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Turkish pop star angers the public with tone-deaf comments on current economic crisis

Hulya Avsar speaking to reporters. Screenshot from TV100 video report.

“If they have to, they will eat simit,” said Turkish pop star Hülya Avşar in an interview with local media about Turkey's current financial crisis. Simit is a Turkish bagel, a common street food across the country. But even simit costs have spiked in December after prices for a kilogram of sesame seeds went from TRY 13 to TRY 35. The singer faced an immediate barrage of criticism, and her comments reminded many of the infamous expression, “let them eat cake.” Marie Antoinette was briefly trending on Turkish Twitter.

Turkey's national currency has been losing value at a breakneck pace as inflation reached 20 percent this month, with analysts predicting another 10 percent spike next year.

Avşar was caught on camera answering reporters’ questions about the lira's crash and increasing poverty when she reportedly said, “The economic crisis has certainly an impact on everyone and every fraction. [Now people are saying], ‘Are we going to eat simit now?’ If necessary, it will be eaten, but we will get through these days easier. People should handle it now individually.”

Many Turks are struggling to afford basic goods such as bread, with long lines reportedly forming outside subsidized bread kiosks. In an interview with The New York Times, one Istanbul resident, Sengul Essen, 57, said, “People cannot manage. I worked 21 years as a cleaner at the university, and now I am waiting in a bread queue.” Another resident, an electrician, said his family can hardly make ends meet on his 2,900 lire per month salary, which at the current exchange rate totals to USD 207.

Back on Twitter, some called Avşar out of touch and criticized her lavish lifestyle.

If there is need, we won't do botox but we will overcome this period.

Some users alluded to the TRY 55 million island that the singer bought last year for her daughter.

Hülya Avşar says that if necessary, simit will be eaten. If you have no shame, at least shut up! This woman, who bought an island for 55 million last year and a car for 5 million three days ago, is unaware that bagels are more expensive than bread and that babies are fed stale bread soaked in sugar water.

Back on the street, the sentiments of Turks tell it all. Speaking to The New York Times, one street vendor who sells simits was stunned by the price hikes, saying, “I think the end of the world is coming.”

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