Following the death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, students across Binghamton University gathered in protest of the Turkish government and police brutality in Turkey.
Elvan was a passerby during the 2013 Gezi Park protests, which contested construction plans for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park and evolved into a countrywide protest of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his administration. Elvan went into a coma after being shot in the head with a gas canister by police at the protest and died on March 11, 268 days later. He is the eighth casualty of the Gezi Park protests.
Family and friends were barred from seeing Elvan in the hospital, as police prevented any interaction, according to Can Aykas, a senior majoring in political science. After his death, Elvan was accused of having links to terrorists by Erdoğan.
“It is not acceptable governor behavior in a democratic country that ministers force innocent people to accept their decisions with violence and prohibitions…” wrote Arda Kursun, a senior majoring in political science, in an email. “Although he was not in protests, governments blamed him joining protests.”
Friday’s protest was organized by various Turkish students, and no student groups were involved. More than 60 people attended the protest at the Pegasus statue.
Cagin Bulakbasi, a senior majoring in political science, said the protest could be defined by four objectives.
“We demand an end to police brutality,” Bulakbasi wrote in an email. “We demand a free media. We demand open democratic dialogue between citizens and those elected to public service, not the dictates of special interest. We demand an investigation of governments abuse of power which has led to … the loss of innocent lives.”
According to Kursun, the goals of the protest were to unify the Turkish student body and inform the campus.
“First, we wanted to show that we are with Turkish people and we are sharing same feelings with them,” Kursun wrote. “They are not alone and they are totally deserve to freedom in our beautiful country. Our second mission is informing Binghamton University students that Turkish people are forced to live in conditions what governors desire.”
Ekim Kilic, a sophomore majoring in political science, said Elvan represented the democratic change desired in Turkey.
“Berkin is a big symbol for us,” Kilic wrote in an email. “The symbol of democracy and freedom.”