Copenhagen: Reactions to murder of Turkish boy

Earlier this week a Turkish boy, Deniz Özgür Uzun (16), was killed by three Danish boys (15, 17 and 18) as he worked delivering newspapers. According to witness reports, the Danish boys called out racist comments to the boy and a friend who was with him before attacking him with a baseball bat and a hammer. The murder shocked Denmark for its brutality, however, not everybody is seeing this as a racist murder.

The three attackers were known by the police and social services for their criminal activity. The youngest was caught with a gun six days before the murder.

This story is also pushing politicians to discuss the tightening of weapon laws. One suggestion I saw, though I can't find the source at the moment, was to automatically deport any foreigner caught with a weapon

On the other hand, there are those who claim that this murder was simply racist and Islamophobic, and point to the reprinting of the Mohammed cartoons as a driving force.

In this post I try to summarize the different responses:

At the hospital, coming to visit their son for the last time, Dennis' mother, Gülcen, said in Turkish that she has lost her son. He had never done any harm to anybody, he had body and soul. She says they were never prejudiced against Kurds or Christians, they could speak with everybody.

She also said she doesn't other other mothers to suffer as she does now, but she wants that those who killed her son will be punished.

Ali, Dennis' father, says that Deniz had never hit anybody, and that he did not raise him up to be killed at the age of 16. He wants the attackers to get the harshest punishment. Not for revenge, but out of fear that they'll do it again.

Ali: "These three racist Danes were being sought even before attacking my son. How could this happen?" He urged the Danish authorities to conduct a thorough investigation.

The mother of two of the attackers asked for forgiveness from Dennis' parents, but they refuse to accept it. Gülcen says that their mother should not ask for forgiveness, since even if she did forgive them, her son in his grave never can. She says she sees it as a planned attack and not as an occurrence. Ali didn't want to read a letter they received from the attacker's mother. According to one source he said that the boys' mother should have discipliines them, instead of writing letters.

Gülcen and Ali parted from their son Friday. He will be buried in Tatar, in Turkey, once the embassy paperwork is finished.


Danish-Turkish newspaper Haber, suggest Copenhagen rename the street where Dennis was killed "Denizvey" (Dennis Road). According to the editorial staff, this will be an acceptable possible way for the Copenhagen municipality to show that immigrants are part of Danish society and part of the city.

Sadi Tekelioglu, the chief editor, wants this murder to get as much attention as that of Antonio Curra, an Italian tourist who was killed in 2003 by Turkish immigrants (See here and here). he also thinks that road should be renamed after Antonio.

He says it's about reaching out to each other, and calming the tensions on both sides, as well as generally being a big gesture to immigrants.

Peter Schlüter, who sits on the city council's street naming committee says that tragedies occurred on almost every street in Copenhagen and that changing a street's name like that wouldn't be good precedent.


The family received a lot of attention from Turkey. They were visited by Turkey's ambassador to Denmark and the Consul General. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Edorgan, called the family to express his sympathies. The Turkish family minister Nimet Cubukcu also called up to share his condolences. The ministers says that they are appalled by the murder and will help the family in any way possible.


Henrik Vang, member of youth program Projektbasen, says the suspects are part of a gang of 5-8 youth from West Amager, who were fighting another larger gang of youth from Holmbladsgade, the area where the murder took place. The rivalry between the gangs had degraded several times to fights and stone throwing. Two weeks before the murder the three suspects attacked two of the Holmsbladsgade gang. He suspects that they suspects erred and thought that Deniz was part of the Holmsbladsgade gang.

Vang: "Those three young men seemed as if they were tired of everything and everyone. They had been extremely threatening in their behavior recently and drove around the neighborhood pretending they were going to run down pedestrians with their car."

Frank Hedegaard is a member of the social committee in Copenhagen and until three month ago an employee of the Projekt- og Døgninstitutionen Hjulmagerstien, a 24 hour project and care center. He confirms the existence of the two gangs. He thinks increased police patrols are the way to go, and says the police currently don't have the resources to do so. The police refused to comment on the suggestion.


Three Pakistani brothers, Asif, Aamer and Kashif Ahmad, started a fund for the parents on their social website proejct ( In 2005 they organized fund-raising for earthquake victims in Pakistan.

The brothers write on their site that many want to show sympathy to the mother and they have therefore chosen to create a fund to show their and the Danish population's sympathy and deepest condolences.

"We hope that the fund will at least have some symbolic value for the mother, who is dealing with the worst possible situation - losing an only child."

The brothers say that many are trying to place the responsibility for the crime on the police, politicians or social services and the discussion on whether this murder was racist is flourishing. They think it's important to look forward and work constructively on these problems.

In two days they have managed to collect 30,000 Danish kroner (~$6000).


In another initiative two youth from Nørrebro, Jasmin and Solo, wrote a song called "Why can't we agree" (Hvorfor kan vi ikke enes). The song calls to stop with fighting each other on the basis of religion or race and is dedicated to Deniz. The song can be heard on the MySpace page of singer Jasmin Alsubeihis.


Several Muslim leaders were interviewed by Islam online, blaming Islamophobia in general and the Mohammad cartoons in particular for the murder. Googling, I could only find these people mentioned in this article.

Jihad Abdelalim Alfara: "Deniz Ozgur Uzun was killed because of his dark, Middle Eastern skin." Alfara blames the cartoons for the killing. "Was it necessary to have someone killed for people to realize that racism is on the rise in Denmark following the cartoon crisis."

Abdel-Hamid Hamdi, head of the Shura Council of the Islamic Council in Denmark: "They tried to provoke him with racist slur. He ignored them and went his way before they stopped their car and started assaulting him."

"Where are those politicians who always jump on the bandwagon whenever Arabs or Muslims are involved in any similar incident. Why have not we heard from Justice Minister Lene Espersen who champions more restrictions on Muslims, imams and minority leaders? Where is the leader of the right-wing Danish People's Party Pia Kjaersgaard to explain why three blonde-haired Danish teens committed this racist crime?"


The Copenhagen Press reports residents of the Amagar neighborhood were shocked by the murder:

Hundreds of neighbourhood residents have gathered daily at the scene of the crime to lay flowers for the victim, Deniz Özgür Ozun, and many have held group protests against the ever-increasing violent behaviour of the area's young people. A larger anti-violence torchlight procession will be held downtown on Thursday, starting at City Hall.

Police believe that although Ozun was of Turkish descent and the attackers white Danes, the incident resulted from a heated verbal exchange and was not racially motivated. Another theory is that the three teens mistakenly believed Ozun was a member of a rival gang.

Politicians, including the justice minister, spoke out against the crime and promised to seek a toughening of weapon laws and stiffer punishment for youths committing violence.

Jette Bergenholz Bautrup, a city council member who works as a social counsellor on Amager, said the shortage of police on the streets is the main problem.

'When there were police patrols sent out exclusively to take care of young troublemakers, the neighbourhood was peaceful,' Bautrup told public broadcaster DR. 'So it could well be that we need to get those patrols going again.'

Supporters of youth programmes to steer young people away from gangs and violence also had their say in the media, and included the mother of one of the attackers.

'This could have been avoided if my children had got the help they needed,' she told TV2 News. 'I've fought for nearly five years to get the authorities attention and gone to meeting after meeting, only to be told that they didn't have the resources.'


The apartment in Amager where two of the attacking boys live with their mother has been the target of vandalism, and stones have been thrown at the windows.

Sources: Ekstrabladet; JP 1, 2; Nyhedsavisen 1, 2, 3, 4 , 5, 6(Danish), Zaman, Copenhagen Post, IslamOnline (English) h/t Hodja (Danish)

See also: Copenhagen: Turkish boy killed in possible racist murder

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