Tough country

Tough country

The daughter of a miner who died in Soma cries over her father’s coffin. Prime Minister Erdoğan has said dying is in the nature of the mining profession; it is the fate of miners.” (Photo: Cihan)
On Thursday, a 34-year-old man in İstanbul’s Okmeydanı area was shot in the head by the police. As I write this blog post, it is not clear whether he’ll make it. He is currently in surgery.

In the moments when Uğur Kurt, the police’s victim, fell Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was speaking at a meeting of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB). He was telling the business world how offended he is that the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) keeps calling him a dictator.

Uğur Kurt was in Okmeydanı to attend a funeral for the mother of a friend. He was also a worker, employed at the Beyoğlu Municipality. Underpaid and overworked, possibly with no social security as most municipalities now recruit through subcontractors — an unnamed privatization scheme in municipal service — he was just trying to make ends meet. Just like the 301 workers who died in Soma.

There was a protest in Okmeydanı that day to commemorate Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old who died after a long coma after being hit by a gas canister in the head, shot by the police while he was out to buy bread for dinner during last year’s Gezi events. The same police of whom Prime Minister Erdoğan had said he was extremely proud for the way the force handled the Gezi incidents. Seven people, including Berkin, died in the protests. Most of them were Alevis, if not all.

Uğur Kurt was not among the protesters on Thursday. Furthermore, he was an Alevi. He was attending a funeral in a Cemevi — a worship place for Alevis, although the prime minister has on many occasions expressed his opinion that Alevis should worship in mosques just like everyone else.

Uğur Kurt was shot with a real bullet.

Many say it is not unusual for the police to use real bullets in Alevi neighborhoods. Some have claimed this has happened before in Alevi-dominated areas such as the Gazi neighborhood. Based on my years of experience as a journalist in Turkey, I can confidently say that the police officer who shot Uğur Kurt will walk away freely. It is this guaranteed impunity that makes them shoot people to disperse protesters; the comfort that comes with knowing that the police force are the prime minister’s heroes; they can do anything they want with no accountability.

The prime minister said in his initial speech after the disaster in Soma that accidents are an act of God, that they happen and there is nothing one can do about that.

If you question his narrative, you are a traitor. An agent of foreign powers, an Israeli spy (or “Jewish spawn,” his latest anti-Semitic gem).

Turkey’s workers die. Its nouveau riche don’t even pay taxes. It is fate.

We know that the police officer who shot Uğur Kurt dead will get away with what he’s done.

It is fate.

This post was originally published by TZ at

Author: E Baris Altintas

I am a journalist and a civil society professional. I can be reached at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s