The shame of child labor in Turkey

The shame of child labor in Turkey

Is there anyone who remembers Ahmet Yıldız? Let’s remember Ahmet first, then never forget him and never let him be forgotten.

He was living in the southern province of Adana. He was 13 years old. He was a seventh grade student, the youngest of seven children in his family.

At a site in Adana’s Yüreğir district he was posted as a worker in a plastic factory. On March 14, 2013, his head was caught in a press machine at the factory he had been illegally working at for two months and Ahmet lost his life. 

The workplace was cleaned; the child was taken to the hospital under the pretense that “a car hit him.”
When the doctor realized Ahmet did not actually die in a “traffic accident” police intervened and found out that Ahmet had died at the factory. 

The owner of the factory was found 100 percent guilty; he served a short time in jail and then was released. 

Ahmet’s father stated that their material and moral damage was met, withdrawing from the case. He added, “Allah gave me my son, Allah took him. His fate was this; his destiny was such...”

As a result, the workplace owner’s four-year, two-month jail sentence was converted to a 30,040-Turkish-Lira fine calculated on the basis of “20 liras a day.” 

This fine was payable in 24 equal installments. 

Ahmet was made to work for 18 liras a day. Ahmet was not an exception; in 2013, 59, and in 2014, 54 child laborers lost their lives. 

We are a country where hundreds of thousands (actually millions) of children are made to work as laborers under horrible conditions. 

The Turkish Statistics Institution (TÜİK) revealed this situation in 2013, and let us not forget that in our country you cannot find a more “optimistic” stance than TÜİK’s.

Some of the TÜİK findings included: 

Children in the 6-17 age group worked an average of 40 hours a week. In 2012, 52 percent of working children earned 400 liras a month (the field where child labor is at its most merciless stage and where it is the widest is unpaid domestic labor. In agriculture labor, etc., children are also made to work unpaid under very bad conditions). 

Some 3.4 percent of working children experienced injuries and disabilities. Some 34 percent were “extremely tired,” while one-third were not provided meals and 36 percent did not have a weekly day off.   

According to TÜİK, 89 percent of them did not have a paid annual leave. 

No shame 

A story in the U.K. at the Independent said that two giant textile firms, Next and H&M, had accepted hiring Syrian children as workers in its workshops in Turkey. 

Did this story create a shock in our country? Well, no. Have officials given statements one after the other? Am I kidding? What statement? 

Despite having signed international agreements, our system opts to stare afar and whistle over this child labor matter, without any shame or blushing. 

For heaven’s sake, the boy died while working illegally at an unregistered workplace. His body was left in the emergency room claiming “a car hit him and ran.” The cost of his life was 30,040 liras (we do not know what was given to the family), to be paid in 24 installments… 

This system was not ashamed of having buried Ahmet Yıldız, as “it was his fate, it was his destiny.”  

It was only the other week in the Körfez district of Kocaeli near Istanbul when 15-year-old Serhat Bilmez had his arm caught in a bread loading machine while he was working at a bakery and lost his life. The system has closed its eyes to this story. Is there anything else, anything more shameful that this?