Every day, 13 year-old Mamoukan must convince himself that he loves his boss more than his own father. Tough socio-economic conditions have even started to impact the emotions and views of adolescent citizens ofArmenia.
Mamoukan works at a shoe making facility in Istanbul’s Kumkapı neighborhood. The boy moved toTurkey with his mother Karineh and young brother Robert from the town ofHrazdan. Their grandmother and the youngest brother, Samvel, remained behind inArmenia.
Mamoukan says he has no information about his father. “I don’t know where he is. He was here but left.”
|Mamoukan and his mother taking a break outside the workplace|
For the past four years, Mamoukan has gone to work at 7 am. At 8 in the evening, the boy returns to an apartment rented by his boss to rest up until the next workday. He’s the most well-liked guy at the shoe facility and he gets all the odd jobs.
|Mamoukan explains how he turns leather into shoes|
When I asked Mamoukan if he missesArmeniaand wants to return, his answer was a categorical “no”. “I have good friends here who watch my back,” the boy said.
Mamoukan speaks fairly fluent Turkish and hasn’t gone to school in years. Karineh says the boy has a good future sewing shoes and that he might get a place of his own one day.
|Karineh - Mamoukan’s mother|
“Don’t you think I wouldn’t want to be inArmeniawith the rest of my family? I don’t want my boy working here but rather studying. But this is their future, to work and take care of themselves,” says an emotional but realistic Karineh.
Mounting debt back inArmeniaforced Karineh to move toTurkeywith the kids. She won’t bring her third son toTurkeybecause the boy has physical problems that don’t allow him to work.
“He was two when I left and cried as I exited the house. I never turned back to look. I miss him terribly. Why has our government inArmeniaforced us to migrate toTurkey?”
Over the past four years, Karineh has been able to visitArmeniato see her mother and son once or twice. She’s been sending back $150 or so a month to the family back home since she’s been inTurkey.
|Karineh and Mamoukan||Mamoukan and a fellow child worker|
“No one wants to go toArmeniaanymore. No one will ever live there. Had the government taken care of us, would I have left my two year-old to come here? My baby wanted to eat and I had nothing to feed him. What hasArmeniadone for me?” asks Karineh.
|Mamoukan and his Alevi boss|
P.S. Hetq has shot a film of Mamoukan, Karineh and others from Armenia now working inIstanbul. We will present it to our readers after this series of articles entitled “A Trip through Istanbul” has ended.
Photos: Saro Baghdasaryan