Officials awarded valedictorian by taking his award: Education minister
Minister Avcı told reporters on June 19 that he has watched Önder’s interview regarding the incident on TV and saw the student’s psychology was not negatively affected by the incident. AA PhotoTurkey’s Education Minister Nabi Avcı said taking the award from the valedictorian of a high school in the western Turkish province of Kocaeli after his speech hailing Gezi protesters can be seen as a reward, while also indirectly criticizing the family for reporting the incident to the media.
Işıtan Önder had risked his award with his acceptance speech, commemorating the young victims of the Gezi Park protests the school principal said June 17. A few days after the incident, the principal resigned.
Avcı told reporters on June 19 that he has watched Önder’s interview regarding the incident on TV and saw the student’s psychology was not negatively affected by the incident.
“As far as I could see from the interview, this student does not seem to be affected by the incident. To the contrary, he says he is motivated by it and will prepare for the university entrance exam, aiming to rank first in both the exam and at the university. That means the effects of the school decision are not as significant as we thought it would be. This is why those who gave this punishment [taking back his award] have awarded him in a way. They have increased his motivation and also caused media coverage that has pleased the student,” said Avcı.
He also said the family could have talked to the school about the removal of the award before talking to the media about the incident. “They did not do that. They could object to the decision. But they did not do that either, but complained and opened a lawsuit against the decision and talked to the media. I wish these incidents would not have taken place in this order,” he added.
In his graduation speech, commemorating the deaths of Gezi Park victims Ali İsmail Korkmaz and Berkin Elvan, Önder stressed that he stood on the podium “through luck,” noting how easy it has recently become in Turkey to be killed so young.
“Their right to live was taken from them,” Önder said. “But know that people like Ali İsmail Korkmaz and Berkin Elvan will always be sitting on these school desks.”
Önder’s acceptance speech reportedly angered school principal Ahmet Kemal Saral and was featured in local newspapers.