Tuesday, 25 September

Children of Armenia in Istanbul’s Labor Market



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


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Comments (19)
1. Մլեհ14:07 - 24 October, 2012
Օրախնդիր հարց է վերացնել Օլիգարխիկ Աւազակապետութիւնը Հայաստանէն. որպէսզի սևաչեայ Մամուկան իր ընտանիքին հետ վերադառնայ Հայրենիք, շարունակէ ուսումը և իր քրտինքով կարողանայ կերտել իր ապագան:
2. hyur19:17 - 24 October, 2012
voxbam zqez hay joxovurd
3. Anton01:20 - 25 October, 2012
Here we go, yet, again ... and, yes, again; same old tragic story being replayed ad nauseam on the tattered screen of our collective psyche as if we didn't know. Each time the victims are different but the tragedy is one and the same. -- It is a financial genocide being committed by our own mafia government -- What those Armenians there, do to these Armenians here, does constitute as genocide, folks. These bunch of thieves control all aspects of life in Armenia from cradle to grave, including first oxygen a baby draws upon his or her arrival at the gates of life. They make it so difficult for the citizens of Armenia to exercise their god-given birthright to even subsist. The only economically viable path of least resistance leads them to the exit signs in droves, seeking jobs elsewhere to feed their families. Shame on the plutocrat for not getting this urgent message across, and shame on them for not sharing the scraps falling of the bounty of their tables with the citizens of this great nation that once was.
4. Kevin09:25 - 25 October, 2012
As much as I blame the corrupt Armenian government, this lady is not any less guilty. In my opinion what she did is outrageous and disgusting. She abandoned her 2 year old, and left to the country that gave our people genocide, yet she couldn't leave to go to Yerevan or Artsakh? How is that? When she stepped out of the house was Serjhik holding a sign telling her to leave Armenia and go to Turkey? BS! If she did not have money to feed her child, the first step is to get to Yerevan and seek help. No one is going to tell me there is no help in Yerevan. Yes it is too bad that her husband is an idiot who abandoned the family, but that is not an excuse to abandon Armenia and go join your enemy. "What has Armenia done for me?" On one level I feel sorry for her, but when she asked such a question, a part of me tells me, good riddance.
5. Mher14:09 - 25 October, 2012
@Kevin - What cozy corner of the diaspora are you sitting in with your normal paying job that gives you any right to condemn this woman? What exactly is she guilty of? - Doing whatever it takes to feed her kids? Is that a crime? You suggest that she could have gone to Yerevan.. To do what exactly?? Beg on the streets from a loaf of bread or try to get a job paying $3 a day cleaning toilets? Seek help??? From whom exactly - the corrupt Armenian government perhaps? Maybe she and her family should have applied for a U.S green card and joined you somewhere in sunny California or Australia, or wherever you live.. Good riddance? I see more people in Yerevan selling the shirts off their backs just to make it through the week...Jobs for woman like Karineh JUST DON'T EXIST!!! But a dope like you feels you have the right to condemn her. How sad and ass-backwards.
6. Anton19:06 - 25 October, 2012
It is unfortunate to read Kevin-esque sentiments which only exacerbate a bad situation into a worse one. This woman is NOT guilty of anything, let's not crucify her upside down on a cross that we all bear in one shape or another. What she did was NOT "outrageous and disgusting", on the contrary, my choice of adjectives would have been "courageous and outstanding". What is she GUILTY of ? Is it, perhaps, for not prostituting? Or is it because for leaving a physically challenged son in the loving hands of a grandmother? Or, better yet, is it because she keeps sending $150 a month back to a famished home? Which is it? I, honestly, can't for the life of me see much negative qualities in this lady given her dire circumstances. These people are not the root cause of the problem; they are the direct result of it. The enemy is not "without", it is "within" the soul-less rulers (not leaders) of Armenia. Let's face our demons; acknowledge it that it's real; and take part in changing it.
7. GB10:29 - 26 October, 2012
Sad to hear that Armenian government is not doing enough to keep our young Armenian generation in Armenia and run a similar shoe factory right at home!!
8. ara11:28 - 26 October, 2012
So she doesnt have education, no prior work experience, she married a loser, and had children and she wonders why she´s poor? there is thousands of people like her. She should have gotten off her ass and do something with her life instead of making her boy work. no sympathy from me.
9. Kevin20:29 - 26 October, 2012
@ Mher and Anton, you two don't realize what reality is. Yes I am comfortably sitting in the diaspora... you know why? Because part of my family escaped the genocidal Turks and started with nothing and made it someplace and were positive role-models for me as an Armenian. And they did that by NOT becoming prostitutes, or selling themselves out to our enemy. The point I made is, yes the government of Armenia are crooks, yet you have no right to abandon Armenia, claiming "what has Armenia done for me"? With this mentality, no wonder people of Armenia are starving. So what has Turkey done for her? Raised her kids as Turks? Got them into child labor of 12 hour days as slaves? Yes not only is this woman clueless, she also sits around and watches her child get abused in a country where she has no business being in. And as I stated earlier, she starts in Hrazdan and skips Yerevan and gets to Istanbul... how convenient. As mentioned in my previous post, she could have first gone to Yerevan, and sought help... what's wrong with getting short-term help from the AGBU there who feeds families in need,although its not permanent? Artsakh wants a population increase, the government there is inviting Armenians and giving them help too, so what's wrong with moving to Artsakh? Nobody is going to convince me there are no other options in Armenia... nobody. What we have here is the case of an ignorant woman, who gave her kids no chance of being raised as Armenians, plain and simple.
10. Anton20:49 - 26 October, 2012
Ara, I am glad, and in fact thankful, that you unwittingly provided a darker background against which we could cast the same light and only to have it shine even brighter on the same facts; and facts are very stubborn things; they refuse to go away, for it points its steady finger directly at the failing policies of the corrupt government who do not FACILITATE in creating similar opportunities as in Turkey right here at home, where they belong.You have adjudicated by enumerating 3 reasons why Karineh is undeserving of your sympathy. But, I say, there are scores of women (and men) like Karineh in Armenia who: 1.- Have education, 2.- Are not married to losers, 3.- Have less or no children, and still wonder WHY THEY ARE POOR! Why? Because: 1.- Education without jobs in Armenia is useless. 2.- A looser is something the other person does (as the husband left) after the fact, not her. 3.- And finally, it is a most natural thing to have children. I am pretty sure any parent can attest to that fact of which all of us are a testament. Are we not?
11. Mher23:07 - 26 October, 2012
I knew it...so where are sitting right now Kevin, sunny California??? When was the last time you were in Armenia? You seem to speak from personal experience about how there are opportunities for single moms like Karineh to feed three kids on her own in Armenia where jobs, even menial ones, are given through familial and other contacts or by sleeping with the boss. Do you have kids by the way Kevin? Are you raising them as good Armenians in the diaspora or have they assimilated already? Is that your biggest concern for which you condemn Karineh? That she relocated to Turkey? What if she had gone to Russia like THOUSANDS of other desperate Armenians? Do you call them traitors too? Their kids are being assimilated as well...What if they had moved to the States where you now reside? Would you regard them as the degenerate traitors you believe they are? What are caring soul you've turned out to be in your little corner of paradise.
12. Kevin03:26 - 28 October, 2012
There are Armenians moving to USA, Georgia, Russia, are they traitors? I don't know, it depends with what intention they are moving, and whether their nation (Armenia) will always remain within their hearts or not. Based on what I read, this lady definitely is not a model Armenian. Like Ara above, I have zero sympathy for her. I may have felt a little sympathy, if the story had gone something like this: She left Hrazdan to find a new life in Yerevan. She was unsuccessful in Yerevan in finding work or help and tried other cities in Armenia, even relocating to Artsakh for a while... after exhausting all avenues, she was forced to move to Turkey in order to support her mother and child she left back home" - but is the story like that? No its not, and my opinion stands that she should be ashamed of herself, and her children are being raised loving Turks instead of their Hayrenik. Nothing else to say.
13. Xunsap'ha12:07 - 28 October, 2012
....."it depends with what intention they are moving"; Answer: They are doing their best to avoid starvation in their native country. ..."whether their nation (Armenia) will always remain within their hearts or not"; Question: Has your nation (Armenia) remained in your heart? What have you done for Armenia? Please enumerate. ...."this lady is not a model Armenian"; Question: Are you a "model Armenian"? ...."I have zero sympathy for her"; Answer: Save your sympathies. Your sympathy is no good to anyone; won't fill anyone's tummy, not even your own. ...."if she had gone to find a new life in Yerevan"; Answer: Not a few women have tried "to find a new life in Yerevan", but couldn't find anything other than the prospect of prostituting themselves. ...."even relocating to Artsakh ..for a while (???)"; Answer: Some have done that; it hasn't worked for everybody in there either. ...."my opinion stands that she should be ashamed of herself"; Answer: If your parents are not ashamed of having an insensitive son like you, your nation surely should. Given all your babbling, I'd like to think that the average Armenian intelligence level is higher than yours. But then you might be a turk yourself, feigning to be an Armenian, in order to put them down. Who knows what your agenda is ?!
14. Al 12:09 - 28 October, 2012
wow Kevin, as an American with no Armenian ancestry who volunteered two years of my life to Armenia as an English teacher, I feel ashamed of what you are saying. Have you ever even been to your homeland?? Because I have, and though it is not my homeland I have seen the struggles of the Armenian people, I have lived with them in their towns and villages and watched as teachers, well educated I assure you, struggle to survive on 28,000 dram a month. Work in Yerevan? At best the unemployment rate in Armenia is at 20 percent, and that is a goverment released number, meaning that is very under exagerated. Hard working educated people cannot just go to Yerevan and find work, let alone someone who was unfortuante, poor and grew up in a village having little access to a higher education. What do you even know of Armenia that you would condem? People are doing everything they can just to eat. You think that they wish to send their husbands, fathers, brothers and sisters to Russia to work? Even worse for them, to Turkey? If you think that is laziness then I suggest that you visit Armenia, and stay somewhere other than Yerevan where you diaspora like so much to vacation.. Go visit the real Armenia, stay in Berd, Talin, lernansk, Arteni, Noyembryan, or even spitak, all placeS I have been to and seen the real Armenian war going on, the war to survive against a corrupt government who takes pleasure in holding people down in order for their personal wealth to grow. You should thank God every day that you family was able to get out and start a new life that gives you opportunites, because I assure you not everyone was that blessed or Armenia wouldn't be in need of volunteers like myself.
15. Anton18:54 - 28 October, 2012
Al, I want to thank you, personally, for giving two years of your life towards the betterment of humankind by volunteering your precious time in Armenia . We are all indebted to you, at least I am. God bless you and your family. You have my utmost respect, sir. Alan Watts once said: "To the degree that you condemn others, and find evil in others, you are to that degree unconscious of the same thing in yourself." I hope this sparks a wake up call in our collective hearts wherever we physically may be.
16. Kevin10:42 - 29 October, 2012
Well Al, I am very well aware of the situation Armenia's poor are in, and I appreciate that you went to Armenia, and I am in agreement with your assessment of corruption there, but what did I say that was embarrassing? No one here has made any sense to refute what I said. And my point here was, this lady went from Hrazdan straight to Istanbul, point A to point B, and that is what I have a problem with. No one in the world is going to convince me that an Armenian needs to go to Turkey before they go someplace else in Armenia in order to feed themselves, especially given that Artsakh needs Armenians. As for all other comments attacking me personally like "what have you done for Armenia?" all that is irrelevant, whether I did nothing for Armenia, or did a lot for Armenia, it does not change the facts in this article.
17. հայ11:44 - 31 October, 2012
ընթերցում եմ հոդվածը և ամաչում եթե սա իրականություն է մեր Հայաստանը ինչքան մեղք ու խղճուկ է և էդ ինչպես է որ մեր աշխահասփյուռ հայ հարուստ բարերարները անկարող գտնվեցին մի փոքրիկ Հայաստանին ոտի կանգնեցնելու համար և Հայաստանի տերն ու տնորեն ղեկավարությունը հանձինս նախագահները մեկը մյուսի ետևվից եկան աղքատ Հայաստանին թուրքից չտարբերվելով կաթիլ առ կաթիլ քամում ու ոչնչացնում են Հայաստանը առանց հայ ազգի չգիտես ում են խոստացել վաճառել, դա էլ է հայի բախտ քաղաքականությունից հեռու, չտես, աղքատ երեք նախագահներ ունեցանք չտեսավարի միայն կազինոներին ու գիշերային ակումբներին զարկ տվեցին մի գուցե իրենց երազած երկիրն ստեղծեցին որ իրենց սեփական կանայք, աղջիկները տղաները և թոռները մերկապարով կամ էլ խաղատներում խաղալով իրենց նախագահ պապայի հետո էլ նախագահ պապիի համար փողեր կուտակեն շվեցարական բանկերում, իսկ Կարինեները Մամուները ստիպված ամոթխած աչքերով լուսանկարչական խցիկի առջև խոստավանություն կատարեն ամոթ ձեզ նախագահներ թուրքի գործը շատ եք դյուրին դարձնում Կարինեները խոսեցին այսօր բայց մյուսների սիրտը ծանր է բայց չեն խոսում փորձում են մաքառել դիմադրել ոչ թե թուրքին այլ կառավարվող Հայաստանին : էդ էստի համեցեք սփյուռքահայ նախագահ խամաճիկը հոգնեցրեց սփյուռքում ապրող հայությանը, որտեղից այդքան հայ ստախոսներ
18. Karekin17:25 - 1 November, 2012
I have met many Armenians who have relocated to Turkey for work. They are grateful for work opportunities that DO NOT EXIST in Armenia today. Does anyone here realize how difficult it is to pick up and move to another country, where you don't know the language? Yes, there is still a sizable Armenian community in Istanbul and other Turkish cities, and that provides some sense of belonging, but it is the overall environment that is also welcoming, whether you want to believe it or not. Turkey has the 17th largest economy in the world and it is on Armenia's doorstep. To expect desperate people, living in poverty, with no chance to feed or house their families, not to try to make a new life there is just plain hard and cold and heartless. I applaud the people of Turkey who are welcoming Hayastanstis back to their true homeland, not those diasporans who would denigrate those of our brothers and sisters who are in true need. Moving anywhere new is a monumental step, fraught with difficulties, fear and stress. Karineh is not only brave, but she is providing for her family the best she can under terrible circumstances....she deserves a medal, not armchair criticism.
19. Levik21:21 - 1 November, 2012
@Karekin, I agree with the majority of what you write except for "I applaud the people of Turkey who are welcoming Hayastanstis back to their true homeland, not those diasporans who would denigrate those of our brothers and sisters who are in true need." Who exactly in Turkey is welcoming Hayastantsis back? What do you mean by "true homeland"? Most are heading to Istanbul not Van or Moush...
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