Protests erupted in Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday after a 15-year-old boy succumbed to injuries inflicted during police crackdowns on anti-government protestors last June, Turkish media reported.
After being in coma for almost a year, Berkin Elvan, 15, who was hit in the head by a tear gas canister, died early Tuesday. News of his death sparked renewed protests centered in Istanbul's Gezi Park, the staging ground for the anti-government protests that took place last summer.
“Several demonstrations are being staged across Turkey to protest against the death of Berkin Elvan,” Hurriyet Daily reported. “Police resorted to tear gas and water cannon against protesters who started gathering in central Ankara [Turkey’s capital].”
In June, ant-government protesters gathered across parts of Turkey to rally against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and for what they called his party’s infringement of democratic rights. The movement was referred to as Taksim Square or Gezi Park, from the area where protests were concentrated.
In response, Erdogan called for a harsh crackdown on protests, which left at least eight people killed and many injured. “It is not Allah who has taken my son away. It is Erdoğan,” Gülsüm Elvan, the mother of the latest victim, said.
Earlier in the day, riot police arrived at the hospital where Berkin died, and a scuffle ensued between pro-Gezi movement supporters and police.
“The police officers did not restrain themselves at all from using gas. They once again used disproportionate force,” Melda Onur, an opposition party member, said, as reported by Hurriyet. "Tear gas even entered inside the hospital." she added.
While many Turks are calling for nationwide protests, the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul issued a statement warning Americans to avoid areas of demonstrations. “Exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings or protests. U.S. citizens are reminded that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence,” the statement said.
The news follows a growing weariness among Turks over Erdogan’s controversial role in the crackdown on protesters, as well as his allege involvement in a recent corruption scandal that shook the country.
A reporter for the Wall Street Journal in Istanbul tweeted about some parts of the day's events:
â€” Human Rights Watch (@hrw) March 11, 2014
— Ayla Albayrak (@aylushka_a) March 11, 2014