Stone workers in the Idil district of Turkey’s eastern province of Şırnak (Şirnex) break, excavate and process the basalt stones to be used as construction materials in concrete and asphalt, floor tiles or many other indoor and outdoor residential applications.
However, breaking, chiselling and excavating these volcanic rocks with sledgehammers in temperatures of up to 35ºC is not an easy task. The workers begin their day at 6 am and work until the sun goes down for a daily wage of 160 Turkish Lira (around UK £13), MA reports.
“The more labour you give to shape a stone, the more beautiful an artwork you will produce,” said Ethem Özgü, a stone quarry worker.
Özgü is a Kurdish citizen from Turkey’s Siirt (Sêrt) province working in Şırnak, but he feels at home here because he is so close to his family and he can visit them at least two days a week. “Before, I was working in Istanbul and Ankara. It was hard to work away from home,” he said.
He described the work he does: “We first break the stones with sledge hammers and then shape them with hammers. It requires considerable physical strength, so it is really gruelling, but I am happy to earn my living using my own labour.”
Another stone worker, Veli Acar, has been working in this industry for 16 years. “Even if I shape a thousand rocks during a day, the money I get does not change: it is 160 TL,” he said. “But I am happy that I do not look to anybody for my living,” he said.
Despite living on a shoestring budget and working under such harsh conditions, Acar states that this is their only source of income and therefore they have to endure the challenges involved in the profession.