Turkish pro-government newspaper blames Richard Dawkins’ book for suicides

Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Akit on Friday blamed the suicide of four middle-aged siblings on a book by English author Richard Dawkins found at the scene.

Police found the bodies of two sisters and two brothers in Istanbul’s conservative Fatih district on Wednesday and said they had used cyanide to commit suicide.

The four siblings were struggling with financial problems, according to their neighbours in Fatih who talked to the media. While police searched the home, officials from the electricity company arrived to cut supplies to the flat due to an unpaid 607-lira ($105) bill. 

Yeni Akit said police found Dawkins’ book “The God Delusion” while searching the house and said such atheist books had poisoned society. 

The Turkish publisher of Dawkins’ book faced criminal charges for inciting hatred in 2008 after several complaints were filed saying the book insulted religion, but was later acquitted.

“The God Delusion” has sold 3.3 million copies worldwide since it was published in 2006, the Guardian said in 2018. Unofficial Arabic pdf of the book has been downloaded 13 million times, it said. 

Dilek Güngör, a columnist for the pro-government Sabah newspaper, pointed out on Friday that reports linking the suicides to economic problems had first been published by BBC Turkish and then by opposition newspapers, and said there was a campaign to use the deaths to influence public opinion. 

“It is obvious that some people have been trying to scratch something,” she said. 

The government is planning legislation that would allow the courts to jail economists and others who make pessimistic predictions about the economy, Güngör also said this week.