Tens of thousands of Turks turned out in Istanbul for the funeral of a 15-year-old boy whose death, from injuries sustained during last summer’s Gezi Park protests, has sparked the biggest street unrest since then.
Protesters who attended the funeral later clashed with police, and there were similar scenes of violence in the capital Ankara and other cities, as security forces fired tear gas and water cannons to break up anti-government crowds.
Demonstrations spread throughout the country yesterday, hours after Berkin Elvan died at an Istanbul hospital. He had been in a coma for nine months, after receiving a head wound from a tear-gas canister. His death has added to anger against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government over a corruption probe that has implicated the premier and several ministers.
“These protests have the potential to seriously damage Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s political ambitions less than three weeks ahead of the critical local elections on 30 March,” Wolfango Piccoli, managing director of political risk analyst Teneo Intelligence, said in an e-mailed report today.
Yields on benchmark two-year bonds rose 15 basis points today to 11.6 percent, the highest since 2009. The lira slid to a five-week low yesterday, before paring losses today.
Erdogan, unlike President Abdullah Gul and several ministers, hasn’t expressed public regret for Elvan’s death. That could hurt his prospects of winning the presidency in an August election, said Piccoli.
While the corruption allegations “have had little impact on Erdogan’s electoral popularity,” the death of Elvan, who was on his way to buy bread, “cuts across political divides and will have particular resonance amongst the urban and rural poor who form Erdogan’s core support base,” he said.
Many protesters took to the streets carrying loaves of bread as a symbol of Elvan’s death. They shouted “murderer police” and and called for the government’s resignation.
Elvan’s father vowed to fight for justice for his son, and accused Erdogan of failing to bring the killers to justice. “If he has a conscience, he should bring the murderers of my child into the open,” he said in an interview with CNN Turk television today.
Police also used tear gas and water cannons yesterday against thousands of demonstrators around Istanbul’s Taksim Square, and in central squares of Ankara and Izmir. As many as 200 people were arrested nationwide last night, and dozens more today, according to local media.
Erdogan, speaking at an election rally in the southeastern city of Siirt today, rejected allegations of graft and accused the demonstrators of damaging property.
Elvan’s death brought to eight the toll from last year’s clashes, sparked in May by plans to redevelop Istanbul’s Gezi Park.