An unemployed man, who set himself on fire in protest at the financial difficulties he was experiencing, died of a heart attack, the Governor’s Office of Turkey’s southern province of Hatay announced on Friday.
Adem Yarici, a father of two, doused himself in petrol and set himself ablaze in the early hours on Friday in front of the Hatay Governor’s Office, saying before the self-immolation that: “My kids are hungry. I want [to find] a job. Don’t you understand.”
The burning man was immediately doused by the Governor’s personnel and taken to a nearby hospital.
However, he succumbed to his injuries during his transfer to another hospital with a burn unit in the neighboring city of Mersin, an official statement by the office said.
According to local daily Korfez, Yarici was depressed over the fact that he was jobless and battling to feed his two children.
The official statement from the Hatay Governor’s Office, while expressing condolences to Yarici’s family said he was receiving social-economic aid, as well as educational and health care assistance from the state’s social services for his children.
A comment by an official from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Yarici’s actions sparked outrage on social media.
“Nobody sets himself on fire due to hunger. If that had been so, there would have been nobody living in countries such as Nigeria, Chad, Zambia, Haiti, Madagascar, Yemen, and Sierra Leone. The public does not buy such kinds of simple political maneuvers,” the AKP’s Selma Gokcen, a member of the city council of the eastern province of Agri.
Baris Yarkadas, a former lawmaker from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and a former journalist, condemned the AKP executive for her tweet.
“The humanity [morality] has gone through the floor. [You,] Selma Gokcen! I am ashamed of you. How can you be that much heartless,” Yarkadas reacted on Twitter.
Following the strong public backlash, the AKP’s Gokcen deleted her Twitter message and claimed that her message was targeting not the deceased father, but the CHP’s Yarkadas who first revealed the death report in his account.
“You [those who reacted to her message] all know that my comment addressed Yarkadas [his announcement of death]. You [critics] nourish hatred against [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan [whenever such kinds of incidents take place],” Gokcen tweeted.
The AKP senior later suspended her Twitter account on the same day.
With an economy deep in recession, a spate of recent suicides in Turkey has caused debates between the opposing parties, with pro-government figures denying the suggestions of any connection between the suicides and poverty.
The AKP supporters frequently accuse critics, who point to socioeconomic factors behind the increase suicides, of manipulating the public opinion and tarnishing Turkey’s reputation in the world.
In November when four siblings, aged between 48 and 60 living allegedly in penury, committed suicide through chemical poisoning in a flat in Istanbul, Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s vice-president, denied allegations that connected the incident to the state of the economy.
“They said it was because of hunger – that is not true. We do not have any information that the deaths were due to poverty,” said Oktay at the time.
Further, a pro-government Islamist daily, Yeni Akit, argued that “an atheist book had dragged the four into suicide”, referring to “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins which was found on a bookshelf in the flat.
A day later after the siblings took their lives, another four, a couple with two little kids, were found dead at their home in Turkey’s Antalya. The father, who had been unemployed for a long time, used the same method, taking cyanide, leaving a note behind explaining the difficulties he went through.
This time, nobody from the pro-government side pinned the blame on anything else, instead, some suggested that the sales of the chemical should be banned.