African barber in Turkey undaunted by coronavirus

African barber in Turkey undaunted by coronavirus

ANKARA- Anadolu Agency
African barber in Turkey undaunted by coronavirus

Amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus, people around the world adjusted to a new normal and began adopting preventive measures such as social distancing and home isolation, which inflicted a heavy blow on shops offering services to the public.

Jama Abdi Jama, an entrepreneur of African origin, was excited to open a new barbershop in the Turkish capital in February and was looking forward to offering exotic haircuts and being reimbursed for his investment. But fate had other plans as the country adopted strict measures to stem the spread of the virus, including curfews.

“I was so positive when the shop was finally ready. But this coronavirus outbreak changed all our plans as people put themselves under quarantine at home, and barbershops were closed in the coming months,” said 27-year-old Jama.

In addition to the shop’s maintenance and rent, Jama had to shoulder another burden as he also covered the rents of his employees - barbers with years of experience who he had convinced to move to Turkey from Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen in an effort to increase the quality of the service he planned to offer at his shop.

“They were supposed to work, and I was looking forward to paying my loans back. But we were all confined to our homes with me assisting them with payments. The past couple of months have been really challenging, both mentally and financially,” he said.

According to the Somalian entrepreneur, the future is bright despite those difficult days, and he now looks forward to welcoming customers, with more and more people starting to show up at his barbershop following an easing of restrictions.

“Slowly but steadily, we are recovering from this crisis, and things will hopefully get much better in the coming days. We are using one-use-only material for each customer while paying attention to measures such as wearing masks and using disinfectants.”

Jama said the virus would hopefully be completely eradicated soon and people could enjoy going outside like before the outbreak.

“We all will emerge stronger mentally when this period is over and value our daily lives even more.”

Asked about Turks’ attitude towards him at peak of the crisis, while some foreigners were being treated badly in various parts of the world with locals accusing them of spreading the virus, he said his neighbors were really friendly and offered to extend a helping hand if need be.

“Turkish people are really good from a humanitarian point of view. I mean they do not alienize or discriminate against you. With the exception of very rare occasions, I have not had any problems,” he said. “There have been one or two verbal racist words by some, but the vast majority of Turks do not adopt such behavior and support us, which feels satisfying.”

“My skin color is not a source of problem in this country. They [Turks] see people of African origin as brothers and sisters. There is no such thing as systematic oppression or anything. They ask me, ‘Why would we hate you when you do not do any harm to others?’”