WASHINGTON — The Turkish government, run by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, continues to face inner turmoil after Erdogan said a dead teenager was linked to “terrorist organizations.”
Reuters reported that the 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who was in a coma for nine months after being hit in the head by a gas canister, passed away last week.
Erdogan, addressing a crowd of supporters, said, “This kid with steel marbles in his pockets, with a slingshot in his hand, his face covered with a scarf, who had been taken up into terrorist organizations, was unfortunately subjected to pepper gas.”
Family and opposition supporters said he was not a part of an opposition protest in Istanbul, yet he was hit in the head while running an errand to buy bread by a gas canister. The canister was intended to disrupt opposition protesters and was used by Turkish police.
The boy became a symbol and rallying cry for the opposition, who have criticized Erdogan over a graft and corruption scandal that has enveloped his party and ruling government. Erdogan claimed that a U.S.-based Turkish exile has orchestrated the scandal to discredit Erdogan, with anonymous releases of wiretapped conversations between Erdogan’s cronies.
His response has been to announce a ban of Facebook and YouTube, since the latter was where the anonymous wiretaps were released to the public. This followed earlier moves to silence the Turkish opposition by cracking down on Twitter as well as banning alcohol sales at certain times.