Turkish workers battle scorching heat and laborious conditions

Turkish workers battle scorching heat and laborious conditions
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The fight for a better life amidst difficult circumstances at the heart of Istanbul.

By Osman Cakli

Turkish workers are fighting for a better life under challenging conditions in the heart of Istanbul.

On Wednesday, 26 July, the General Directorate of Meteorology issued a scorching heat warning, urging vulnerable groups to stay indoors between 11 am and 4 pm as temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius. Despite the extreme weather conditions, workers in Okmeydani, a district in Beyoğlu, Istanbul, continued their arduous tasks, facing the challenges of a cheap labor market.

Characterized by poverty and chaotic living conditions, Okmeydani has become a haven for textile workers, including migrants from Africa, Syria, and Afghanistan. These workers often find themselves in the cramped basements of makeshift apartments, lacking proper facilities and labor rights. While tensions sometimes arise between Turkish workers and foreign migrants, they also recognize their shared struggles and experiences.

The day at a textile workshop in Okmeydani was sweltering. The ten workers toiled without air conditioning in a 150 square meter room, while many other workshops faced similar conditions. The workers' camaraderie provided some solace in the difficult circumstances. Some brought their children to the workshop, juggling work and childcare responsibilities, and others sent their children to learn skills during the summer holidays.

Meanwhile, the experience of ironing in the workshop proved unbearable, with steam and stifling heat. Workers struggled to cope and yearned for brief respites outside. Songul, a worker and mother of two, shared her struggles while ironing, illustrating the harsh reality of their daily lives.

In another corner, Aynur, a worker supporting her seven children, dreams of a better future for her daughters and longs for them to have access to education.

Despite the adversity, these workers are resilient and recognize the importance of work for their families livelihoods. The story sheds light on the challenges low-income workers face in the region, revealing the struggle for a better life in difficult circumstances and the aspirations for a better future.