Kayseri is a fairly quiet, middle-sized city in Turkey. Last Friday however, the place where I’ve served as a Fulbright teaching fellow was turned upside down when the body of Furkan Dogan, a 19 year-old high school student, was buried after being reportedly shot multiple times at close range during the Flotilla raid last Monday. Dogan was also an American citizen, who moved back to Turkey when he was 2 after being born in Troy, N.Y.
A sea of hands carried the casket out of Dogan’s apartment building at 11 a.m., while mourners chanted prayers and looked on in shock. After a short procession to the city’s main mosque in the center square, the casket was prayed over for another two hours during the weekly Friday services. Furkan’s father, Ahmet Dogan, stayed very quiet as he stood by his son’s casket and made his way through the grim process of burying his youngest son.
After the Imam concluded the prayers, the crowd of more than 2,000 people became enlivened. The casket was again carried by hand out into Kayseri’s main street, as the flood of residents followed chanting slogans from, “God is Great,” to “Israel: Terrorist.” In the march to the cemetery, the anger and grief over the loss of an honor student who had plans to attend medical school in the fall was aimed straight at the actions of the Israeli government.
At the end of the march, city buses waited to take anyone who wished up to the burial site on the top of one of the mountains overlooking the city. At the burial, family members including Ahmet Dogan picked up a shovel to bury their fallen son while the rest crowded together in the dusty cemetery and prayed.
The news of Dogan’s death last week rocked the city of Kayseri where I live. Although Kayseri is a city known to have a religiously conservative bent, I would hesitate to say it is a hub for any sort of extremism or fundamentalism. Many women not only abstain from veiling themselves, but also wear stylish, designer threads. The students I teach are hungry to learn and find a successful career in Turkey as engineers, doctors, or in business. For most residents, the situation is far from desperate. Many have large families whose members live close together, sometimes even in the same apartment buildings, while taking jobs at local factories, hospitals, or schools.
Ahmet Dogan and his family were just one of those families. He is an associate professor in Erciyes University’s economics department, where I also teach English. Although I don’t know him personally, he seemed to me like any faculty at my university, someone working hard in their career in order to provide a better education for their children.
This program aired on June 7, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.