Sunday, 23 September

Women from Armenia Working in Turkey: “Where are the eyes of my government?”



Ani Hovhannisyan
Edik Baghdasaryan 

During our recent trip to Istanbul, we would spend our afternoons in the courtyard of the Sourp Prgitch (Holy Redeemer) Armenian Chapel in Yedikule.

Women from Armenia who had come to Istanbul to work would come to the church to pray and light candles.

We would sit on a courtyard bench and listen to their conversations as they made their way back outside. From their accents, we could tell where in Armenia they had come from – mostly Gyumri, Vanadzor and Yerevan.

One woman who had come to the church couldn’t control her tears. Let’s call her Silva.

She sat down besides us and began to tell her tale.

“My son is 24 and unmarried. He’s fallen sick in another country and I can’t go to him. I have come to the house of God to request...Where are the eyes of my government? Why do they torture us so?” says a trembling Silva.

Her son was sent to Armenia for treatment but Silva hasn’t been able to return. She can’t get a visa because she’s in Turkey illegally.

Five years ago, when Silva decided to travel to Turkey, she used to farm land in Armenia. Taxes and irrigation problems forced her to stop and seek greener pastures elsewhere.

“They say, good heavens, they went to Turkey. Just look at what we are doing in Turkey. Our government in Armenia kicks us out or makes us stand at the precipice. They tell us to either jump off or die from starvation. That’s why today we are taking care of other people’s sick and elderly. So that we can make enough money to live on,” Silva says.

Silva works for a Turkish family – cooking, cleaning and tending the elderly. When the day’s work is done, Silva jots down her thoughts and emotions in a well-worn diary. She took it out and started to read some entries to us.

“Two and a half months are left for my trip to Armenia. Hopefully, I’ll go with some money in my pocket to pay off my debts and to see my Armen. I want to see where he is serving in the army. It’s on the border and I am afraid for my dear Armen.”

“I told them that I didn’t like Turks. After that we had a falling out, but I don’t care. I love my people, the land and water of Armenia. I miss my children. But I had no other recourse; I left my country on a temporary basis. I will return to my beloved Armenia; my small but proud Armenia.”

“I am getting irritated but I have to be patient. There are two months left to go. God, please give me the patience I need. You are my only hope.”

These women from Armenia, who now work in the households of Turks and for well-to-do Istanbul Armenian families, don’t have an easy time of it. They feel used, abused and overworked.

One Armenian woman, Karineh, has changed jobs several times. She says it’s impossible to work for people who insult your dignity.

“We basically do household chores and then tend to the sick and elderly. We work for both Istanbul-Armenians and Turks. To be honest, the local Armenians are rougher on us than the Turks. You cook the meals, wash the dishes, and clean the house. And when you sit down for two minutes of rest they immediately ask, ‘and what about the windows?’ Yes, it’s tough and you can’t get along with everybody.”

Most of the women we talked to in Istanbul feel insulted by the intolerance of local Armenians that lurks just under the surface. On the other hand, Istanbul-Armenians believe that the main difference between them and those from Armenia is only on a cultural level.

“What we find insulting is that despite the fact that we are all Armenians, they work and treat us so that we are forced to leave their employ. They don’t even want to give us a day off. They just give us two hours to go and telephone relatives in Armenia. Then it’s back to work. Do you think we would have come here if there was work back in Armenia? We do it for our families and for our children,” says Karineh and her friend.

Most of the women who left Armenia for Turkey have come alone; leaving their husbands and families behind.

They are on their own when it comes to facing the daily grind of surviving in Istanbul. They seem to get by with the hope of returning to Armenia one day, to reunite with loved ones and to once again be a mother to their families.

Photos: Saro Baghdasaryan


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Comments (9)
1. hasmik10:01 - 5 December, 2012
իշխաննություններն դիտավորյալ այնպիսի իրավիճակ ստեղծում, որ մարդիկ արտագաղթեն ու դրսից փող ուղարկեն, սա արդեն իրենց բերանով են ասում, արդյունքում ունենք պետություն,որը գոյատևում է դրսից եկած փողերով, իսկ մարդու իրավունքներ, մարդկային դառնացած ճակատագրեր, դա արդեն մեր պետության գործը չի
2. Թլկատինցի10:45 - 5 December, 2012
"Ամանները լվանում ես, ճաշն եփում ես, ամեն ինչ մաքրում ես, որ երկու րոպե պիտի հանգստանաս, ասում ա` բա պատուհանները չես լվացել..." Սրանի՞ց են քանկատվում Հայաստանից մոկնած կանայք: Սա՞ է իրենց տառապանքը: Եթէ գնացել են աշխատելու անօրինականորեն պետք է հասկանան թէ ի՞նչ է սպասվում նրանց: Աշխարհով մեկ, սա է իրականությունը փախստականների համար: Արդիոք կարծում ե՞ն որ ավելի հեշտ կլիներ եթէ գնային Ամերիկա կամ այլուր:
3. Xunsap'ha19:02 - 5 December, 2012
If your high-standing and/or financial wellbeing causes you to treat others, less fortunate than yourself, like slaves, then beware! You have lost your humanity. This report and the critical comment, are proof that many Armenians have no concept of caring for their compatriots, let alone the "odar".
4. Yntercox08:46 - 6 December, 2012
a n b a r o y a k a n u t y u n, b a r o y a l q u m, g a z a n u t y u n, p e t u t y a n k o r c a n u m .
5. tlkatintsi11:43 - 6 December, 2012
Sure, we care about our compatriots, but to state that these women are being tortured, as they claim, is ridiculous.
6. Kevin20:47 - 6 December, 2012
These women who chose to go to Turkey, I think did so hoping to "strike it rich" - and when they get disappointed they blame everyone else, especially the Armenians that were born there. If in fact it is true that Armenian families make them work harder than Turks, I would find this disgusting, but I need to be convinced that it is true first, which this article has not proven. It is in the Armenian nature to prefer working for foreigners than for Armenians too, the reasons which I will not get into here.
7. hasmik16:15 - 7 December, 2012
հարգելի Kevin, այստեղ խնդիրը ավելի խորն է, քան աման լվանալ կամ ճաչ պատրաստելը, հարցը մարդու իրավունքներն, որոնք ոտնահարվում Հայաստանում ամեն քայլափոխի, երբ հասարակ մարդը չի կարողանում ոչնչի հասնել, իսկ ոմանց համար անգամ մարդասպաննուրյունն է արդարացվում, ահա արդարության բացակայությունն է հիմնական պատճառը, որը ստիպում է մարդկանց հեռանալ
8. Kevin10:51 - 9 December, 2012
Sireli Hasmik, hamadzayn em vor artarutuneh karevor a bayts verchin tarineri endaskum lavatsum chi eghel? Ints tzanotner etentsen asum.
9. hasmik09:40 - 10 December, 2012
հարգելի Kevin, իմ կարծիքով ,եթե ինչ որ բան արվել է, դա միայն ընտրություններից առաջ արված թատրոնն է, որին հայաստանցիներս արդեն 20 տարի է գիտենք, իսկ գլոբալ առումով իշխաննությունները շարունակում են իրականացնել նույն սպիտակ ցեղասպանության ծրագիրը
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