Turkey bid farewell Aug. 12 to a 15-year-old boy who was killed in an attack by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Maçka district of the Black Sea province of Trabzon a day earlier, prompting condemnations from across the political spectrum.
Eren Bülbül, who was studying at a religious vocational school in Maçka, had informed security forces that PKK militants left a house with supplies late on Aug. 11. He moved with security forces to hint possible routes that they could have escaped to but was killed during clashes between security forces and the militants.
Gendarmerie Master Sgt. Ferhat Gedik, 41, was injured in the clashes but later surrendered to his wounds. Gedik was also laid to rest in his hometown, the İskenderun district of the southern province of Hatay, on Aug. 12, which was also his birthday.
Bülbül was laid to rest in the district on Aug. 12 after a funeral ceremony attended by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Trabzon Governor Yücek Yavuz, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Ayşe Sula Köseoğlu, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Haluk Pekşen, Trabzon mayor Orhan Fevzi Gümrükçüoğlu and several soldiers, police officers and locals.
“Down with terror. When Eren watched news reports about clashes on TV, he would be very sad and angry. He would say ‘I will join the military and be a martyr.’ He was martyred. He was receiving football training at Trabzonspor. He was a fanatic Trabzonspor fan since he was four. He was really keen on football,” his brother Arif Bülbül said. Eren was the ninth among 13 brothers who lost their father 14 months ago.
“He had informed soldiers that supplies from the house had been stolen. When he went to the scene with soldiers, a fire had been opened against them from the forest. He was a very good child,” Hayriye Yolcu, a witness, said.
The 15-year-old’s death immediately drew ire from the public with political parties and the society condemning the killing.
Deputy Prime Minister Fikri Işık visited the hospital where Eren had been treated to express his condolences to the boy’s family.
CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also condemned the attack.
“You are so low that you would fire a bullet at a 15-year-old boy,” he said in a tweet, later calling Eren’s brother Olcay to express his condolences.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also condemned the killing of Bülbül in a post shared on the party’s Twitter account.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Serpil Kemalbay, meanwhile, issued a written statement for the killing of Bülbül, condemning those responsible for his death.
“Dragging a 15-year-old boy into a conflict environment is unacceptable. We condemn those who had responsibility in the loss of Eren Bülbül’s life,” she stated.
Twitter users circulated a hashtag that said “İyi ki varsın Eren” (Glad We Have You Eren), quickly becoming a trending topic, in reference to an earlier post he had shared on social media just two months ago.
“No one comes up and says, Eren we are glad we have you,” Bülbül had written on his Facebook account in June.
Locals in Maçka also were in fury over the killing of Eren, hanging Turkish flags at their houses and workplaces in a move to display their sentiments.
A poster of him was hung outside the town hall with the words: “Eren Bulbül, Maçka will never forget you. May our martyrs rest in peace.”
Football teams in the Turkish Super League will come out onto the pitch with banners commemorating Eren and will hold a minute’s silence during the first week of the league on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the Turkish Football Federation stated on Aug. 12.
Speaking to daily Hürriyet, Bülbül’s family and relatives, meanwhile, pointed to the lack of security measures as teams took him to a conflict zone for scouting purposes.
Eren’s aunt, Aysel Bülbül, recalled the moments she witnessed during the clash.
“They were three people; Eren, a soldier and a police. They came and wandered for an hour. Then suddenly gunshots started. I counted at least 50 bullet sounds. It was 3:20 p.m.,” Bülbül said.
“The terrorists opened quick-fire three times,” Yeşim Bülbül, another aunt of Eren, said.
“Where is village chief Nurettin Reis? Is he not the administrative chief of the village? Why is our 2002-born child being called in if there is scouting for the security of the village rather than the village chief?” Aysel Bülbül said.
Daily Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan also raised five questions about the killing of Bülbül on his Aug. 13 column, hinting at possible security deficiencies during the deadly clash.
“Firstly, how come the PKK terror came to Maçka? Secondly, what is a 15-year-old child doing in a conflict region? Thirdly, what does taking a child to an operation without taking any measures mean? Fourth, who thought the malicious terrorists would abstain from killing a child? Five, shouldn’t these issues be on the agenda and be discussed as much as the heroism of Eren?” Hakan had said.