Berkin, and: the exception murder

How devastating to again wake up to a state murder. The victim this time is Berkin Elvan, fifteen years old. During the Gezi protests in Istanbul last year, he went out to buy bread for his family. He was hit in the head by a teargas canister shot by the police. Taken to hospital, slipped into a coma and now, 269 days later, he passed away.

Berkin Elvan
Berkin Elvan

This latest state murder reminds me of other murders the state is directly responsible for and that happened during my time in Turkey. Hrant Dink, January 2007, less than a month after my arrival in the country. I can not put into words what a huge impression this horrible event made on me. The days I spent in front of Agos with all the people mourning, the massive funeral, and in the years afterwards the utterly shameful way the state delibarately failed to properly investigate the killing – a disgrace continuing up until this day.

Even more of an impact made the Roboski massacre. I learnt about it right after I woke up on 29 December 2011, a few hours after the tragedy in which the state bombed 34 citizens, most of them underaged, to death. It was done on purpose, let’s not forget to mention that. In the more than two years ever since, I have visited Roboski time and time again, and have become increasingly shocked by the mass murder and the way the state shoves it under the carpet.

Hrant Dink
Hrant Dink

And now Berkin Elvan. Yesterday the news was that his weight dropped to only a sixteen kilo’s. Fetherlight for a 15 year old. Not enough to hold on to life. ‘It is not Allah who took my son from he, but Tayyip Erdogan’, Berkin’s mother Gülsüm stated while crying her heart out. And we know already that those responsible – the highest in rank being Prime Minister Erdogan – will not be investigated, let alone be prosecuted and punished. The state will get away. There will be no justice for little Berkin, nor for his family.

In the close to one century the Turkish Republic has existed now, the state has not been held accountable for any of the thousands of murders it committed. From the early days of the republic, the state has ruthlessly killed to protect the ones in power and has gotten away with it, every single time, without exception. The ones that opposed Atatürk, the rebel leader Sheikh Said, the citizens of Kocgiri and Dersim, the dozens who died in prison after the 1980 coup, the victims of Sivas massacre in 1993 and of the pogroms against Greeks in 1955, the journalist Ugur Mumcu and writer and intellectual Musa Anter – the list is endless and knows no exceptions to the rule that the murders are all unsolved while we all know who did it.

Roboski massacre
Roboski massacre

But one day, the exception murder has to come. One of the future state murders – and really, don’t doubt for a second that more will follow – or a murder already committed will be investigated properly. Because Turkey has to change, it can just not be that the system will get away with cruelty in the length of times. The citizens of Turkey are increasingly becoming aware of the true face of the state and are demanding justice louder every single day. It’s impossible this won’t one day lead to the fall of the system.

One state murder will be the first to get thoroughly investigated. One representative of the state will be the first to face a judge and end up in jail for committed crimes. One family will be the first to experience what justice feels like and be strengthened by it in dealing with the pain of loss. That investigation, that prison sentence, that strengthening will then be the first of a long series in which the state gives account. Not only families but the whole country will start to heal. Please, let this day come soon. Turkey desperately needs it.

Berkin Elvan, like all the ones before you and after you, you will never ever be forgotten.

Update: click here for a list of children killed by the state since 1989.

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