Becoming the face of a revolution takes charisma, courage, and vision. Or just an ill twist of fate and bad luck. Berkin Elvan, a deceased 15-year-old boy in Turkey, may be the face of the Middle East’s next political uprising.
Elvan passed away on March 12, after being in a coma for 9 months. A victim of the protests that rocked Turkey in June 2013, Elvan was last seen leaving his house to go buy bread for his family.
Shortly afterwards he was struck in the head by a tear gas canister thrown by Turkish police at protesters in Taskim Square in Instanbul. The use of force was ordered by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the main motivator for the protests in the first place.
The 7th victim of the June skirmishes, Elvan’s youth and story has served as a rallying point for protesters around the country.
After news of his death reached Twitter, protests rose up in cities like Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. The uprisings mark the worst unrest since last June, and could propel the country into a full scale revolution.
Protesters are using the Twitter hastag #BerkinElvanOlumsuzdur, or “Berkin Elvan Is Immortal” to raise awareness. A recent full page ad taken out in the New York Times funded by an Indiegogo campaign calls for justice.
Protesters may use a tragic death as a rallying point, but the heart of their issues lie with the government. Erdogan’s recent political scandals and a slowing economy are the true driving forces behind the potential revolution. The pressure on the failing Turkish lira, an exodus of foreign investors since January, and a slipping annual growth rate from 5% to 2% are the things Turkey’s citizens want reversed.