Istanbul - Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old who was injured during the Gezi Park protests, died yesterday after 269 days in a coma. Elvan was merely a bystander when a teargas canister hit him during the protests.
Conveying condolences to Elvan's family, President Abdullah Gül said Turkey would take measures to ensure "this tragedy will not be repeated," assuring restraint in future police response to protests.
Elvan's death was announced by his family via Twitter. "We lost our son Berkin Elvan at 07:00 today. May he rest in peace," the family wrote.
Elvanwas out to buy bread when he found himself caught in the middle of a confrontation between police and protesters on June 16, 2013 in Istanbul's Okmeydanı district.
He sustained a head injury when a tear gas canister struck him. He was hospitalized but later lapsed into a coma. After suffering an epileptic fit on March 6, his condition worsened.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül made a phonecall to the boy's father, Sami Elvan, on Monday, hours before his death and expressed his grief over Berkin's condition. The father then asked the president to remove riot police deployed outside the hospital, a request which Gül granted. Riot police had previously been stationed in front of the hospital during a vigil held by family and friends of Elvan.
The president also sent his condolences to the family while speaking at a press conference in Ankara yesterday. "I would like to stress that we should be more careful and should not allow such tragedies to happen again," Gül said.
The president noted that he talked to Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu "to take precautions against any repeat of such incidents."
The Turkish police was the target of criticism over what critics have called "disproportionate use of force" during the crackdown.
Upon hearing of Elvan's death, hundreds of people flocked to the hospital in Okmeydanı to extend condolences to the grieving family and a crowd gathered outside the hospital chanting slogans such as "Berkin Elvan is immortal." The Gezi Park protests, which began over the summer in opposition to the redevelopment of Istanbul's central green and construction of a replica Ottoman- era building, evolved into sustained nationwide rallies against the AK Party government.
Following violent confrontations with security forces across Turkey, a large number of demonstrators were arrested. Several protesters set police vehicles ablaze and damaged buildings. An estimated 11 people were killed and thousands injured in skirmishes between police and protestors from May to June.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has acknowledged that police actions toward protesters during initially peaceful protests were harsh and has since rebuked "those responsible for it."