Erdal Sarıkaya works as a private security officer in Istanbul. On the night of June 11th, he went to Gezi Park both to support the resistance and to pick up his brother. He lost his eye due to a tear gas canister fired by the police.
More than ten people lost their eye during the resistance in June due to police brutality. Erdal Sarıkaya, one of those people, recounted his experience to Bayram Uluad from soL newspaper.
Can you tell us how this incident happened?
I left work around 11:00PM-12:00PM. My brother was in Gezi Park, so I went to Gezi Park to pick him up and to support the resistance. Around 1:00AM, we were at the south end of Gezi Park. Initially, there was no police interference. As I turned towards the square, the police fired tear-gas canisters. In a couple of seconds, I realized that I had just lost my eye. The attack was directed to kill or injure people. I received first aid in the medical room of Divan hotel. Then, I went to Şişli Eftal Hospital, but I was not admitted because another patient was being operated on at the time. Later, I was admitted to Okmeydanı State Hospital and went into surgery. The surgery lasted four hours. I completely lost my sight in one eye. My eye was sacrificed for a good cause. What matters is that that I lost my eye for a reason.
The Prime Minister accused people on the streets of being “marginals” and being “members of an organization”. How do you feel about these accusations as a protestor who lost his eye?
Yes I am a member of an organization! I am a member of the Turkish Republic and my membership card is my Turkish Republic I.D. However I do not accept the accusations of being a marginal. The profile of protestors was very eclectic. Supporter of competing soccer teams such as Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Beşiktaş, people who were anticapitalist muslims, communists, homosexuals, transvestites, alawites, Sunnites, Turkish people, Kurdish people, Laz (People from the blacksea region) were all there… How can you label all of these people as marginals?
You lost your eyesight at a young age. Can you tell us your feelings about this?
If only we could sustain a country, which is ethically as diverse as all the colours of a rainbow, I would not care about losing my sight. Nevertheless, I am hopeful. I anticipate the future will be bright. I sacrificed an eye for the people of this country. Do I hold a grudge? No, I don’t. Feelings of rage and regret wont help us. A prime minister of a country must serve the whole nation, not only 50% of the community. We wanted our voice to be heard. Like the poet who said I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed, the prime minister should also listen. Imagine listening to the sound of the clarinet but nothing else every day. Wouldn’t it be more harmonious to listen to a symphony performed by all musical instruments and vocals? All we wanted was to be heard.
Who called you after the incident?
The chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the members of parliament Mustafa Sarıgul from CHP party called. ODP city and county chairmen visited me. TKP Mamak visited me. I thank all of these people. They did not forget about me. A person truly dies when he is forgotten.
If someone from the government or official state person called you on the phone, how would you respond?
I don’t think they would call. Can you imagine, what could they say to me? “Sorry our policemen blinded you.” It will be meaningless for them to call. In any case, I would probably refuse to talk to them.
Do you have a message to the readers of soL?
Yes. Please be a part of your community. Never stray away from the people. People united will never be defeated. People united will make a stronger Turkey. Thanks for all your support.
01 July 2013
This post is also available in: Turkish