Neither apology nor call for justice

Many observers wondered how Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would respond to the death of Berkin Elvan.  Berkin Elvan was a fourteen year old boy who was struck in the head by a policeman’s tear gas canister last June.  He lay in a coma for nine months before he finally passed away earlier this week.   Because he was out to fetch his family bread when he was struck, a loaf of bread has become a symbol of mourning in Turkey, a signal of innocence betrayed and justice denied.


Would Erdogan do as many politicians across the political spectrum have done and wish the Elvan’s family condolences?  Would he do as the family an others had hoped and help jump start a highly flawed investigation?  Would there be a call for justice?  Or at least compassion for an child whose life has been cut short by those very people sworn to protect him?

Erdogan’s response, sadly, echoes that which he employed during the Gezi protests.  He has doubled down on wild claims and worked to rally his base.  “Don’t be fooled,” he told a sympathetic crowd earlier today.  Instead, according to press accounts:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday a teenage boy who died from injuries sustained during anti-government protests last year, was a thug with links to a “terrorist organisation”.

“His family claims he was out to buy bread, but no such thing.”

When facts can be changed to suit one’s own views, when children are labeled terrorists by their own leaders, what hope is there for justice?

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

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