News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
A new report carried by YeniÖzgürPolitka looks at the dangers and difficulties facing seasonal agricultural workers both in Kurdish regions of Turkey and the country as a whole. Below is a translation of the article in its entirety.
In the district of Bismîl in Amed (Turkish: Diyarbakir) Province hundreds of child and female workers between the ages of 12 and 30 are harvesting cotton before the sun rises in order to support their families. These workers are brought to the fields in the beds of the trucks that will be used to collect the cotton.
Frequent and deadly accidents involving agricultural workers being carried to the fields in overloaded truck beds are once again on the public agenda, but despite the deaths the same practices are continuing. At the same time women working in the cotton fields face the risk of severe illness such as sunstroke. These women, the majority of whom are unable to study and come to work in the fields due to poverty, make between 15-25 liras a day. Women whose hands are calloused from collecting cotton throughout the day return home in the evening and must still do house work. As Laleş Kaplan, whose mother and father are old and who has no one else at home to help her, explained: “We come to the field in the morning before the sun is even up. During the summer we have problems with the heat, and now our hands our shaking from the cold. We work in these fields for 12 hours a day for very little money. We only put up with it to support our families. If it wasn’t for them this wouldn’t be something worth doing.”
In the Fields During the Day, Home at Night
Another cotton-worker, Seyhan Meşe, explained: “We didn’t study. In order to support our families we do this job summer and winter. We earn money depending on the weight of the cotton we collect. But we cannot get the money for the cotton we collect right away. Our bosses compensate us at most every three months, and sometimes longer. When we leave here in the evening we don’t get a chance to rest. Because my mother is old I do the house chores. All of this comes from the fact that we are poor.”
At Most They Earn 25 TL
Çiğdem Ala, who has been working collecting cotton for years in order to contribute to her family’s income, spoke thus: “When you work 12 hours a day your back hurts. When we go home at night we don’t have time to rest and do work around the house. We wash the dishes. We prepare food. We constantly face pressure from our bosses and the overseers who constantly at our backs at places in the cotton fields where there isn’t a lot of cotton. Most of the time our bosses and those people standing at our backs do not even give us time to lift up our heads and rest. They are always telling us to ‘work and get all the cotton.’
Ala, who said that they are neither able to eat or rest during their 30 minute meal break, explained: “After working so hard and after this much labor the money we make in a day does not exceed 20 TL. Today if you try to give kids this money they won’t accept it. During the summer months we work the earth during the hottest hours without eating or water. As for now we are harvesting the cotton. The circumstances of our families are not good. We need to work and we want to support them. Our job is very difficult and it is a rare day when we can make 25 TL. The money we make isn’t enough to buy a pair of socks.”