This Is What's Going on in Turkey Right Now

This Is What's Going on in Turkey Right Now

It's the age of political protests. In Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand and more, demonstrators are swarming the streets to voice their anger and dissatisfaction with their respective governments. Now a fresh round of protests are beginning in Turkey as well, inspired by the death of an Istanbul teenager who was injured during last year's anti-government rallies.

Berkin Elvan, 15, passed away on Tuesday after being in a coma for nine months. On June 16 he had left home to buy a loaf of bread and got caught up in the protests. He was struck on the head by a police tear gas canister and suffered blunt force trauma. In July, angry crowds who'd gathered to hear his mother speak were dispered by Turkish riot police with pepper sprays and beatings.

It's been relatively quiet in Istanbul since then, but Elvan's recent death has reignited the flame. Enraged by the death of an innocent boy at the hands of the Turkish police, tens of thousands of people protested in over 30 cities across the country. Thousands of mourners turned up to Elvan's funeral and began a march, while students in Ankara boycotted class and staged sit-ins.


Image Credit: AP

But it seems that Turkish police have yet to learn that their heavy-handed response is precisely what the protesters are rallying against. Instead of simply maintaining crowd control, the police dispersed protesters in Istanbul and Ankara with tear gas and water cannons. Mourners who were holding a vigil outside Elvan's hospital were also attacked with tear gas.

Image Credit: AP

In fact, the Turkish public's response has only grown stronger since the riot police stepped in. Many are now marching with pictures of Elvan or using loaves of bread to symbolize his innocence and the injustice of his death.


Image Credit: AP

Renewed unrest in Turkey has been predicted for some time, but Elvan's death was the spark that renewed the protesters' demand for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to resign. Local elections are scheduled for Mar. 30, and Erdogan has promised that he will step down if his AK party loses power. It remains to be seen whether the protests will die down enough for peaceful elections to take place, but if the riot police continue to use unnecessary tactics to attack the crowd, they may simply fan the flame of unrest.

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Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

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