Turkey’s western province of Kocaeli is one of the regions where seasonal workers, mostly Kurds, come in the summer to earn a living, for a poor wage ranging from 10 to 12 euros a day.
Workers toil in the fields under the sun for almost 12 hours each day, struggling in harsh conditions with no adequate housing, food or health care, but they say they have no choice but to take on this work as it’s their only available source of income.
Workers between the ages of 19-53 spoke to MA, complaining about the discrimination they face and how local workers get 50% more pay.
Yusuf Kaynak is a 53-year-old seasonal agricultural worker who has come to Kocaeli from the Viranşehir district, in Turkey’s southeastern province of Urfa (Riha).
He said that although he had previously been in the construction industry, he started working as a seasonal worker because he was unable to find work in construction.
“It’s been about three weeks since we came to pick hazelnuts,” he starts to relate. “We have to work here. We don’t have any other income. I’m supporting my children through school.”
Diyar Çiyan, a 19-year-old student who has been working as a seasonal agricultural worker in the summer for about six years, complained about the working conditions.
He says he has not been able to get a proper education for two years and he does not have the means for online education since he does not even have internet access.
“The locals here get 150-160 liras a day, but we get 100 liras, and 10 liras go to the boss,” he says. “Living conditions are very hard. It’s hard getting proper food and health care. We are worried. We are like refugees working here.”
Berçem Kara is a 21-year-old university student. She has been picking hazelnuts since she was 10.
She indicates that they work for 11 hours a day, and that they’re psychologically effected because of attacks that have been targetting seasonal workers in various provinces.
“We spend our whole time here working, and those attacks happening only make our lives harder,” she continues. “We work for 115-120 liras a day, but some people work for 170 liras. People are trying to swindle us. They know that we are Kurds and they’re well aware that we have no other choice but to do the work.”