You send your teenager down to the store for a few mundane essentials. He never comes home again. Shot in the head by police with a “non-lethal” tear gas canister, your son lies in a coma for 269 days, his weight dropping to less than 40 lbs, before finally dying. Your head of state calls the boy a “stooge of a terrorist organization” because he was wearing a scarf when shot by the police. Ten thousand people attend his funeral. You are Turkish couple Gülsüm Elvan and Sami Elvan.
His name was Berkin Elvan. He was fifteen years old when he died.
“I gave the orders myself,” said the Prime Minister.
The Turkish youth, whose attack by police and subsequent death galvanized the nation, had the ill fortune to encounter a militarized police force out in force to quell the protests known in the West as Occupy Gezi or the Turkish Spring. Originally a protest to defend the green space of Istanbul’s Gezi Park from allegedly corrupt developers and politicians who sought to turn it into a mosque and a shopping mall, the uprising had grown into a national phenomenon uniting those who opposed the increasingly fundamentalist-appeasing, authoritarian regime of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Into bloody, embattled streets stepped Berkin Elvan that day, just looking for a loaf of bread, never to return whole.
And that is what is called “collateral damage.”
March 12, 2015 is the one-year anniversary of the youth’s death, and it was marked by protests in the streets of Istanbul and other cities around the country. His family’s lawsuit against the government has been unsuccessful thus far: they have not even learned the name of the police officer who shot their son. Reports from Turkey say that in city after city, protesters were met with strong police presence, and that clashes have occurred, with large numbers of arrests, and the use of water cannon and tear gas.
Today’s Zaman reports:
Dozens of shop owners in İstanbul’s Okmeydanı neighborhood, where Berkin was shot to death, closed their shops on Wednesday. Owners in the Şark Kahvesi neighborhood also kept their shops closed and left bread and flowers at the place where the incident occurred.
A bust of Berkin was reportedly attacked by several undefined people who allegedly carried Justice and Development Party (AK Party) flags in İzmir. The statue was erected with a ceremony on March 1, which Berkin’s parents attended and where they released a statement saying: “Berkin will not grow up. The time that has passed has not healed the pain of having a slain child.”
Speaking to the press following the incident, Güzelbahçe Mayor Mustafa İnce said those who attacked the statue are on the same level as the terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Mayor İnce also said that despite the government’s threatening rhetoric, they will continue to keep Berkin’s name alive forever.
Over a thousand people took to the streets in Istanbul, with hundreds more in Ankara and other cities. Protesters chanted “Belkin Elvan is immortal,” and eight students were arrested in Gezi Park for splashing symbolic red paint and attempting to raise a banner that said “Belkin is here.”
Turkish hacktivist crew Redhack, who made headlines for hacking Turkey’s electricity utility back in November of 2014, forgiving all outstanding citizen debt for electricity, has also gotten involved. They defaced the website of the Istanbul Police, inserting a redirect which bounces people from the website (which is still in place and, other than the fact nobody can stay on it, working fine) to another at http://pasteht.ml/Y19qE. To express it in metaphor, the police station is still there; Redhack just tore up the driveway and rebuilt it to lead to their hacker space instead. This new site features a typically “retro-cyber aesthetic” featuring animated green scrolling vertical text and a picture of Elvan’s face, floating over a poetical injunction to hold peace and love in your heart, be brave, and support the revolution. The text hails Elvan as a martyr and revolutionary icon.
And, of course, includes links to follow Redhack on Twitter.
Truly appalling Bing Translate of the text, for which I apologize:
BERKIN ELVAN ÖLÜMSÜZDÜR
We turned to this day thousands of ´ BERKIN HASEN
Gunman continues to raise their fears.
They are scared because;
We hope they will come to understand the revolution, when BANKS are
That is why fears from Lima
Killer from the AKP and fear that the revolution keeps servants Berkin.
To work around that you want Banks that growth.
BERKIN ´ s revolution and freedom fight more hopeful, more love will grow
No matter what you do in the end
Anthony Jewell, LIVE killer KORUYAMAYACAKSINIZ
Hope is growing in the street fight, fight
hoping to teach the child of hope continues to raise ELVAN fight BERKİN
Google Translate version:
Berkin Elvan is immortal
Our berkin’i return to this day thousands of Berk
The killers continue to grow their fears.
Because they are afraid;
We BERKİN dedikçe they hope, the future, they understand REVOLUTION
Fear is that Berk
Killer AKP and leash servants are afraid of the revolution Berk.
The delay until the desired growth of Berk.
Berk hopeful than the revolution and freedom fight, to grow more in love
structure at the end of what you do
Farewell to PROTECT Berk will not forget, can not eventually participating
Hope fights, street fights growing
Berkin Elvan fight child of hope continues to grow in hope of teaching
Since 1997, the Red Hackers (RedHack)