Top student risks award with Gezi-supporting speech

Top student risks award with Gezi-supporting speech

İZMİT – Doğan News Agency
Top student risks award with Gezi-supporting speech

A disciplinary investigation is ongoing for Isıltan Önder's speech. DHA Photo

The valedictorian of a high school in the western Turkish province of Kocaeli has risked his award with his acceptance speech commemorating the young victims of the Gezi Park protests, the school principal said June 17.

Işıtan Önder addressed 170 of his peers during the graduation ceremony in Gazi Anadolu High School on June 12. Commemorating the deaths of Gezi Park victims Ali İsmail Korkmaz and Berkin Elvan, Önder stressed 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. Rumors circulated on social media late June 16, suggesting the award given to Önder was taken back by the school.

Saral confirmed that a disciplinary investigation is ongoing regarding Önder’s speech. “Schools are still open. The educational season is continuing. The student gave an irrelevant speech. An investigation is continuing. If he receives a disciplinary punishment, it will affect his valedictorian award,” Saral said.