A Stroll Through Istanbul - Part 3
When I asked Artash from Gyumri why he wound up in Istanbul, the young man answered, “The cheapest ticket I could find brought me here.”
After getting discharged from the army, Artash couldn’t find work in Armenia. He came to Turkey with his mother and sister.
Artash works in a small shoe factory alongside other Armenians, Georgians, Turks and Kurds in the Kumkapı neighborhood of Istanbul. He says he's gotten a lay of the land and knows who to make friends with and who to stay away from.
He says that if you treat people normally, they will do the same back.
Artash’s family lost their home in the 1988 earthquake. His mother raised the kids by herself in one of those temporary wagon shelters.
Back in Gyumri, Artash worked at a small amusement park for peanuts. He says he’d rather work illegally inTurkeyand make enough money to make a real difference in his life.
Artash says the police know everyone who is working illegally. It’s just a matter of not getting into trouble or making trouble. If you do, the authorities will let you go about your business.
“Otherwise, the cops can stop you on the street at any moment. In a few days they’ll send you back topArmenia.”
Artash’s mother Zima works as a housekeeper for a Turkish family. She cleans, cooks the meals and takes care of the old folk. His sister works at the gold market inIstanbul.
Artash has been tasked with the job of saving enough money to buy a house in Yerevan or Gyumri. He says he has no intention of permanently staying inTurkey.
The young man confesses that some people from Armeniahave found success in Istanbul but that they avoid talking about it.
“People are afraid to say too much. There’s a lot of theft going on here. Armenians have no qualms about stealing from other Armenians. There are Armenians who go into business with Turks, but since the Armenians are illegal all the paperwork is registered in their partners’ names,” Artash says.
Artash’s mom has had trouble adjusting to Istanbul, but she’s not one to voice her concerns. Her main objective in life now is to be able to buy a home for her kids.
“Do you think I wanted to come here? Armenians are an industrious people. They are ruining Armenia. I would have stayed in my homeland and worked. This isn’t our country. No matter how well the Turks treat us, it’s not the same,” says an emotional Zina.
Photos: Saro Baghdasaryan