Gezi protests tear gas victim dies of cancer
Mehmet İstif, 36, was diagnosed for tongue cancer last year, a few weeks after undergoing surgery to remove wounds and lumps that had formed after inhaling police tear gas.A protester who was receiving cancer treatment allegedly triggered by the inhalation of police tear gas during last summer’s Gezi protests succumbed to his disease on May 13, Doğan News Agency reported.
Mehmet İstif, 36, was diagnosed for tongue cancer last year, a few weeks after undergoing surgery to remove wounds and lumps that had formed after being hospitalized for sustaining an “allergic reaction” due to the effects of tear gas sustained at a protest in the Mediterranean province of Mersin. According to İstif, doctors said the wound that did not heal properly ultimately developed into cancer.
İstif said he first went to the hospital after a riot police officer sprayed him with tear gas at a distance of just 40 centimeters while he was participating in a demonstration during the opening ceremony of the Mediterranean Games in June 2013.
“He pulled the trigger [spraying] gas with a very high pressure. I did not have time to close my mouth. I started to scream with the pain of the gas that filled my mouth and my throat,” İstif told daily Hürriyet, adding that it was the first time that he had been confronted by tear gas.
“I did not immediately go to the hospital as I thought that other people also felt the same degree of pain as me, and I was afraid of being detained,” he said.
After contracting cancer, İstif lost his ability to speak and was only able to communicate by writing. His mother, who did not know to read or write and was unable to interact with her son, told daily Hürriyet in January that they intended to open a lawsuit against the officer who sprayed tear gas.
The police crackdown on demonstrations linked with the Gezi Park protest have claimed eight victims, the latest being 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who died March 11 after spending nine months in a coma following a blow to the head caused by a police tear gas canister.