15-year-old Berkin dies; Erdoğan becomes a world leader

15-year-old Berkin dies; Erdoğan becomes a world leader

On March 11 at 7.00 a.m., Berkin’s family tweeted news of his death after 269 days of being in a coma, after he was struck in the head by a gas canister during a brutal police crackdown on Gezi Park protesters.

He became the eighth victim of the Gezi protests, following Mehmet Ayvalıtaş, Ahmet Cömert, Ethem Sarısülük, Ali İsmail Korkmaz, Ahmet Atakan, Medeni Yıldırım and Hasan Ferit Gedik. Hundreds of others were seriously hurt and more than a dozen lost their eyes as a result of disproportionate use of force by the security forces, which were later blessed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for writing a “historic saga” during the Gezi protests.

On this very day, on which human conscience has been seriously wounded by the death of Berkin and the recklessness of those who are in government, there’s no use in making further comment. Instead, here are some snapshots from today’s Turkey:

- Former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan’s recent anti-Semitic statement continues to draw reactions from all walks of life that still have sense of humanity. “This nation is aware what kind of a mentality we are struggling with. I have many things to tell you. But if Jews, Zoroastrians and atheists had done this to us, I would have understood it,” Çağlayan told voters in Mersin on March 8, referring to the corruption probes. (According to the summary of proceedings submitted to Parliament, Çağlayan received $52 million in bribes from Azeri-origin businessman Reza Zarrab.)

- Again on Çağlayan from the Agence France-Press story: The recording of the phone conversation posted on the Internet was purportedly between Zarrab and a confidant to whom Zarrab explains how Çağlayan allegedly complained about not having received a promised kickback of 10 million euros ($13.8 million). The voice, supposedly of Zarrab, says he was “very surprised” that the ex-minister hadn’t received the money that came from his company, saying it must have been “a mistake”.

- Çağlayan’s controversial statement follows his boss, Erdoğan, who called students who protested him during the opening of a road in early March “leftists, atheists and terrorists.” It seems that Erdoğan’s “othering” is becoming a party line, affecting even moderate figures of the Cabinet. Here is how Erdoğan’s rhetoric is interpreted by the Huffington Post:

“Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attacks everyone who disagrees with him and makes them the ‘other’ by publicly degrading and humiliating them. His ‘othering’ has become unbearable since the Gezi Park protests last spring, when he called demonstrators çapulcu (marauders).  Last week he called students of Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), which is Turkey’s Harvard, leftists, terrorists and atheists because they had protested him. If this is not hate speech, if this is not targeting a particular group, what is?

Mr. Erdoğan has to remember that diversity is a reality of human life. Both diversity and pluralism are natural in a modern democracy. We cannot think of democracy without them. People have to learn that they can cohabit with people of different beliefs, races and traditions. Each individual is important. So, respecting differences is a must for harmony in society. In a strong democracy, people expect to learn from each other. Leaders should acknowledge that to create radical change and to make a difference in a country, people need each other and that this creates closeness.”

Arzu Kaya Uranli, the writer of this piece for Huffington Post, is very right in calling on Erdoğan to adopt universally accepted human rights by pledging adequate respect to every individual in this diverse world.

- Speaking to selected journalists travelling with him to Şanlıurfa where he held a rally on Monday, Prime Minister Erdoğan denied his own words about banning Facebook and YouTube as part of governmental actions to protect the national interests and family values. “I have not mentioned about total closure. I said they could be closed if necessary. Social media instruments are widely used in the world. But precautions can be taken against them if national security is threatened,” he said. He also heralded that the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), the media watchdog, was working on this issue, outlining that its red lines were “national security and family values.”

- The founder of the popular Turkish website Ekşi Sözlük (Sour Dictionary), Sedat Kapanoğlu, has just said that it would be “idiocy” for him to continue running such a website in Turkey, given the growing restrictions on the use of the Internet. “We now have the same Internet structure as countries we have been making fun of, such as China or Iran,” Kapanoğlu reportedly said. 

- The government’s desperate efforts to regain the hearts of secularists and social democrats by paving the way for the release of dozens of former and on-duty officers, as well as prominent academics and journalists who have spent years behind bars on charges of attempting to topple the government, have created some very sour results as well. Among them, the worst was the release of five men accused of murdering three Christian missionaries in 2007.  They walked free from prison, landing another blow on the Turkish judicial system that was unable to complete the prosecution process of these men in seven years, although all the evidence is clear.

- Among other things, we continue to learn more from leaked voice recordings about how Erdoğan is allegedly coordinating relations with media, interfering in the judiciary, following the construction of his villas in Urla and Çatalca, and discussing with his son how to “zero the money” in their houses in the aftermath of Dec. 17…

- Addressing voters in Antalya on March 10, EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the following: “From now on this country, this people, has gained self-confidence. Because it has Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a world leader prime minister that this country is proud of.”

- And Berkin dies.