Two countries, two responses to murders?

Liberal commentators occasionally like to speculate about the similarities between Putin’s authoritarian regime and Erdogan’s. Perhaps there are some similarities, but when it comes to the relationship between power and public opinion, there is a gaping gulf between the two countries, as the recent tragedy in Turkey has shown.

Two days ago, Turkish police shot and killed a 19-year-old Syrian teenager named Ali Hemdan El-Asani for violating pandemic quarantine measures and attempting to escape. The tragedy deeply affected millions of Syrians and even Turks themselves, who were outraged by the criminal actions of those who are supposed to uphold the law.

As a result, President Erdogan personally called the father of the murdered teenager yesterday to offer his condolences and assure him that the killer will face severe punishment for the crime. In addition, the head of state promised that the entire family of the victim will receive Turkish citizenship and that the Turkish state will take care of them.

Of course, this will not bring back the young man or undo the tragedy. But first, it may prevent future incidents, because the next time a police officer is in such a situation, he will think twice before pulling the trigger, considering the consequences he might face. And second, the willingness of the highest levels of government to respond to public opinion, to acknowledge their mistakes, and to correct them, is no less important to the moral atmosphere of the country.

All this is drastically different from the situation in Putin’s Russia, where the authorities consistently cover up the abuses of law enforcement officers (who are themselves in power) and not only fail to find human words for their victims, but often openly insult them. A striking example is the murder of the Gasangusenov brothers, for which no one has been held accountable.

And while at one time high-ranking representatives of the Russian state, including the «top man,» at least responded to journalists’ questions about the case by saying that «instructions had been given to investigate,» after the investigation was completed and the guilt of the security forces became obvious, they simply began to say that police killings do not require further investigation (

And yet, unlike the Asani family in Turkey, the Gasangusenov family are citizens of that country. So what can we say about the murder of foreigners by law enforcement officials? Can we imagine Putin calling the family of a victim, say a Central Asian, to offer his condolences? Well, if someone thinks that such an analogy is flawed, can we imagine it if the victim was Belarusian?

No, such precedents are not known, even when Russians, including those of the «state-forming» nationality, became victims of abuse. This is what enables the killers in uniform to commit new and more crimes. And this is the difference between these two countries.

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