(Istanbul) Fifteen-year-old boys are more often motivated by fifteen-year-old girls and console games than they are by political movements. On the day of his fatal head injury, Saturday June 15th, 2013, Turkish teen Berkin Elvan was walking to the store to buy bread, on instructions from his mother.
Also read: ISIS Hackers Deface American Businesses
Surely, on his way there, he was impressed by all the people gathered, protesting the government. But he was not there for that purpose; his parents were not involved, he was not involved. His purpose was to buy bread. The police had been firing tear gas at the rioters, among other crowd control tactics. Who wants to breathe tear gas? He put his scarf up over his nostrils and mouth and kept walking. Then he was struck in the head by a tear gas canister. The police said he had to have been a member of the crowd because of his scarf.
The blow to his head put him in a coma that lasted the better part of nine months, and on March 11th, 2014, he died. Three days later, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called him a “stooge of a terrorist organization.” He also claimed to have given the orders himself, a thing that makes no sense. According to the leader, the age of the boy couldn’t have been known to police because of the scarf up around his face.
Again, the best conceivable reason for the scarf in the first place was the gas and other dangers, as Elvan was by all accounts not attending the protests. Furthermore, a tear gas canister is not meant to be projectile weapon. Occupy Oakland protester and Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen suffered a similar attack back in 2012 – but he was protesting. He wasn’t just passing through.
Communist Hacktivists Make a Stand
Needless to say, the Turkish government’s stoic refusal to apologize has created more unrest, and one of the ways this unrest has manifested is in the defacement of several Turkish police and other security organizations’ websites.
There are times when hackers will use their skills in a politically-motivated way. Generally, the best of these politically-motivated hackers are not political operators who learned the skills for this reason, but rather actual security experts who got religion, so to speak, and decided to use their skills for the cause. Sometimes, they band together and call themselves “Hacktivists,” as in the case of Anonymous or Turkish group Redhack, who late last year hacked the Turkish Electricity Distribution Authority and erased all outstanding debts. (See video below.)
The group is decidedly leftist in nature, branding their activities with CCCP-era hammer and sickle insignia. They self-describe as “Marxist-Leninist” and began operations before Berkin Elvan was even born, in 1997. Another of their more infamous acts was the 2005 erasure of all traffic fines from the Turkish police database.
On the one-year anniversary of Berkin Elvan’s death, amidst Istanbul-wide demonstrations, the group temporarily took a number of security agencies offline, replacing their websites with memorials to the slain teenager. The Turkish government may be known for its increasingly draconian tactics, acted out through the police organizations which have unquestioning support unto the highest levels of the government but seem unpopular to the average citizens, but they are not known for their cyber security abilities. So it was that for the better part of a day, visitors to Turkish Police website were redirected to this memorial. If by the time you read this, the memorial is no longer live for any reason, then see here for the archived version.
Images from Shutterstock and Wikimedia.