Barış Ataman, a student of Siirt University in Turkey, had received a 10-month prison sentence in Turkey for protesting against the gang rape of primary-school pupils. Afterwards, he had received a second prison sentence of 1 year, 5 months, and 15 days for calling police officers “the army of the imam, AKP’s police.” The young activist was found dead under suspicious circumstances in Lyon, where he had taken refuge from persecution.
Ataman, a student of Kurdish origin, had fled to France and asked for asylum after being repeatedly detained various times and at least five criminal court cases being opened against him. He was an activist, a member of “Student Collectives” and a rather well-known figure in the Turkish opposition. He had fled to Paris two and a half years ago, and last year had moved to Lyon where he lived in an occupied house. Later he started staying with families of his friends.
On the night of May 13th, around 09:00 pm, Barış was found burned alive next to the Piscine du Rhône pool site, in Lyon’s 7th district. He was taken to Edouard Herriot hospital where he died. It is not certain whether he committed suicide or was burned to death. The investigation continues. According to his friend Ufuk Dersim, the burn marks on Barış’s body are the result of hot tar.
Barış was detained, arrested and found guilty of protesting against the gang rape of primary school children around a time when a student hunt was being carried out by police in Turkey. Thousands of students were arrested for wearing the Palestinian scarf, having eggs/lemons/umbrellas/books in their backpacks, opening banners that demand free education, or shouting out slogans in protests.
Barış’s second case started with arbitrary violence and an arrest by police. While he was being beaten he shouted “army of the imam, AKP’s police” and was sentenced to 1 year, 5 months, 15 days in prison for “insulting a police officer performing his duty.”
Barış’s last conversation with his father raises suspicion as well. According to his father’s statement, Barış told him “I am being followed. Come and take me home,” after which the father had bought a ticket to France for May 15th, but was unable to meet his son.
This suspicious death reminds some of the three women politicians (Leyla Şaylemez, Sakine Cansız and Fidan Doğan) who were murdered in Paris in January 2013.