Can a snowball hurt you?
‘This ought to be a dream’ – Nuh Köklü’s dying words, after he was stabbed by a shopkeeper. The shop-keeper’s window had been hit by a snowball.
On Tuesday night, February 17th 2015, Nuh and his friends were taking part in a protest against the Internal Security package, which is in the process of being legislated by the AKP government. The Internal Security package threatens the democratic life of people, those who are not on the side of the AKP, by giving the police powers to counter unarmed protesters with live ammunition, and other measures.
The protest was not large – it was cold, peaceful, there were women in masquerade masks dancing, singing songs, talking. Amongst them was Nuh Köklü with his girlfriend and comrades from Yeldeğirmeni Dayanışması and Forza Yeldeğirmeni – local organisations, formed out of the Gezi-Park movement. Nearby a water cannon and a gang of police, greater in number than the protesters, ready to intervene – obviously they were expecting a much bigger protest, and therefore awkwardly standing around.
This took place in Kadıköy district of Istanbul, and afterwards Nuh and his friends were walking home, happy about the joyful and peaceful action, excited by the snow falling in thick flakes, they engaged in a playful snowball fight. The fun was suddenly stopped by a loud voice. The owner of a spice shop, his window hit – but undamaged – by a snowball, told Nuh and his friends to stop. ‘How dare they have a snowfight in the street near his shop’. Although the snowball hadn’t even left a trace on his window, the shopkeeper was furious.
Nuh and his friends were trying to calm the shopkeeper down, but he got more aggressive, swearing at the women of the group. This of course as everyone knows nowadays is a sensitive topic after the brutal murder of Özgecan the week before and the respective protests and comments of the President on equality and more. Next thing the shopkeeper took out a baseball bat from his shop, throwing himself at the surprised group. The group managed to take the bat from the shopkeeper’s hands, still trying to calm him down, ready to leave, but the shopkeeper got a breadknife from his store and advanced upon anyone in reach. A woman narrowly managed to duck from his knife, another friend of Nuh’s saved himself by throwing himself backwards, letting the knife only cut his coat. When the shopkeeper trapped a third person in a corner, chasing him around a rubbish bin, Nuh hit him from behind, but slipped on the snow and fell. The shopkeeper turned around and stabbed Nuh. Nuh stumbled away and his friends gathered around him, calling an ambulance, trying to stop the blood.
But the situation was far from finished. The shopkeeper didn’t seem to be surprised or shocked about what he had done, and continued to attack the people around him, shouting the words: ‘I have a psychology report, I will not be arrested and am going to walk free tomorrow.’ Then he retreated to his shop, washed the knife, talked on his phone, grinning self-confidently out through his window. By then Nuh was on the way to the hospital in a taxi, since neither ambulance nor police had arrived. When the shopkeeper came out of his shop again and was still aggressive against the gathering crowd of 150 people, he was restrained by the police.
Nuh Köklü died in hospital. His friends were questioned by the police. The shopkeeper was arrested. But still this terrible story is far from finished. During the questioning the police position towards the incident became clear and was expressed by some parts of the media the next day. The incident was portrayed as if a leftist group had provoked the shopkeeper, smashing his window, and the shop-keeper had stabbed Nuh in defence.
Nuh’s friends and their community are now beside themselves in grief. Organising commemorations and related events for Nuh, as well as insisting upon a true depiction of the incident and a just prosecution of the shopkeeper.
Security camera footage from the ATM by the shop is now unavailable, all that lawyers and the public can see is a recording from a student, showing Nuh defensively confronting the shopkeeper.
In Turkey today, Nuh is dead, our tears freeze in the cold, and the shopkeeper is comforted by a slogan of President Erdoğan, which says: ‘My local shopkeeper is soldier, police and judge, if necessary’
A snowball ended a life. A dream turned into a nightmare. But the ultimate responsibility for this lies with a government which encourages action, and even legislates police powers, which legitimizes aggression against anyone with a point of view that does not conform. This aggression not only stops playful fun in the snow, but also suppresses the aspirations of an entire generation – a generation able to see life in a society like this as a dream. A generation that wants to stay alive to dream a better world.
Let us support these people, let us remember Nuh Köklü, let us fight for just punishment of the murderer, let us throw snowballs at each other, not knives, water-cannon or bullets.
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