Recent incidents in state-run dormitories have left young people in Turkey grappling with poor living conditions, with an increase in suspicious deaths and suicides among university students.
The conditions of student housing in the country came under scrutiny following the death of university student Zeren Ertaş in an elevator accident in the state-run Güzelhisar dormitory in Aydın on Oct. 26. After this incident; similar reports continued to emerge from dormitories across Turkey.
According to a report by the Kronos news website on Tuesday, the cables of an elevator snapped at a state-run dormitory in the Fatsa district of Ordu.
The elevator, which the students entered on the fifth floor, stopped on the fourth floor while descending. The students were helped out of the elevator by their friends. Shortly after, the elevator crashed to the ground floor. The students were taken to the hospital as a precaution.
According to Turkish media reports, students accommodated in state-run housing units, for which they pay monthly fees, are facing myriad issues. These include a lack of security, as unauthorized individuals sometimes enter the buildings; the cutting off of basic amenities such as electricity and water; the lack of proper furniture and operational elevators; overcrowded rooms; and issues with public transportation that lead to long lines to take a bus to school.
Sanitation is another significant concern for students due to overcrowded units. Toilets and bathrooms can lack running water. Some students use water bottles for bathing due to this lack of water. The authorities are generally unresponsive to these issues.
Poor food quality is yet another issue students have to deal with.
A recent incident in İstanbul’s Küçükçekmece district saw nearly 60 students staying at the Fatma Refet Angın Student Dormitory become ill after having chicken for dinner. The students started vomiting and experienced dizziness, indications of possible food poisoning. After receiving notification from the dormitory authorities, several ambulances were dispatched, and the students were transported to the hospital. It was reported that the students were in good condition and that an investigation had been initiated into the incident.
With inflation skyrocketing, rents in Turkey have increased many times over in recent years, making it nearly impossible for Turkish students to rent shared apartments. This has led to students being housed in shabby dorms due to the affordable prices, but even this is a luxury since many cannot find accommodation in government dorms due to a lack of space.
These conditions lead to psychological problems for some students, and some cannot handle the pressure.
Turkish media reported that a student at Hacettepe College’s Faculty of Medicine in Ankara, identified only by the initials İ.E., was found dead in her dorm room on Monday. It’s suspected that the student died by suicide.
Following the alleged suicide, schoolmates of İ.E. gathered in front of Hacettepe’s student dormitory and issued a press statement, protesting the student deaths.
The group blamed the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for Ertaş’s death and the alleged suicide of İ.E., which they claimed was the fifth student suicide they had heard of this semester.
“They are subjecting this country and its youth to unemployment, hopelessness and addiction. If this is what they have planned for us, we’re telling them once again: We will not let a single one of our friends succumb to the hopelessness and helplessness perpetuated by this system. We will change the system,” they said.
According to a report by the Gazete Duvar news website last week, three university students died by suicide across Turkey recently due to financial problems.
Between 2002 and 2021, 5,414 people died by suicide in Turkey due to financial issues, data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) indicate.
Over the past several years Turkey has been suffering from a deteriorating economy, with high inflation and unemployment as well as a poor human rights record. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is criticized for mishandling the economy, emptying the state’s coffers and establishing one-man rule in the country where dissent is suppressed and opponents are jailed on politically motivated charges.