Below are some questions and answers about placeless people. Then, let’s see what they have to say.
“We move a lot, we are nomads, that’s who we are. We are constantly carrying our properties with us from this village to another, from that city to another. We are constantly moving in order to find a job. We came here to harvest cotton by hand. But we live in a misery.”
-How many kids have you got? And they all do this job? How do you make money now?
“6 and yes, all. Kids harvest cotton by hand. And we earn our livings like that. We are having difficulties. We are earning our livings somehow, but don’t even ask about it. We are eating just dry bread. We eat dry bread, under this heat. We don’t have water for weeks. We live on that trailer for weeks and we live our life like this. We don’t have electricity or anything. We sit and live beneath this nylon tent.
We don’t have a proper house, even in our homeland. It’s shameful to say that but we don’t even have a bathroom or a toilet here, nothing. We leave our tents in the dark and we come back in the dark. We work hard but everything goes in vain.
I was born in 1960 and I am 50 years old. I do this job for almost 30 years now. We come here in winter to work in fields, in watermelon greenhouses. We harvest cotton by hand. We come in February and plant watermelon, then, in May we plough the cotton fields. In August, tomatoes come out and we also make their harvest. In September we harvest the cotton and in December we return to our homeland.”
-What do you do in your homeland?
“Nothing, there is no job opportunity there. What can we do in our homeland? There is nothing to do. In summer or in winter, if we find a job somewhere, we go there. No matter where. No matter rain or cold, if we find a job, we work. And if we don’t, we stay and wait in our tents. Our living conditions are rough. Sometimes we work and cannot get our money. We wait for almost a year. Sometimes, when the crop doesn’t pay, we also cannot get our money.
Farmers don’t pay us. But I’m responsible for 11 persons. I have kids. They cannot study because our living conditions are rough as I said. We don’t have a social security. We don’t have a field, a vineyard, a garden, nothing. We only have our God Almighty. It’s difficult to make money. But anyway, we try to look after our kids.
I cannot describe it. You have a rag bellow you and that’s it. What can you expect from a tent? You can’t have a healthy living condition in a tent. Are we doing this for fun, to have a picnic? No. We came here to work and we must live in a tent and that’s it. If you find a job, you work and if you don’t, you stay and wait in the tent. What can I say more? I have nothing to say. Everything is quite clear, if you know how to look at it.”
Another man says:
“I’m 55 years old. I do this job for almost 30 years. I’m a gatherer, a field hand. It’s difficult to earn a living because there aren’t many jobs. We earn 20 Liras a day. And it’s difficult to live with 20 Liras if you are 3, and everything is expensive. Elbow grease is cheap. You’ll say that in these days even farmers cannot make a good living. But it’s not our fault.
I have 4 kids. Believe it or not, 3 of them studied 3 years in elementary school. They couldn’t continue, why? Because we come here in one winter and return back in another. This way, kids fail their classes and you have to take them from school. If government gives a minimum wage to a family, kids can go to school and get educated.
What can you do when you get old? You know what they say: when there is a life, there is a hope. We hope that our children will look after us in our elderly days as we did, in these rough living conditions, look after them during their childhood. We don’t have anything else. We won’t get retired. We won’t have a salary or anything else. We don’t even have a social security.
We only have a green card, a simple health insurance. When you get old, if your children look after you, you’ll be fine, but if they don’t, you will be left to your destiny, all alone. That’s it.”
The young one says:
“I’m 25 years old. I work as a field hand with my family since I was born. We harvest cotton, work in greenhouses. We also harvest watermelon, tomatoes and eggplant. This is our job. There were times when I wanted to go to a school but we didn’t have the means. If we had, my father would surely raise me differently. I finished the elementary. And now, I try to support my father as much as I can.
Living in a tent, if you think about it, it’s way different than living in a concrete house. When there is a big storm, you don’t have anywhere to go. You live beneath a fabric. Beneath a nylon and a fabric. I cannot express it differently. I surely would have liked to have a proper job in my homeland. Then, I wouldn’t have to come here. I coming here because I need to work. It’s a necessity. Nobody will leave his homeland for nothing.
If we had job opportunities in our homeland we wouldn’t live this nomadic life. I would have liked to be able to earn my living in the place where I was born. I would have liked my brothers and sisters to study, for example. And it’s better to live in a city, if you consider the health issue. I would have liked to have a better life in my homeland, instead of moving constantly. I’m thinking about my brothers and sisters’ future. They are the important ones now, because they are young. We are somehow tired from this.”
Now, the kids says:
“I’m 15 years old. I cannot go to school because I’m working. The conditions are rough in our homeland. Because we can’t find a job there. And the conditions are also rough in here, because we have to work hard. My family wants me to study and I surely would have liked to go to a school. I want to go but I have to work. While my friends go to school, I’m harvesting cotton here.
Sometimes, I want to scream because I don’t like this job. In fact, nobody would like to harvest cotton by hand under this heat. We have to kill ourselves in order to collect one kilo of cotton. I love Urfa, it’s hard for me to leave my friends behind. I have many close friends in there. And here, I can’t get along with the kids.
Generally, we face discrimination because we are from Urfa, because we are workers, because we are Arabs. I say that I am an Arab but they consider me as a Kurd. They call me as Kurd boy. They say some bad things. They invent some excuses and come to mess with us, beat us. We cannot do anything.
In fact, I also don’t want to work. I would have liked to stay in Urfa with my friends. I would have liked to play as I pleased and to go from neighbor to neighbor at nights to collect candy in our festivals; to have my allowance in my pocket. I would have liked to roll with my friends, to go to school. I don’t like to be apart from my friends.
But we must work, if we didn’t have to, we surely wouldn’t have come here. I want to be a doctor. It’s my favorite profession. I would have liked to save people’s lives. I would have liked to get an education for me and for my family. And that way I could also heal my relatives. I could write prescriptions for them.”
“I’m 12 years old and I work here. I harvest cotton by hand and help my mother when she needs me. I’m afraid of the rain and the lightning. I go beneath my quilt, put my head beneath my pillow. That’s it. I mean, when there is a flood, I feel like I’m going to be drowned. I just want to study, that would be enough for me.”
“I’m 17 years old and I’ve never been to a school. I mean, they didn’t let me go. I couldn’t study because our economic condition is not so well. I’ve always worked in the field, harvested cotton by hand. I work a lot, also harvest tomatoes, pepper and so on.
We stay 9 months in here, and we go to Urfa for 2 months. We are constantly working. We don’t have a fine day but, even so, we have to praise our God. I mean, we can earn our livings. It’s good, we have to be grateful. I don’t complain much and I’m praising to God because there are worse. I love my family a lot. I have many good brothers, they care for me a lot. And I love them.
-Do you have a dream, something that you want to do in life?
I do. I would have liked to live good, happy days. I don’t want to work anymore. I’m fed up with it. One can easily get fed up with this life. I would have liked to sit and have fun with my friends. We can also have fun in here.”
There are two woman and they says:
“I’ve got 9 kids. They all go to harvest cotton by hand early in the morning. They wake up at 3 a.m. I prepare their breakfasts and send them to work. Then, I pick up their beds, and do the laundry, clean the house, unto the tent, then pitch it up again, prepare the meal, cook the bread. What can I say more? I do lots of things. This is our life. Every year, in summer we come here and stay for 9 months. We harvest cotton, plough the fields, harvest different crops. This is how we live our lives.”
“We live in a tent in winters and in summers, we live in misery. We live like this for money, to earn our livings. What have to, what else can we do? In summers we manage, but there is the wind, as you can see. We cannot cook properly because of this wind. Our tents get tip over when there is a wind. In winters it gets cold. We get sick. I mean, we live in a misery like this. But thanks God, we don’t need anybody. I mean, we are earning our livings with our elbow grease and we are happy with it. We don’t need anybody’s help.”
-Where do you get your water from?
“We take our water from fountains and boil it in our caldrons. Do the laundry and dishes from morning till the evening. We boil our water with wood and sometimes with nylon. It’s dark, I mean we live our lives in the dark.”
-How do you take a bath?
“We take our baths in the tent. The others get out, we close the tent and take our baths one by one. Then we open the tent and sleep in it. A gas cylinder is enough to us for a week. We manage. We live in misery but we live. God gave us this. What else can we do? There is no toilet, no bathroom. At nights people go out, they go out in dark. Field hands go to harvest cotton, they are elsewhere and we are here.
We don’t have electricity. We have lamps and candles. We boil the water and make our bread in the dark. Wash the dishes in the dark. The laundry, we usually wash it during the day light but sometimes we also do it in the dark. If I can manage on my own, I finish the laundry during the daylight. But if I can’t, we finish it all together, at night, in the dark. This is how we make our livings. We don’t have a life.
As a result, God has given us this life and we are living it. I would have liked to have a good, luxury house. But we don’t have the means, what can we do? You surely would want that for yourself, wouldn’t you?”