Okan Göçer sustained head injuries due to a tear gas canister on June 1st on Istiklal Street where he had gone to participate in the Gezi protests.
He was in a coma for twenty one days. The left side of his head collapsed as a result of his broken skull.
We met with him at Okmeydanı Hospital. He wore a white cap on his head.
He was there to get an ‘incapacity’ report. With him was his aunt who hadn’t left him alone since the incident and a friend who was also with him the day he was injured.
His waking up on June 22nd and recovery from death is considered as ‘a little miracle.’
Twenty three year old Okan is one of the tens of veterans of Gezi whose names were never heard of.
‘We were eye to eye with that policeman’
Okan tells what happened that day: “It is not just me; there were a lot of injuries that day. They used rubber bullets. It was in the afternoon. We were near the British Consulate. We wanted to go to the square. Police threw some tear gas. I caught the eye of the policeman who threw the tear gas. I thought this is going to hit somebody near me on the head. I wasn’t aware that I was the one who got hit.”
He smiles while saying the last sentence.
Okan’s friend who was with him that day tells the rest of the story:
“An infirmary was established a little behind us. They say that Okan wouldn’t have had any chance of living if the doctors there had not administered first aid straight away. We only learned this later. The doctors said we should immediately take him to the hospital. As no ambulance was available, we took him to Okmeydanı Hospital by stopping a car on the road.”
His aunt Fatoş Göçer continues by telling what happened after Okan recovered from death.
“Doctors said that there is going to be some memory loss, that he may not be able to remember the past at all, that there is a risk of epilepsy, and that he may be paralyzed on the left side since he was hit from the left, and so on. We have prepared ourselves for everything.”
Okan has a problem in his ear now and he is having trouble hearing. He also has an embolism in his leg.
He has to have another operation during the first week of September in order to repair the collapse of his skull.
This operation is not as risky as the first one, from what the doctors said.
Okan tells all this with a smile on his face. “It is going to be all right,” he says calmly.
‘You’ve Combed Your Hair’
They played Okan’s favorite music for him to listen to while he was in intensive care. “What for example?”
His aunt answers, “The song, You’ve Combed Your Hair, Dyed it Blonde.
Okan completes the song by murmuring.
I ask, “Do you think this had an effect on your waking up?”
“Honestly, this song, especially, may have had an effect. I used to sing this one constantly,” he says again with a smile.
“I never said to myself, ‘I wish I hadn’t gone’”
Later, he tells us that he couldn’t remember what had happened to him after he woke up at the end of twenty one days. “I thought I had an accident when I woke up. I was thinking, how had I survived. Later, I started to remember more and more by seeing people and hearing things. And my family told me what happened a week later.”
So, does he regret having gone to Taksim on June 1st?
He answers, “Never,” and continues, “I never said to myself, I wish I hadn’t gone. Never. Somebody else would have been injured if it wasn’t me. They would be experiencing what I’ve experienced. I would still go if I knew this would happen.”
The reasons for him going to Taksim on June 1st are countless. He talks about a wide range of reasons from the minimum wage to privatizations.
He has since read and watched what had happened in Turkey while he was in intensive care and in a coma.
The subject of the people who died during Gezi protests comes up. “We are also the people who died there. They are not other people, they are us,” he says with a serious expression on his face.
“Hopefully he will also wake up like you”
Okan is trying to get into university now, something he had postponed for various reasons in the past.
He had taken the exam this year but as he had been in intensive care during the period of selection he wasn’t able to make a selection.
He says it is very difficult for him to enter the Department of Mechanical Engineering which is his preferred department, since he didn’t have the means to go to a private teaching institution. If there is a chance of compensation regarding the selections, he will select a two-year department and then try to make a transfer to engineering by passing the external transfer exam.
The mother and sisters of Berkin Elvan who has been sleeping for seventy five days joined us while Okan was telling us this.
They are always at Okmeydanı Hospital.
Berkin’s mother Gülsüm Elvan hugs Okan. “Hopefully he will also wake up like you,” she says.
“Berkin is going to wake up, and he is going to wake up even stronger,” Okan says. They start chatting.
I called Okan’s attorney Emine Erel after leaving Okan.
She said she had turned to the prosecution and requested the security cameras’ footage showing the moment Okan was shot with the tear gas canister.
“The records of two banks and one pharmacy have arrived but these cameras show the police officers there only from behind. Only the team on duty there could be determined from these footages,” says attorney Erel.
Erel says essentially, the British Consulate’s camera records are required.
The police department had requested the records from the British Consulate on the prosecution office’s demand but no answer had yet been given.
Hundreds of criminal complaints, a single prosecutor
‘There were no answers from consulates to our requests made on various subjects in the past’ reads the letter of police department concerning this situation.
Erel indicates that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs might be needed to intervene and request the footage.
A criminal complaint has been filed against the police to the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office with the reason of ‘torture and deliberately attempted murder’ in the case of Okan Göçer.
But attorney Erel thinks that the investigation stage will progress very slowly since this criminal complaint is gathered together with hundreds of others in a single file and adds,
“All the criminal complaints filed during the Gezi protests in the area from Beşiktaş to Tünel have been collected in a single file. This file is handled by a single prosecutor.”
29 August 2013
This post is also available in: Turkish