Family living in closet in Turkey’s southeast
What is the oldest memory of your personal history? Whenever I ask this question to myself, I remember the moment when we altogether took shelter in a wooden shed built on an open space in front of our house.
We were a couple of children on top of a wool mattress on the floor. It was raining outside and we could hear every drop of rain hitting the tin roof over the wooden cabin.
Another thing I vaguely remember was the white Kızılay (Turkish Red Crescent) tent erected across our wooden shed.
Everybody was talking about how “the ground shook.” I researched before writing this piece and it was most probably the aftermath of March 25, 1975, when our town was the epicenter of a 5.1-magnitude earthquake. Records indicate that two people have died and 26 were injured.
Nobody would go inside the homes. The wooden shed, which should be at most three-square-meters, had become our home for days. It was a different kind of play for us children but our mothers were suffering, I remember, shuttling between the Kızılay tents and the wooden shed.
The reason I went back to my oldest memory was because of a story posted on daily Posta titled, “Five people in a closet.”
The Hurma family in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, the story read, were living in a two-square-meter wooden barrack, which was formerly a closet. The family lived in this wooden shed, which was mobile thanks to its four wheels.
The father, Veysi Hurma, used to make a living by collecting waste products from the garbage, but he quit. When he could not pay the rent, power and water bills that totaled to 1,500 Turkish Liras a month, their landlord evicted them. Hurma then took a closet at home, extended it a bit, mounted wheels under it, and made a home out of it. He pulled it to Haliliye, one of the rich neighborhoods in Şanlıurfa.
According to Doğan News Agency reporters, Hurma was inspired by the film “Gülen Adam” (Smiling Man) played by Kemal Sunal. In that film, Yusuf Çıplak, played by Sunal, was suffering from a defect in which he could not stop his laughter. Throughout the film, he and his wife would run away from the municipality police, who wanted to tear down their barrack. Not only did they try to escape but they also pulled away their shanty house.
The photos of their story were exactly like the one in the film. Like the film’s main character, the Hurma family is laughing at everything. The mother, Dilek Hurma, said, “Once one gets used to hardships, everything becomes easy.”
Veysi is happy about the aid that has been pouring since they made it to the news, but he said what he needed the most was a permanent job.
According to records, the province in which the Hurma family lives is one that accommodates the highest number of Syrian refugees. The number of Syrians registered has reached 450,000. This shows that cheap and unregistered labor is high and Veysi’s desired “permanent job” is more difficult than ever.
In the film, the main character was constantly laughing at all the bad things that happened to him, but when he held his baby, he cried for the first time in his life from happiness.
The Hurma family has made us look at our closets in a different way. I wish them a permanent job and a house that would make them cry with happiness.