When Tragedy is Politically Convenient:

On Tuesday Mehmet Selim Kiraz, the prosecutor in charge of the Berkin Elvan case was shot dead while held hostage at an Istanbul court house.  Two members (or three? reports seem to differ) of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) demanded police confession for the shooting of Berkin Elvan (a fifteen year old who died after being shot by police manning a protest – on his way to buy some bread at a neighborhood shop, though later the government washed him as a “thug” with “ties to terrorist organizations”; more here.).

Photoshopped image that shows the 14 yr old boy as a protester

...and the real photo on the R

…and the real photo on the R

The policeman who shot and ultimately killed the teenager is supposedly known by the state, but no names have been publicly released, and Erdogan continues to make statements like

“What is it? They wanted to hold a ceremony to commemorate Berkin Elvan. Will we perform a ceremony for every death? He died and it’s over.”

When exactly Kiras was killed remains uncertain – according to ruling party line, security forces were sent into the building only after the kidnappers began shooting; other sources claim the security forces were already in the building.  Both Kiraz and his kidnappers died in or briefly following the shootout, leaving no non-state witnesses. And why a group demanding a confession on the case would attack Kiraz is even stranger yet – as he was the prosecutor probing the case and announced last month that he had identified three police officers involved in Elvan’s death and was close to finishing his investigation. Why kill the one man who could give them the information they wanted? (a few photos summarizing how the public feels about Elvan’s death below)

A few other aspects of the incident remain extremely unclear – how do two or three armed men walk into a courthouse without ID and without setting off sensors or arousing any suspicion? Why did Turkish authorities ban coverage of the incident and force TV news to cut live broadcasting? Why was the picture at the top of this post banned from Turkish media, and twitter blocked for a day before all copies of the image were removed? Other events to have fallen under similar bans include ISIS storming Turkey’s Mosul consulate, corruption investigations into government ministers, and the worst mining disaster in the nation’s history, so, uh…

The greatest question seems to be – who benefits? Certainly not the left, and certainly not critics of the government.  Certainly the men about to be named in killing an unarmed teenager.  And quite possibly the current government.

Let me explain with a disturbingly parallel case.

When living in Urumqi (2012-2013) there were several reported attacks by “Uyghur terrorists” and “Uyghur terror groups”. Attacks were always small and isolated – one man waving a gun in a police station, six police officers killed in a small desert town – and immediately isolated after the alleged attacks.  Reporters couldn’t get in for weeks, and by the time they could all evidence would have been demolished, and no one was willing to talk. The Chinese state used these incidents as a rallying point, a way to convince Uyghur moderates that there were dangerous elements among them, and that they needed the protection of the Chinese state in order to ensure security and prosperity.  These attacks always justified increasing crackdowns on freedom, laws that would have otherwise been pills too bitter to swallow.  In short, every time there was an attack, the Chinese state gained more power and more trust – at very little cost (half a dozen lives in a country of 1 billion and not an exemplary record for honoring sanctity of life).

A few more in-depth blog posts I wrote about this while in Xinjiang can be found here, here and here.

I’d also note that this murder (and two other recent attacks with very unclear intentions) come shortly after the highly unpopular (and more than borderline unconstitutional)  Domestic Security Laws (recoined as “Legal Package To Protect Freedoms” by the AKP) were passed, greatly expanding police and government powers in the face of ‘threat’.

Could the attacks (whoever perpetrated them, however they happened) be used to justify the need for greater ‘security powers’ by the government and convince people to trade their freedoms for security?

I’ll just leave you with some quotes from the beloved Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu:

“We are aware that we face an axis of evil and there is an attempt to instigate an atmosphere of chaos ahead of the election,”

“There will be no toleration, not even for a minute, of those who go out [to protest] on the street without permission, threatening the country’s security, whoever they are and whatever their intent is,”

“After what the murderers did yesterday, I have ordered all precautions to be taken…Turkey will enter the elections in peace.”

A few more news stories here: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/01/us-turkey-violence-akp-idUSKBN0MS3OE20150401

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/01/europe/turkey-blackouts-hostages/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32143793

http://www.wsj.com/articles/gunmen-attack-istanbuls-police-headquarters-1427906697

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-pm-vows-to-prevent-all-unauthorized-street-protests.aspx?PageID=238&NID=80479&NewsCatID=338

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/finding-the-balance-between–freedoms-and-fighting-terrorism.aspx?PageID=238&NID=80484&NewsCatID=409

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