Erdogan links dead teenager to ‘terrorist’ groups, fans political tension

Turkish PM fans political tension when he linked the dead teenager to 'terrorist' groups.

The teenager's death had caused unrest across turkey.(Reuters) The teenager's death had caused unrest across turkey with people taking to the streets chanting 'Tayyip! Killer! and "Everywhere is Berkin ". (Reuters)
By: Reuters | Istanbul | Published on:March 15, 2014 9:04 pm

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said a teenager who died this week after sustaining a head injury in anti-government protests last summer was linked to “terrorist organisations”, in comments likely to fan political tensions.

The death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan on Tuesday after nine months in a coma sparked Turkey’s worst unrest since nationwide anti-government demonstrations last June, compounding Erdogan’s woes as he battles a graft scandal that has become one of the biggest challenges of his decade in power.

Erdogan made his remarks, his first about Elvan, late on Friday at a campaign rally in southeast Turkey ahead of nationwide municipal elections on March 30.

“This kid with steel marbles in his pockets, with a slingshot in his hand, his face covered with a scarf, who had been taken up into terror organisations, was unfortunately subjected to pepper gas,” Erdogan told a crowd of supporters in a speech broadcast on state-run TRT-Haber news channel.

“How could the police determine how old that person was who had a scarf on his face and was hurling steel marbles with a slingshot in his hand?”

Elvan, then 14, got caught up in street battles in Istanbul on June 16 while going to buy bread for his family. He was hit in the head by what is believed to be a police gas canister, slipped into a coma and became a rallying point for government opponents, who held regular vigils at the hospital where he lay in intensive care.

After his death, riot police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber pellets to disperse tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets of Turkey’s largest cities chanting “Tayyip! Killer!” and “Everywhere is Berkin, everywhere is resistance.”

At campaign rallies in the past few days, Erdogan has accused a coalition of “anarchists, terrorists and vandals” as well as opposition parties and an influential U.S.-based Islamic cleric of orchestrating the unrest to undermine him.

Using harsh words unlikely to soothe public anger, Erdogan – who unlike President Abdullah Gul and other public figures did not send condolences to Elvan’s family – criticised the boy’s parents and suggested he had not really gone to buy bread.

“His mother says ‘my son’s killer is the prime minister’. I know love, fondness for one’s child, but I could not understand why you threw steel marbles and carnations into your son’s grave,” Erdogan said at his election campaign rally.

Elvan’s family are Alevis, a religious minority in mainly Sunni Muslim Turkey which espouses a liberal version of Islam and has often been at odds with the Islamist-rooted government.

Erdogan contrasted Elvan’s death with that of 22-year-old Burakcan Karamanoglu, who was shot dead in Istanbul on Wednesday after an apparent standoff with a group of anti-government protesters. Erdogan has blamed his death on a far-leftist group.

“Our son Burakcan was …continued »

Do you like this story