Tuesday, 10 December

Armenians in Turkey

I met Artur a little while ago. He was delivering an order from a shoe factory to my husband’s family. I noticed him, since in Istanbul you usually notice other Armenians. We saw on the doorstep and invited him inside.

I was surprised by his age; this slight, good-looking boy was only twelve years old. He was outspoken and gave direct answers. We learned that Artur had come to Turkey with his mother a year ago. He works at a shoe factory, from nine in the morning to eleven at night. The factory owner sends him to deliver goods to customers or to bring materials to the factory.

"Do you watch TV?" I ask him.

"As if I have time to lift my head up," he replies.

Artur already knows Turkish pretty well. As we spoke, he sometimes replied in Turkish when he couldn't remember the appropriate Armenian word. He lives in Istanbul with his mother and sister. His mother also works at the shoe factory, and his 15-year-old sister works in a jewelry store.

"I make 100 million liras a week (about $75), my mother makes  $100, and my sister makes 100 million lira, too."

Rents in Istanbul start at 200 to 250 million liras.

"Is it enough?" I ask.

"We manage to get by somehow; my sister doesn’t make enough money to support herself, and I eat during my breaks in the cafeteria-my boss pays for it."

Artur used to go to School #11 in Hrazdan. 

I went till sixth grade but I didn't want to, I always skipped classes after one in the afternoon. The classes were from nine to six, and I didn't want to go to that school. One day my mother asked me if I wanted to go to her. I said, why not? And me and my sister came here. I have done whatever type of job there is here. Before this job, I worked for 50 million a week.

The boy doesn't want to return to Armenia. He doesn’t think he needs school.  He doesn’t save any of the money he earns.

"I give it to my mother."

The factory owner has promised to increase his salary to 150 million lira.

"I don't like Turks or Kurds. I say whatever I want to the boss.  I'm not afraid of anyone."

Artur proudly says that he is not afraid of the dark, and after work he goes to an Internet cafe to play games.
"The Armenian place is open till one a.m.-I go there."

In Turkey, Internet cafes must close at midnight.

"And your mother doesn't say anything?"

"I sneak out when they fall asleep.  They don’t know."

"When you come back late, your mother doesn't scold you?"

"No," he says sharply.

His father is in Armenia, with Artur's six-month-old sister. According to Artur, his parents aren't divorced, and to prove it he says quickly, "They'll be coming to Turkey soon."

There are Armenian schools in Istanbul, but only Turkish citizens can attend them, and so about 13,000 Armenians have no opportunity to get an education. Only the secret private school located next to Armenian Apostolic Church in the Ketikpasha district accepts Armenian children. Artur doesn't want to go there; he prefers Internet cafes.

"I know everything; I can get into the game and change everything."

Artur is not the only person in this city, but he is one of the few, who is completely at the mercy of fate. He has no future in this country.  He cannot start anything here, and even if he lives the rest of his life in this city, he will be unable to obtain any citizenship right, because he is a Christian, and especially because he is an Armenian.

"Sometimes I buy some small items for one million lira and sell them for three million, or when my boss gives me money to buy materials, I buy them for a bit cheaper, and save ten million, " he boasts.

It was getting late, so we asked the youngster to go home, since Istanbul is dangerous, especially at night. He left, promising to come back. He left, leaving a strange silence behind.

Hermine Adamyan

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