Although its lands are fertile and appropriate for agriculture, thousands of people take to the roads as seasonal workers from Urfa (Riha) every year in Turkey because there is no cropland within the city’s limits.
People of Urfa experience various problems, especially racist attacks in the cities they travel to in order to engage in seasonal work. They are forced to work under adverse conditions, often living in small tents during the summer days where they have no access to electricity or freshwater.
Seasonal agricultural workers who travel to the town of Peri in Mazgirt district in Dersim to find work, struggle to survive in tents that are 20 square metres in dimension. They live without electricity or a freshwater supply under pandemic conditions. The place they work in is located 100 km away from their home.
Jin News interviewed the workers and asked them about their journey that begins in Urfa.
Medine Gözeten is a 27-year-old woman. “The most exploited workers in Turkey are the agricultural workers,” she says, and she states that they often have to contend with traffic accidents during the arduous journey.
“The place where we sleep, sit and use as a kitchen is only a 20 square metre tent. It is terrible when it rains. There is neither electricity nor water. If we call this living …”
Employers bring water in tankers to the places where they set up their tents. “We carry the water that we get from these tankers to the tents in buckets and small drums. The water tanker is across the road where our tents are. The road consists of two lanes. Vehicles pass by at speed. We take these risks and carry water across the road,” she states.
If you are a woman, working under these conditions is even harder. Büşra Çiftçay explains: “We meet all the needs for life in the places we work. We work both in the field and in the tents. We also have to do chores such as cooking, laundry, dishes, and childcare. It is more difficult for mothers. Babies are affected by the cold or sun, by the mud. Most babies get sick here,” she says.
They stay for a month in the places that they go to and then the journey begins once again. “For example, after hoeing in May, once finished, some of us go to pick cherries, some go to pick apricots, some go to pick hazelnuts. In short, a family of seasonal agricultural workers must endure long journeys and travel to at least four to five cities during a seven month working period. We spend half of the wages we receive on the roads and on living needs in the cities we visit and stay in. The work we do is not worth the money that is left in our pocket, but we have to keep at it,” says Nurcan Çiftçay.