Faceless, Poor and Alone
Taraf, a daily Turkish newspaper, published an article about the situation of Chechen asylum seekers in Turkey.
Chechen refugees, who live in the non-official Fenerbahce refugee camp (Istanbul), believe that the Turkish state has forgotten them. They still hope that somebody will realize their situation one day.
They are calling themselves “Gehanna” which is a Russian word that means “People who come from the hell”. They are skilled laborers and most of them are even university graduates. There are a total 180 people here. But now, the people who escaped a brutal war 11 years ago try to live in somewhat of an isolation camp. They are left to their own destinies here alone.
The Chechen camp is situated between luxury apartments in Fenerbahce, which is in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul. The camp is surrounded with high walls and “Chechen Camp” is written in large letters on the blue door at the entrance. The first things to stand out at the camp are the shacks and newly washed clothes behind them, in front of the sea. A lot of children are scattered around and hooked on games. Small heads turn to the correspondent one by one. A common fear appears in their small eyes.
In 1999, when the second Russian-Chechen war started, many people asking for asylum moved to other countries, especially the neighboring countries of Turkey and Georgia. In 2000, around 1,500 Chechen asylum seekers arrived in Turkey. Most of them were placed in buildings in the Fenerbahce, Beykoz and Umraniye districts in Istanbul and Yalova and since then they have all lived together. The most conspicuous of these camps is in Fenerbahce, because this part of Istanbul is famous for its luxury. However, the residents of the Fenerbahce Chechen camp try to survive right under these rich people’s noses.
In the Fenerbahce camp, Chechen asylum seekers live in shacks which were originally built as a summer camp for Turkish rail road workers. The common bath and toilet system create cleaning and hygiene problems.
Chechen asylum seekers do not have any official status. They do not have any identification cards. In this sense, they cannot be granted working permits either. Chechen women go to these luxury apartments to work as house cleaners, but the employers know that Chechens do not have work permits, thus they pay them less than other house cleaners. For example, a Turkish house cleaner may earn 80 Turkish Liras (around 40 Euro) in a day but the employers pay 40 Turkish Liras (around 20 Euro) for a Chechen house cleaner.
The other important problem is related to the education issue. Due to their non-official status, the schools do not want to accept Chechen children. If they are accepted, the Chechen children go to school as “guest students”. This means that they cannot receive any legal papers about their education. However, many parents of Turkish students do not want Chechen children in the schools.
62-year old Chechen asylum seeker Khasan lost his two sons during the war. He was taken prisoner also. The signs of torture can be seen on his hands. “I do not have expectations anymore,” said Khasan while looking to the children in the camp. “They left us here. We are as stray dogs which are under state control. My health is bad. Do I care about it? No! But, the children, I care about the children. People are coming and going. They help us,” said Khasan.
Melike, an economist and Chechen asylum seeker living in this camp, tries to live here with her children. She waits for help in obscurity. Children are sick, their clothes are bad, yet the state does not come over here.
Taraf – 18.11.2010
*Text was translated by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco