Student suicide highlights economic plight of Turkey’s university students

A 20-year old Istanbul university student’s suicide this past weekend has brought to the fore the financial difficulties faced by many of Turkey’s students — with the hike in the price of subsidized university cafeteria meals possibly being the catalyst for the suicide.

Sibel Unli, who was a literature student at Istanbul University, was found dead on Saturday, off the coast of Samatya in Istanbul, Evrensel news site reported.

Police on Saturday received a report of a woman’s handbag being found on the Samatya coast and discovered that the bag belonged to the 20-year-old university student Sibel Unli who was reported missing two days earlier by her family, T24 news outlet said.

After an extensive search operation, police located her body.

Her latest posts on social media indicated that the financial difficulties she had been experiencing were the motive behind her suicide. She had revealed her financial troubles through her Twitter posts on different dates.

She once tweeted, “My new year’s wish is to find a job,” according to Gazete Duvar news site.
Unli’s suicide sparked an outcry among her fellow students and academics as well. 

Her friends gathered on Saturday in Istanbul’s Kadıköy area.

They issued a press statement saying, “No one should say that the cause of Sibel’s suicide is not this system when 60% of (Turkey’s) population is using anti-depressant drugs. Sibel’s murderer is capitalism and this rotten system.”

Some academics took to Twitter and shared their personal experience of witnessing the financial troubles that their students have been facing, Gazete Duvar said.

Sibel was also among the students showing her disapproval of Istanbul University’s decision to increase meal prices, according to the Evrensel media report.

She took to Twitter to and said, “I have one (Turkish) lira left in my cafeteria card. How am I supposed to eat with one lira?”

News of her suicide came amid the ongoing students protest against hikes in meal prices at Istanbul University – one of the biggest state universities in Turkey

The university’s administration had announced they would reduce the number of discounted meals from three to one a day.

The decision caused outrage among students, who staged protests in the university, T24 news reported.

When a group of students wanted to file petitions with the university administration, clashes between police and students broke out, and police intervened with batons to disperse the students.

Following her suicide, some well-known names such as Gönenç Gürkaynak, Twitter’s lawyer in Turkey, and famous signer and philanthropist Haluk Levent announced their new scholarship programs to support some college students in need.

Levent said in his twitter post, “I feel very sorry for Sibel Unli. I thought about what we could do as AHBAP (a charity organization) for these students. We have decided to raise the number of students who can benefit our student grant program from 50 to 100.”

The Istanbul University administration, released a statement on Monday, backing down and canceling its decision to increase meal prices.

“After taking account of recent developments and students’ petitions, our rectorate has decided to maintain its three-meals-a-day program for our students as it was before,” the rectorate said in its statement.

Debt-riddled man jumps to his death as Turkey’s economic downturn soars

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