Berkin Elvan

We’ve all had a long week. The students are strung out from our big review on Thursday, with Monday and Tuesday being busy days of studio and classes only to come home and draw into the wee hours of the night, prepping for that 100 drawing review. Friday, Accent hosted a documentary film viewing and discussion with the director in between our morning Turkish lesson and a late afternoon studio lecture. And Wednesday… Wednesday was its own story. I had plans to write on some other part of our Istanbul experience so far, but everything else seems trivial to what we’ve witnessed this week.

The funeral procession for Berkin Elvan passed literally past our front door. It was so surreal to see thousands of people caught between grief and anger. To watch those faces walk by with tears in their eyes or a protesting cry in their throats. On the metro on the day of his death, a girl walked through the train holding a sign about Berkin’s death and you see could where she had been by who was tearful around you.

Caitlin brought up that there isn’t one cause in American politics or culture that unites us like the political passions do here in the face of the recent highly strained relationship between communities and the police. It’s an amazing revelation as an American student to see the old and the young marching in the streets together and those who are not putting their feet to the pavement are leaning from their windows watching and supporting what is going on below.

That night we saw another side of this county’s political life. From our abode five stories up we heard the shouts of protestors, the sound of tear gas canisters and fireworks. Looking down our street you could see fires built as blockades. Some students mentioned seeing bricks being torn from the sidewalk and passed along by protestors while out on a quest for kabap. It was all thrown into starker contrast while we were without lights for a while.

Seeing our neighborhood transform that night and then come back almost completely to normal by the morning was something I will never forget on an unforgettable trip. By the time we walked to the metro for review Thursday morning the shopkeepers were already clearing broken glass and washing off ‘Berkin Elvan’ graffiti from their stores. There was still traces of gas in the air as we passed by, causing the block to erupt in coughing fits.

I found these photos in an article from The Atlantic about the events.

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(Reuters/Osman Orsal)

I was really struck by the beauty and pain of these images. For me they become an analogue for the entire country’s response to this tragedy. We see this amazingly beautiful use of the public realm as a space for people to come together and show their grief and protest the circumstances that caused his death.

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