Suicide and Politics

A Tale of Two Suicides and Politics of Public Grief in Turkey

Turkish society remains divided over how to react to victims of two suicides. One is idolized as a martyr, the other is treated as a footnote.

Abdullah Ayasun
9 min readJan 21, 2022
Bahadir Odabasi. The painting by Istanbul-based Italian artist Gianluca Constantini.

Only days apart, the Turkish public was rattled by the news of two suicides involving one college student, Enes Kara (20), a promising medical student, and Bahadir Odabasi (16), son of a purged teacher who has been behind bars for years, last week. While they joined the growing assembly of misfortunate youth irredeemably alienated from society, the afterlife of their tragic stories reveals a lot about the politics of public grieving and mourning.

In their final destination, two young people seem united, while the society woefully remains separated regarding how to mourn. Two suicides, in this respect, became a barometer of how political proclivities and ideological affinities influence the nature of social groups’ reactions in the face of such tragedies.

What set the stage for a prolonged public debate about fatal consequences of youth depression started by Enes Kara’s manifesto released moments before his death on a video. It offers a fleeting glimpse into the conditions that sapped his life energy, killed his desire for living, and the conundrum in which he found himself.

A video by Enes Kara before his death rattles the entire nation.

The medical student’s nihilistic march to his end became a rallying point for secular segments of society who scrambled to build a compelling case to entirely shut down dormitories managed and run by faith-based civil society groups. Enes Kara suddenly turned to a dividing symbol of the country’s long-running and slow-burning culture wars. Indeed, he became a martyr for atheists after his public confession of turning against religion. Breaking off with a religious lifestyle posthumously won him great sympathy from atheists and seculars.

The imposition of austere religious values and mandatory congregational prayers were the animating causes that sent Kara into despondency. It literally and…



Abdullah Ayasun

New York-based journalist and writer. Columbia School of Journalism. 2023 White House Correspondents' Association Scholar. Twitter: @abyasun