir, Adana, Antalya and Kocaeli.
Doctor says no evidence of fall on protester’s body
Meanwhile, the head of the Hatay Chamber of Medicine, Selim Matkap, who was present during Atakan’s preliminary autopsy, said there was no evidence to prove that Atakan had fallen from a building.
“He has a compression fracture referred to as blunt trauma and bruising on his skull. His cause of death is either one of these. It cannot be stated that ‘one has fallen from a certain height’ with these indications,” Matkap reportedly said, according to web portal Bianet.
He also said the governor’s office should not have made any statements to the public before receiving certain information about the death, claiming that the office was trying to influence public opinion.
“We have not encountered any medical indications in the autopsy that would suggest a fall from a high place. There are no fractures in his bones, legs or arms. These fractures are usually seen in cases of falling,” Matkap said.
Egemen Bağış, Turkey’s EU minister, sent a post on Twitter saying the loss of every young person tore their hearts out, while condemning those who wanted to take advantage of the death for their own benefits to target the peace and stability of the country.
Hasan Akgöl, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy from Hatay, went to the hospital where Atakan died and told journalists that the death had occurred because of internal bleeding.
“Ahmet Atakan died of internal bleeding as a result of a strike he received behind his left ear. We have lost two of our children in Hatay, the perpetrators are not being found,” Akgöl said, referring to Atakan and Abdullah Cömert, who was allegedly killed by a police officer on June 2 in Armutlu. Ali İsmail Korkmaz, who was murdered in Eskişehir during the Gezi protests, was from the nearby Antakya neighborhood of Ekinci.
Aaccording to the BBC’s Turkish publishing branch BBC Türkçe, witnesses said they had seen police shoot Atakan with a gas canister. Özge Sapmaz, who is a reporter for Turkish Internet portal sendika.org and was at the scene during the injuring of Atakan, also said the youth was injured during a sudden and ferocious attack by police, which contrasted with the relative calm in the preceding two to three hours.
“Two armored police vehicles [Akrep] entered the street at that exact moment. That is when Ahmet fell. They [the police] sprayed tear gas everywhere after he fell down. Nobody could go near Ahmet because of the gas. He was put in a car,” Sapmaz is quoted as saying. “We returned to the scene after the hospital. Ahmet’s blood, shoe and gas canisters were on the ground.”
Another witness, the head of the left-wing Hatay Halkevi (People’s House), Eylem Mansuroğlu, said armored vehicles entered Armutlu at around 12.30 a.m.
“Everything happened just a few meters away from me. Ahmet first got hit by a gas canister that was shot from the vehicle. The Akrep hit him after he was shot, he was hit hard. We could not go immediately near him; nothing was visible because of the gas cloud. We patched [Ahmet] up and put him in a car,” Mansuroğlu reportedly said, according to BBC Türkçe.