Hurriyet: “They sprayed gas at my father as if he were an insect and caused his death.”

We continue with Gezi testimonies.

What is your name?
Ayşe Önder


How old are you?

What do you do?

I am a compositor. I compose soundtracks for feature films and TV shows. Together with my brother, we’ve composed the soundtracks of “Şubat” and the Turkish version of “Desperate Housewives”.


I graduated from Hacettepe University conservatory. I got my M.A. degree from the same university and then I got my PhD in the U.S. We are six siblings. All of us studied in conservatory, because our father Selim Önder was a musician. He could play six different instruments. He was such a wonderful person.  My father lived in Izmir. He and my mother had come to Istanbul for my engagement ceremony on the 28th of May.

Did your father have health problems?

He had a stent in his heart. He was 88 years old but he was healthy. He was livelier than me. If you heard his laughter you couldn’t believe your ears. He had given a little concert during my engagement ceremony. He had played violin, lute, saz and flageolet ut (pear-shaped stringed instrument), and yaylı tambur (bowed long-neck lute).


When was your engagement?

It was on the 28th of May, 2013. On Saturday, they were going back to Izmir. The day before their departure, on Friday, the 31st of May, they were exposed to extreme levels of tear gases.

How did it happen?

I live in Gümüşsuyu (a neighborhood near Taksim). That day we got up and had breakfast. My father said he would go to the Egyptian Market in the Grand bazaar in Eminönü to buy some honey. He wanted to bring some honey to his friends in Izmir. My brother and I, we had to go to the Consulate to get our visa for the United States, because we had gotten invited to a workshop in New York. My parents went down to Fındıklı and from there, took the tramway to Eminönü. My father was very independent; he always wanted to take care of his affairs himself. My mother is also like him. So, they refused our offer to give them a ride.

And then?

They first did their noon prayer in a mosque near Egyptian Market. Then they bought some honey and took the bus to come back to Taksim. However, because the police had blocked the route, they had to get off the bus in Harbiye and walked to my place. All of a sudden, they found themselves in the middle of an intense tear gas raid. They took refuge on the stairs at the Kutlu Street. Seeing my parents in that situation, the young people who were running away from the police stopped and tried to help them. I am really grateful to those people. Those young people that the PM accuses of being “chapulcu” took my parents in their arms and brought them to my place.

And then?

My brother and I arrived home. When it calmed down a bit outside I got out and went to the policemen and said to them, “Why are you doing this? Why are you so merciless? You bomb us with tear gases and people get sick. My father is 88 years old.” They said, “Okay, miss, don’t make a fuss!” I was so angry that I went to another group of policemen. And they said, “You are right, but we got orders. What can we do?” Then I went back home.

 How was your father’s situation then?

He said he had difficulties breathing. The following day, my father and my mother went back to Izmir. That vigorous, lively man called me and my brother and said, “This gas affected me badly. I am not feeling well.” A few days after, he was admitted to the hospital and taken to the intensive care. And then to the morgue. We lost our father.

May he rest in peace… This is horrible. How do you explain all this?
I simply cannot. Our sorrow is indescribable. Well, this is life; anything can happen to you. But this is so obvious. That tear gas caused my father’s death. Probably they affected his respiratory system and triggered a cardiac failure. That is why I had gone to the police and said to them, “What are you doing? These are human beings. You cannot spray gas over people as if they were insects.” They write it everywhere that this can be fatal for some people. We actually lived through that! It should be illegal to use disproportionate tear gas in densely inhabited areas.

Your father is not the only case. There are many other heart attack cases caused by tear gas. Can you understand the police’s attitude, saying “We got orders; this is an obligation for us”?
No, never! You cannot do such things unless you have proneness to violence; you’d have scruples. You wouldn’t aim at someone’s face, eyes, heart or neck; you would fire into the air or something. You wouldn’t mind orders. You don’t have the right to attempt on a human being’s life like this. But it is too late for us; we lost my father.

If this is what you call heroism, down with your heroism!

When I saw those images I wanted to cry my eyes out.
What is this?!
This is inhuman!
You cannot see this savagery even in wars.
In Antalya a horde of policemen almost lynched a young girl and two boys.

Everything is absolutely clear in these images.
The young girl and boys keep sitting down in that parking lot; they don’t speak back to the police.

They gave in totally. And police kept beating them.
If this is what you call heroism, down with your heroism!
We have all witnessed first-hand what deployment of disproportionate force means. And those police who have done these are still on duty.

That chief of police is still on duty.

The more the PM talks about their heroism, the more they become violent.

The more the PM calls them “heroes”, the more things get out of control.

And those who see these images just lose their minds.

These images mark the point where words lose their meanings.

What can be said now anyway!

Ayşe Arman


25 June 2013 


    This post is also available in: Turkish