News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
Thousands of refugees from scores of different countries are currently living in the Istanbul neighborhood of Kumpapı, many without legal rights or access to the basic necessities of life, according to a new article by Sedat Yılmaz that appeared in Özgür Gündem. Kumkapı, located in the district of Fatih, has become known as the “gate of the peoples” or the place of transition between Asia and Europe, and is now at the center of a growing refugee crisis in Turkey.
A Mosaic of Peoples
According to one Turkish doctor, Ahmet Kaya, who has worked with the refugees for number of years, the refugees come from all over the world. In a report he prepared detailing his work at a private clinic in the neighborhood, 7,980 of his patients – or 52 percent of the clinic’s total patients – were of foreign origin over the past two years. Kaya’s records indicate that they have come from 73 different countries and that many receive no support from the state. The refugees come from all over Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Of the remaining 48 percent of patients, between 60-70 percent are Kurdish refugees who were forced to flee state violence and oppression in the East of the country.
Violence and Hopelessness
Dr. Kaya went on to explain that many of the refugees are unregistered. They work long, difficult jobs at low pay and have no access to basic services such as healthcare and education for themselves or for their families. They live in fear of police violence, threats of deportation, and extortion. In addition housing is difficult to come by on their low salaries and many share single room apartments with 5 or 6 other immigrants, says Kaya. The crowded, unhygienic conditions means that they suffer disportionaly from diseases like tuberculosis – in addition to physiological disorders brought on by the extreme stress of their lives. For those who die here many lack the income to be repatriated and are buried in unmarked graves.
Many women are forced into prostitution to survive, or else or forced to travel long distances to the wealthy districts of Istanbul to work as maids, nannies, or caretakers for the sick. Many have their passports taken away from them by their employers and are forced to work without any rights or recourse to legal protections.
They don’t have anyone
The worst off, according to the doctor, are those Bangladesh:
“They don’t have anyone. They are undocumented in every sense. Normally they went to use Turkey as a transit country and to go on to Europe from here. Some end up hanging around and staying here. Most are put to work in the textile, shoe and construction sectors but they are paid very little. Because they have no one to support them or on whom they can lean. They have so alone and have no kinship or ethnic foundation here on which they could rely.”
Often the children suffer the most, explains Kaya. In addition the all the other problems, they face the risk of abandonment. Kaya remembers one story in particular. A number of years ago a young baby girl from Mardin was brought to the clinic. However the doctor noticed that she did not resemble a child from Mardin. “Who is this child” he asked? And the family explained, “she belonged to the neighbors above us. Her father was Russian and her mother was from Africa. When the woman was pregnant father abondoned her. The mother also disappeared after the child was born and the child stayed with us. We got guardianship and named the child Azad.”