Mystery benefactor paying debts of Istanbul's poorest

An anonymous benefactor is leaving cash-stuffed envelopes at doorsteps and paying off debts at grocery stores in Istanbul’s poor neighbourhoods, the Guardian reported on Monday.

The mysterious philanthropist has arrived on the scene amid an economic crunch that has hit many in Turkey hard. The soaring cost of living has been blamed for three suicide and murder-suicide incidents in the country this month.

The unknown male benefactor did the rounds in Istanbul’s working-class Tuzla district on the Asian side last week, it said. 

“Someone came and asked me to show him the notebook where I record customers’ debts,” the Guardian quoted Coşkun Yılmaz, the owner of one of the shops, saying. 

“There were four people with large amounts outstanding and I told him where they lived. He came back again after talking to them and paid all the debts. I also learned he gave extra cash to those families,” Yılmaz said.

When Yılmaz asked his name, he responded by saying, “Just call me Robin Hood”.

The emergence of the mystery patron coincides with a string of collective suicides in the country, which is recovering from a currency crisis in 2018 that caused food prices and rent to soar. 

In all three cases, family members left behind notes referring to economic hardships and unemployment before killing themselves, and, in two of the incidents, their children. 

Inflation has dropped to 8.6 percent from a high of 25 percent last year, however, unemployment is still rising in the country, where electricity is 10 times more expensive than last year, the Guardian said. 

The same benefactor is believed to have left envelopes containing 1,000 liras ($ 174) at the doorsteps of needy families in other working-class neighbourhoods Istanbul in March, the article said.

“I have been here for 30 years and it was the first time I came across such a deed. My customers were very happy and wanted to see him but I don’t know who he is. He did not give his name and said he was doing this ‘only to earn God’s blessing’,” Tuncay Yaşar, a grocer in Tuzla, said.