Fri, Mar 14, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Turkish police fire tear gas at mourners after teen’s funeral

The Guardian, ISTANBUL, Turkey

Riot police fires tear gas to disperse protesters at a rally following the funeral of teenager Berkin Elvan in Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday.

Photo: EPA

Riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse mourners on Wednesday after the funeral of a 15-year-old injured during anti-government unrest last year.

Tens of thousands joined the funeral of Berkin Elvan, who had spent 269 days in a coma after being struck on the head with a teargas canister when he went out to buy bread for his family.

At his funeral in Istanbul’s Sisli District, mourners threw carnations and brandished loaves of bread. Others waved signs reading “Berkin Elvan is immortal” and “Murderers are among us.”

News of Elvan’s death prompted a new outbreak of violent street protests against the government and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose reputation is being shredded by a corruption scandal implicating his family and political allies.

Violent clashes erupted in more than 30 Turkish cities on Tuesday as anger boiled over at the teenager’s death.

“He was just a child,” said Eray, 18, a student who joined the funeral procession.

“He should have been in school now, studying, just like us, but this government killed him. We don’t expect any justice from them. We don’t expect anything from them anymore,” he said.

As the funeral ended police trained tear gas and water cannons on the mourners.

The renewed unrest is expected to add to the pressure on Erdogan, whose government is reeling from the large-scale corruption scandal which followed waves of anti-government protests all over Turkey last summer.

“We want freedom and democracy here, not violence and war,” Ayser Guler, 51, said.

As a mother of two children, her main concern was about the future of the country.

“Turkey is very polarized right now, but we are not afraid. We will keep on fighting for justice,” she said.

Gurkan, 33, a textiles worker, believed that the upcoming elections would sweep out the government.

“We don’t want violence. They came in via elections and they will go out via elections. This government does not defend justice or democracy,” Gurkan said.

The government took no chances with the funeral, deploying riot police en masse. Many protesters and mourners were angry at the huge police presence.

A group of youngsters stopped by a pharmacy to buy dust masks and menthol rub against tear gas, just in case.

“They killed Berkan,” one said. “They are killers. We have lost all trust in our government.”

When a group of young protesters took down election campaign posters of the ruling Justice and Development, or AK party, to set them on fire, a woman walked up to stop them.

“There is no need to rise to their provocations,” she said.

“They are just waiting for a reason to use their tear gas and their water cannon again,” she added.

An elderly man, sitting in a corner of the square, cradled a loaf of bread, a symbol of the teenager’s death.

“At least I am still holding on to this bread,” he said. “At least they haven’t yet been able to steal that from me.”

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