Ateş Alpar – Mardin
Since Turkey started implementing coronavirus measures in March 2020, small and medium-sized businesses were among the most affected by the restrictions. Many shops either temporarily closed or switched to part-time working hours.
With the onset of new coronavirus measures on 20 November, the working hours of tradesmen are limited once again. Tradesmen who were already suffering from economic stress because of the previous lockdowns are again facing similar problems.
Many of them are struggling with either poverty or unemployment and a large number of small businesses have already closed or are in danger of closing. Those that have not closed yet are only opening for daily costs and rent. Those who employed workers reduced the number of employees. We talked to tradesmen in Mardin (Merdin) about the ongoing economic crisis as well as the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on them.
There was never a time when bringing bread home was this difficult. There are no jobs, people are not allowed to go out. If we tradesmen can bring bread to our homes, it is a good day for us. Since the beginning of the pandemic, these streets are empty. In the past, around one thousand people were walking in these streets but now no more than 10 people walk here. If no one supports us, we are really in trouble. I am 67 years old now. I am scared because of both the pandemic and the economic crisis.
We used to have so much work that we could not deliver all of the orders. But now, we are now sitting doing nothing all day. For days, we are waiting for a piece of work so that we can bring some money to our homes. It was never this difficult. I don’t know what we will do tomorrow. I have four children, how will I raise them if this goes on? We do not feel that we are alive anymore.
Our craft, copper work, was never very popular, but now we rarely open our shop. I just come to fix previous work. Everyone is now buying from big markets, not from us. Our products are handmade and we are a family company. My father did the same job. Neither the government nor big companies supported us. I am here for one day and no one even visited me and asked how I am doing. Sometimes I just come and visit the other tradesman, who all sit the whole day. There is no job and no support. If we die no one would cry for us.
Here was a place that tourists visited in large numbers. Now you cannot see anyone. Locals were already not coming here for shopping, it was tourists who used to come most of the time. Now no one is coming because of the pandemic. We could survive with tourism in the past but now it is really hard. We are waiting for support from the state. However, if you are not supporting the Justice and Development Party, the government does not provide any support.
I have been doing this job for 50 years. I am a carpenter. Everyone closed their shops and I am coming here just because I am bored at home. I opened this carpentry workshop for four months and not even a single person came here. I just come here to clean these days. I pay rent for the shop, and I do not want to lose it. I am praying all day for God to end the pandemic. God helps poor people. No one is supporting each other. The tradesman has been supported by the governments all over the world, but our government did not give us even a single lira. We have paid taxes for so many years. If we owe the state, we immediately get a lien. God let them not leave in peace.
The prices of vegetables and fruit have increased due to the weather conditions. It rained a lot. And there is also the coronavirus. We haven’t sold anything for one year. We cannot buy anything for our homes. We have children, but we cannot buy books for them to read. I am considering suicide, all these people here are poor, cannot bring even bread to their homes. In the past, we used to think no one would be hungry in Mardin but now no one is supporting each other.
Thank god, we are better than the previous month. If the vaccines arrive, people would be freer. Now slowly people started to go out to the streets. We could not sell anything here for about seven to eight months. We could not pay our loans. Now we are trying to pay them and also the interest. No one supports us. In Europe, the tradesman is being supported by the government, but in our country our government adds interest to our loans.
This is a family business. I had three children who worked with me but now for four months only me and my little son are here. We also have a chef, but sometimes we have difficulty paying his wage. We have difficulty in paying our electricity and water bill. If the pandemic and economic crisis continue, we will have to close the business.
I am from Mardin, which is famous for its copper silver and stones. It is also famous for its friendly people. It is enough for us if we bring some bread to our homes but since last year we have no been able to do it. Many tradesmen closed their shops and left the city and migrated to the villages. My only wish is the end of the pandemic and to return to the old days. We have lots of loans and if I cannot pay them I will close the shop. I was born here and grew up here. I want to die here but living here has become very difficult. The pandemic affected us the most.