‘Dead children don’t grow up’: Gezi victim Berkin Elvan honored on 16th birthday
Berkin Elvan's funeral on March 12, 2014, turned into one of the biggest public demonstrations in Turkey's history, with the attendance of hundreds of thousands of mourners in Istanbul.Tributes poured out for a teenager who died from injuries sustained by the impact of a police teargas canister during the 2013 Gezi protests in Istanbul, on what would have been his 16th birthday Jan. 5. The commemoration once again put the impunity of the officers involved in the incident in the spotlight.
Berkin Elvan was 14 when he was fatally injured by the police and fell into a coma. He turned 15 while still unconscious but failed to recover from his injuries and died two months after his birthday, on March 11, 2014.
Elvan was struck by the tear gas while he was on the street to buy bread in Istanbul’s Okmeydanı neighborhood on June 16, 2013. Elvan had dropped to 16 kilograms while hospitalized before passing away, while the police officers responsible for killing him have yet to be prosecuted despite the passage of 16 months, all making the boy's 16th birthday an even more symbolic occasion.
Elvan’s family issued a message for people to mourn the young victim on his birthday, with a reference to a famous verse from legendary Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet, “dead children don’t grow up.”
“Berkin doesn’t grow up anymore, and passing time doesn’t heal the wounds of a murdered child. Those who killed Berkin have not stood trial yet. There is no justice, no law, no suspect and no punishment in this country. The only truth is: Dead children don’t grow up,” the message said.
Social media users have also sent their messages of mourning and sympathy under the hashtag #BerkinElvan16Yaşında (Berkin Elvan is 16 years old).
His father, Sami Elvan, denounced the crackdowns against activists and protesters waged by the Turkish security forces in recent years.
“I just cannot understand it: You murder a child. You hide the killer. You oppress those people who take legal action. But they don’t know my son at all, they just tell you that the same thing done to Berkin can happen to their kid,” Elvan told daily BirGün in an interview on the occasion of his son's 16th birthday.
Sami Elvan also said he was certain that he has been eavesdropped and monitored since his son was brought to hospital. “We stayed at the hospital for nine months, but we are the one who have been followed as if it were us who shot our child. Even now all the phones in my family are being eavesdropped. I also know that our house is being watched,” Elvan said.
“People adopted Berkin. We lost him in the most tragic of circumstances. So it is normal that they listen to and follow us,” he added.
Berkin’s father also referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's now famous advice to have at least three children per family.
“I had three children. You shot one of them. Why did you do that? Because you feed yourself with blood and would not be there if there is no blood to spill,” Elvan said.
At an election rally last year that was held as the youngster was still struggling to survive, Erdoğan encouraged his supporters to boo Elvan’s family, calling him a “terrorist.”
The officer who fired the fatal canister has yet to be identified, but the trial has made progress after several pieces of footage showing both before and after the incident emerged, despite repeated claims of a lack of cameras by the police. The forensic report was released just two weeks ago, some nine months after Elvan’s death.
Elvan's funeral was attended by hundreds of thousands of people, but mourners were subsequently subjected to a ferocious attack by police using water cannon and tear gas.