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Three family murder-suicides within ten days shock Turkey as the country faces record unemployment

Sami Kent
Turkey is suffering its longest period of high unemployment  - NurPhoto

The deaths of three separate families within ten days have shocked Turkey as the country struggles with mass unemployment and a financial crisis. 

On Friday, authorities confirmed that a family of three had been found dead in their home in the central Istanbul district of Bakırköy, poisoned by cyanide. 

Police had entered the house after neighbours complained of a chemical smell. Bülent Kerimoğlu, the local mayor, said that the father, a jeweller, had financial troubles, and had poisoned himself, his wife, and his six-year-old child.

It follows two similar stories involving cyanide.

Earlier in the month, police discovered the bodies of a family of four, including a nine year-old daughter and a five year-old son, in their home in the southern city of Antalya. 

According to reports in local media the father, Selim Şimşek, left a note explaining he had been unemployed for nine months, adding: “I apologise to everyone, but there is nothing I can to any more. We are ending our lives.”

On Nov 5, four siblings aged between 38 and 50 killed themselves in their shared flat in Fatih, a conservative district in Istanbul, after leaving a note taped on their door reading: "Beware of cyanide. Call the police, do not enter."

They were reportedly unable to pay their debts. Turkish media has discussed the incidents at length even though conversations about suicide are usually taboo in the predominantly Muslim county. 

The opposition Republican People’s Party has said the suicides are the human cost of the country’s slow recovery from its economic crisis last year, during which the lira plunged 30 per cent in value.

Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s vice president, said there was not enough evidence to link the suicides to unemployment, and pro-government media warned about the risk of news reports fuelling copycat incidents.   

Unemployment is still near record levels, and according to official statistics published last week, the rate rose to 14 per cent for August, or 4.5 million Turks, with youth unemployment at 27 per cent. 

Şeyfettin Gürsel, the head of Bahçeşehir University’s Centre for Economic and Social Research Centre, describes the current rate of unemployment as "a real threat to the stability of Turkish society."  

This is the first time Turkey has faced such a sustained period of high unemployment.