The Gabonese community in Turkey is in mourning after the death of 18-year-old Jeannah Danys Dinabongho Ibouanga, a student of mechanical engineering at the University of Karabük. Her body was discovered in a river near the university campus last Saturday, prompting emotional reactions from her fellow African students who have been increasingly welcomed in Turkey.
Turkish media report that the initial findings suggest that the young woman died by drowning, with no signs of sexual violence or injuries. However, an autopsy is expected to provide more details in the coming days.
The Gabonese embassy in Ankara confirmed her death on Wednesday, but declined to give any further information. The Gabonese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed its dismay and deep concern and has instructed its representation in Turkey to demand an autopsy and the opening of a judicial inquiry into the tragedy.
The rector of Karabük University expressed condolences on the university’s website, noting that the young woman was “much loved by her friends and professors.”
African students in Turkey have taken to social media, most notably Twitter, with the hashtag #JusticepourDina, and several dozen demonstrated on the university campus, brandishing portraits of the victim.
In a voicemail recording attributed to the deceased student and shared widely on social media, the crying student pleads with her mother to let her transfer to Sakarya University, where she believed there was no racism.
Turkey, which is increasing its diplomatic and economic activity in Africa, has been welcoming more African students, with over 61,000 studying in the country, most of them on scholarships. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu visited South Africa last month and emphasized the importance of education in the country’s cooperation with the continent.
The cause of Dinabongho’s death is still under investigation, and the African community in Turkey is demanding justice and accountability for the tragedy.