Ceyda Sungur, a young woman who became well known after a photograph of her being sprayed with tear gas at close range while wearing a red dress during last summer’s Gezi protests, has filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then-Interior Minister Muammer Güler and İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu for the heavy-handed use of tear gas which, according to her lawyer, constitutes use of chemical weapons, and the authorities’ violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.
Attending a hearing during the trial of Fatih Zengin, the police officer who sprayed Sungur, lawyer İlkay Bahçetepe asked the court to refer Sungur to the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) to establish whether Sungur had suffered any effects from being gassed at such close range. A protester in the southern province of Mersin died of cancer 10 months after being sprayed in the mouth by tear gas.
A photo showing Sungur’s hair flying upward from the force of a jet of pepper spray fired by riot police became a widely distributed symbol during the summer of 2013, when anti-government protests rocked the country. The officer who fired the pepper spray is currently on trial; the prosecution is asking for a jail sentence of up to three years.
While Sungur attended the hearing held at the İstanbul 18th Criminal Court of Peace, Zengin did not attend the session in person. Sungur’s lawyer accused the prime minister and other top officials of committing a crime by using chemical weapons, claiming that tear gas and pepper spray fall into categories of chemical weapons.