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Turkey: Death of Young Protester Triggers Outrage

Tens of thousands at funeral of a boy who died nine months after being hit by a police teargas canister.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 3/13/2014, 6:14 PM

protests in Turkey
protests in Turkey
Reuters

Tens of thousands of people gathered Wednesday around the Alevi mosque in Istanbul's Okmeydani neighborhood, for the funeral of a Turkish boy who died nine months after being hit by a police teargas canister.

The death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan sparked violent clashes between protesters and riot police across the country.

Berkin was hit in the head by a teargas canister after going out to buy bread during the anti-government Gezi Park protests last year. The boy had been in a coma for 269 days.

When he died Tuesday morning, he only weighed 16 kilograms (35 pounds). He is the eighth person, including one police officer, to die in the protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

"Berkin's murderers are the AKP police," protesters shouted, referring to Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development party (AKP).

The boy's mother blamed the prime minister for her son's death. "It wasn't God who took my son - it was Erdogan," she told journalists, crying.

President Abdullah Gül offered the family his condolences. In an interview with the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, he said he would "do everything in my power so something like this won't happen again."

After the funeral, the enraged crowd marched to the center of Istanbul, reported Deutsche Welle. Among the protesters were students and parents, but also members of a variety of Turkish parties. Posters showed photos of the eight victims.

Elvan's death “has brought the people back out onto the streets all over the country,” the German news source reported. Protesters and police clashed in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and other cities, with tear gas and water cannons being used. Protesters reported the officers also fired plastic pellets. The protesters, in return, threw stones and fireworks at the officers. Rioters in Istanbul erected barricades and set fire to piles of garbage.

Many people sought refuge in shopping malls, but those were hit with tear gas as well. Hürriyet reported at night that a police man had died of a heart attack in a cloud of tear gas. Numerous victims had to be treated in hospitals.