A day after Turkey arrested two journalists for their report exposing Erdogan's weapons deliveries to "extremist groups" in Syria, confirming that no dissent to the president's foreign policy would be allowed, today a new riot has erupted in Istanbul following the dramatic murder in broad daylight of Tahir Elci, the president of the Turkish bar association in southeastern Diyarbakir province, who was shot dead by unidentified gunmen while giving a public speech.
A campaigner for Kurdish rights, Elci had been criticized in Turkey for saying the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was not a terrorist organization, as the government describes it. He had, however, denounced PKK violence. He was facing trial over his comments, which had infuriated state prosecutors. A Turkish prosecutor last month demanded up to seven and a half years of prison tme for Elci on the grounds of "making propaganda of a terror organization" after remarks he made supporting the PKK.
Just before being gunned down, Elci called for peace and the silencing of all guns.
Öldürülen Tahir Elçi, bas?n aç?klamas?nda: "Sava?lar çat??malar silahlar operasyonlar bu alandan uzak olsun diyoruz" pic.twitter.com/vAiSF0xgi7— 140journos (@140journos) November 28, 2015
Moments later TV footage showed a shoot out breaking out and plain clothes police repeatedly shooting at a figure running past them towards Elci. He was then seen lying on the ground with blood apparently streaming from his head. He was later pronounced dead from gunshot to the head. A policeman was also killed in the gunfight.
The killing which was captured on tape, took place while Tahir Elci was making a statement to the media.
"The moment the statement ended, the crowd was sprayed with bullets,” Reuters cited Omer Tastan, a local official from the pro-Kurdish HDP party, as saying. "A single bullet struck Elci in the head," he said, adding that 11 people had also been injured in the incident.
In other words, a hit meant to take out the pro-Kurdish lawyer, staged as an attack by the very people he was defending.
According to the state Anadolu news agency, it was Kurdish insurgents that opened fire, killing Elci, as well as a police officer, and injuring three other people, among them correspondents of the leading Turkish media organizations – the Anatolia and Dogan news agencies
That, however, appears to be just more state propaganda, because as journalists were quick to point out, Elci not only was a pro-Kurd activist but defended the "Terrorist" PKK, which is Erdogan's political nemesis.
Then Erdogan himself chimed in, saying "I have just learnt that Bar Association President Mr. Tahir Elçi died and a policeman was martyred," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a meeting in the northwestern province of Bal?kesir. “This incident shows how Turkey is right in its determined stance in fighting terrorism." The irony is that according to the official narrative, Elci was somehow assassinated by the same people whom he was defending, which, needless to say, makes very little sense.
According to Today Szaman, in a video clip of the incident taken by the Dogan News Agency, men hiding behind the minaret of a nearby mosque started firing at Elci and people standing with him. "A person ran towards Tahir Elci, fired with one hand and then started to run away. Then fighting started," Dogan news agency reporter Felat Bozarslan said.
The US Embassy expressed shock over Elci's death, calling him a "courageous defender of human rights. Our condolences go to his family, that of the policeman killed and to all of Turkey. A terrible loss," the embassy said on Twitter.
Two policemen and a reporter of the state-run Anadolu news agency were injured in the gunfire, along with an unknown number of civilians, Dogan news agency said. One of the policeman was in critical condition, it said.
Turkey's People's Democratic Party (HDP) condemned Elci's killing which it described as an "planned assassination" and called a protest in Istanbul in a written statement.
"In the place left by Tahir Elci, thousands more Tahir Elcis will carry on the work in the struggle for law and justice," it said. Noting that Elçi had been targeted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and its media, the statement called on political parties, civil society and professional groups to "raise their voices" in protest. Metin Feyzioglu, head of the Turkish Bar Association (TBB), said he and members of the executive board of the TBB will be heading to Diyarbakir, inviting all executives of local bar associations across Turkey to join.
"This bullet has been fired at not only our brother but at Turkey as a whole. We need to show that our unity will not be undermined and this heinous attack will not succeed," said Feyzioglu.
And so the tension across Turkey rises even more, only this time it has nothing to do with the country's ruinous foreign politics and everything to do with Erdogan's relentless attempt to crackdown on all domestic political adversaries.
Meanwhile, as summoned, at least 2000 people gathered in central Istanbul in Turkey late on Ssaturday, to protest the killing of Elci According to RT, one of the few media organizations covering today's political violence in Turkey, police used water cannon and tear gas, ordering protesters to disperse, RT's William Whiteman reported from the scene. He himself and an RT cameraman were also teargased during the clashes, the reporter added.
Protesters grew more and more angry with the police who were "being incredibly heavy-handed," Whiteman reported, adding that people were chanting slogans accusing President Erdogan of being a "thief" and a "killer."
Helicopters have been heard flying low over the area, and the "violent" protests are continuing into the night.