Fatma Özdemir is a 66-year-old Kurdish woman making a living by selling herbs she has grown in the beautiful Hevsel Garden of Diyarbakır (Amed) in southeastern Turkey.
She came to the city 27 years ago after her village was burnt down by soldiers as part of the scorched earth policy of the Turkish state in the 1990s when there were intense clashes between the Turkish armed forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Özdemir’s village was just one of hundreds of villages that were forcibly evacuated, MA reports. She now lives in the Çeltikli village in Dicle, Diyarbakır. She misses her home village terribly and has suffered greatly throughout long years as a refugee in her own country.
Her daily routine starts in the early hours of the morning. At 6 am, she sets off to the historic Hewsel Gardens. She collects herbs in the fields for 2-3 hours, then loads them into her wheelbarrow to take home where she cleans and prepares them for sale.
When this is done, Özdemir sets out with her barrow again, stopping at various points in the streets of Sur in central Diyarbakır to try to sell them.
“I have been working like this for 25 years. Our village was burned down. This has been my work since I came to Diyarbakır,” she said.
She sells three bunches of herbs for 10 Turkish liras (less than £1).
“I keep selling the herbs I have collected until nine in the evening,” she says, as she tries to keep out of sight of the police.
“There’s a lot of pressure from the police, I have to keep moving around. At my age, it’s hard moving this load on my own.”
Since she turned 66 two months ago she has been receiving the old-age pension, but she still has to work because the pension is less than a third of the minimum wage, “I have to pay rent, it’s hard to make ends meet, so I have to work,” she says.
“We’re all trying to earn our bread and butter. I have to keep working, even at my age. I wish I had a fixed place to sell my herbs.”