Abdulbaki is 11 years old. He works in a textile workshop. The workshop is small, dusty… a guy with undershirt is shouting to them in order for they to work faster. The man is shouting but Abdulbaki doesn’t understand what the man said. Abdulbaki is Syrian…
Abdulbaki is a “lucky” kid. Instead of begging on the streets, he found a job in the workshop. Of course, the owner of the workshop is so much more lucky than him, he found dozens of Abdulbaki who is working for half of the minimum wage. The main factory owner is even more lucky. The relationship that he has established with the workshops makes the cost with very low wages, he gets new machines, expands business.
Textile is an interesting sector. Everything we wear is actually going between the workshops and the factories. In many cases, the main factory is taking orders, then giving it to it’s fason. Fason also can’t complete the job, it gives another part of job to an another fason. Sometimes, the rest of the job is distributed to the houses. It is not possible to know who completes; is it a 70-year-old aunt or 7 years old child is cleaning the thread?
Is it legal? Not of course, but who cares. The export champion of Turkey is automotive. The level of organization of automotive and organization does not remove such irregularities. The textile is following the automotive. It’s the second in exports, and it grows with that the irregularity is being the rule.
Abdulbaki dreams while he is ironing at 11 years old. “I will grow up and be a footballer,” he says. The minimum of working age is 15 in the country. Let’s look at briefly what happens from the year that Abdulbaki entered the job in textile at 11 years old to he become in 15.
Turkey is one of the leading countries of the world in tekstile. We are one of the favorite producers of many big, well-known brands (these adjectives can be read as expensive as the workers who produce the textiles can’t buy them at the same time). Cheap labor, quality production, the opportunities to escape from legal obligations, the politicians who even market the air and the water of the country. What would they want more? However, with the Syrians who is living in the country and reaching even 3 million in the official figures, the concern of deciphering came to the forefront. As same as how the Rana Plaza massacre in Bangladesh has shown that the textile industry has risen above the workers’ inanimate bodies, today the child labor in Turkey reveals the capitalism with all it’s nakedness. The being of the labour of his tiny hands on the coat or shoe he wears is like shouting “the king is naked”. Capitalism emerges with all its ugliness and nature and with it’s side which is made the people feel guilty. Even if a channel like the BBC is filming the documentary in the country, the situation is becoming critical.
That those brands which came to the country for making the cheap production are in a stew in these conditions. Controls are increasing. Children and unregistered workers are being hunted. While the brand inspectors are entering the front door, children are being evicted from the back door. Abdulbaki (now he is 12 years old), who is evicted by pushing from the fire exit of the workshop, is shocked at what he is going through. This day is an unexpected holiday for him, he is playing with the ball…
The situation is doom and gloom, the country is in a complicated spot. There is no “political stability”, there is a security gap, on top of it there is a risk of child labor. The brands are debating whether to withdraw from the country or not. Exporters are in panic. On the other hand, the funds are brought in so that the Syrians stay in Turkey. Projects are being done on the projects. From the European Union to the ILO(International Labour Organization) and NGOs, everyone is working very hard. Funds are collected, meetings are held. The people are getting worried by saying “What will happen the states of these children,” sincerely. But there is no solution in the system, any solution is not able to come out. “Poverty should be debateed” is being said; but the richness doesn’t be a matter of debate. Meetings held by different institutions, almost the same people are attending, are being held in big hotels. Together with tasty snacks, the situation of child workers and the unregistered Syrians are being discussed. Participants at the five-star hotel restaurant, while they are eating the meals that the contents of them are not understood from their names, at the same moments (Abdulbaki is now 13 years old), he is still in the workshop, and if he is lucky, there are only two pieces of meat in his lunch.
While Abdulbaki is ironing at the workshop, the projects are about Abdulbaki and meetings are preparing the splendent reports. “Participation is much higher than expected” is being absolutely underlined in these meetings. It is being stated that the studies on the subject have continued on the reports. Only the fees which are paid for writing these reports are equivalent to Abdulbaki’s monthly fee.
Field surveys are being done within the scope of the projects that were taken. At Bagcılar, the researchers are coming to the workshop for research about the child workers. But Abdulbaki is being evicted from the back door again. After he went out, he meets the good-humored surveyor who asks him the questions. Abdulbaki is well-learned the Turkish anymore. Now, he is a 14-year-old young boy. Into passing years, a young brother of him was born, Abdulbaki needs to work more anymore, he is working on overtime. His father was working on construction, but he was injured, he is at home now. Abdulbaki does not play the football as much as he used to be, he grew up quickly. Field researches continue… According to the records, Abdulbaki is still 14 years old; the datas on the records are not enough to explain how fast he reached at 20 even maybe at 30 years of age psychologically. Already he is no longer “Abdulbaki” anymore, he is the part of the data set.
The people who conduct field research and all these projects are not “bad”. Many of them want to heal Abdulbaki’s life sincerely. Whereas with the efforts of those “good” people, the two other of Abdulbaki were taken out of the working life and registered in the school, but the system is giving birth to twofold. The size of the exploitation that the Syrians are fallen into and even while the point which this exploitation came to disturb even a part of the capital, the problem still can not be solved; these all also show the exitless of capitalism. Abdulbaki is one of the indicators that you can’t reach a solution by looking through the system.
Today 24 November, Abdulbaki has turned 15 years old. The brands that are looking for cheap labor but are afraid deadly of that their images can be shaken and the institutions which protect and watch out the capitalism and try to “humanize” of it, also the exporters all together, celebrate Abdulbaki’s transition from illegal exploitation to the partly legal exploitation. Abdulbaki has forgotten his dream of being a footballer and also he is the birthday of today. He is ironing by dreaming of being a mechanic at the factory. Somehow, he is no longer a “child worker”, he is one of the “unregistered” workers who create more than half of the sector.
It needs to be much more than the funds which came from abroad to save the life of Abdulbaki who passed to young labor from child labor. If we take Abdulbaki from the workshop and we register him to school, would he be saved? This would be another subject of an another writing, however the answer is clear from the begining: Abdulbaki goes to the school, his brother goes to the workshop…