Ferhat Yaşar / DUVAR
Kurdish writer İlhami Işık has become the voice of families in need in Turkey, as he ensures that social media users pay the unpaid bills of those struggling with poverty.
Işık shares the pictures of the bills sent to him on Twitter and asks whether anyone is willing to pay. He has helped 14,000 families in the past three years to pay 40,000 bills worth 6.1 million liras.
Speaking to Duvar, Işık said that more and more people have become unable to pay their bills in the past year.
"I can't keep up anymore," Işık said.
The cost of living in Turkey has skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic, and especially in the last year. While official inflation was revealed as 21.3%, estimates place “real” inflation above 50%.
Utility prices have been climbing around the world, but have skyrocketed in Turkey due to inflation and the deprecation of the lira against foreign currency.
In the midst of this economic turmoil, Işık decided to help families in need in Turkey.
"We receive at least 20-30 bills every day. It wasn’t like this two years ago. It has increased a lot in the past year. Both the amount on the bills and the number of bills are increasing.”
He says in the past bills would be 50 liras and under. Now, they’re much higher.
“The electricity and natural gas bills are at least 200, 300, 400 liras, and this increase continues. There has been a huge increase in the past six months. I can’t keep up anymore,” Işık said.
He says he’s struggling to keep up with the amount, and taking care of the number of bills coming in takes almost all of his time.
“This scares me,” he added.
Işık attributes this increase to a variety of factors, including unemployment and an inadequate minimum wage.
“Minimum wage is not sufficient. If someone pays their bills, they can’t pay their rent. If they pay their bills, they will go hungry. They’re faced with these sorts of choices,” Işık said.
He says that he helps people pay their bills in order to help them not go hungry and to help them meet the most basic of their needs.
“There are families whose electricity has been cut for three months and they could not tell their neighbors out of shame. There are families who cannot turn on natural gas. There are families with disabilities,” he said.
In some families, the main breadwinner has died, or their daily take-home wages total no more than 50 Turkish Lira. In the face of multi-fold increases in prices, these families are now faced with vital choices - eat or have electricity, pay rent, or have water to wash.
“We are faced with so many vital problems. Our society is losing its quality of life in order to not go hungry,” he said, “If people pay their bills, they will starve. We are facing such a problem. Is there anything more serious than this?”