11th March 2014 – A teenager who fell into a coma after being hit by a tear gas canister during mass anti-government protests last year died at an Istanbul hospital on Tuesday, his family said.
“To our people: We lost Berkin Elvan today at 7am. Condolences to us all,” his family said in a message on Twitter. After his death, family supporters outside the Istanbul hospital began pelting a police minibus with objects and the police responded with tear gas. They had also used tear gas yesterday to disperse a crowd keeping vigil at the hospital.
Berkin was walking to buy bread when he was hit on the head by a tear gas canister fired by police as mass anti-government protests swept Istanbul in June 2013. He was 14 at the time. Berkin’s story – he spent 268 days in a coma – gripped the nation and became a symbol of the heavy-handed tactics used by police to reign in the biggest demonstrations that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had faced since coming to power in 2003.
The protests started as a small environmentalist movement to save an Istanbul park from being razed. They snowballed into a nationwide wave of protests against Mr Erdogan, who critics say had become increasingly authoritarian. The teenager’s death brought the toll from the unrest to at least eight including a policeman. The protests saw an estimated 2.5 million people take to the streets across Turkey over three weeks to demand Mr Erdogan’s resignation.
More than 8,000 people were injured in the demonstrations, according to the medics.