Last one from Istanbul. A Kurdish woman applies cream to her sunburnt grandson.
Recycled - Sehbateen is a 52 year old Roma grandfather in Tarlabasi, Istanbul. Retirement isn’t on radar, buildings are crumbling around his house, and life is generally rough, but you won’t hear him complain much; he’s seen worse. In 1982 he was serving his mandatory rotation in the Turkish army when he killed a man after a heated argument. Tensions amongst Roma and Kurdish in the military are well known - neither ‘like taking orders’ - and while he no longer recalls the subject of the dispute he does remember firing several rounds from a G3 machine gun before commandeering a vehicle and fleeing the scene. He didn’t get far; the man he shot was his commanding officer. He was sentenced to 18 years and 35 days in a Turkish prison. “And I was only 27 days from getting out of the army.”
After release he rejoined his wife in Tarlabasi and started again. Nowadays, he survives by shining shoes and hauling a canvas wheelbarrow across Istanbul sifting through other people’s trash. Coke cans, water bottles, plastic jugs, scrap metal, nothing of recyclable value is ignored. The biggest paydays are when he finds discarded silver in the wealthy neighborhoods. Many families in Tarlabasi survive this way, but Sehbateen says there aren’t rivalries. “We all take different routes. The city provides enough garbage for everyone.” He’s been doing this work for nine years and makes $15 a day, storing his loot in one of the many abandoned buildings in Tarlabasi that await demolition as the city transforms sections of the neighborhood into high-end retail shopping.
I followed him on his route a couple days. Stopping for a chai break at his daughter’s place his grandson ran over excitedly to see what treasures grandpa collected today. Sehbateen believes they will not be “wanted” in Tarlabasi after the construction is finished and plans to move to this district.
Tarlabasi Squatters - A group of homeless men from Balat squat on the top floor of a currently abandoned building. One of the poorest neighborhoods in Istanbul, Tarlabasi is currently in the middle of a multi-year ‘renewal’ construction project that will see large portions along the boulevard near Taksim Square gentrified into shopping areas. As the project inches along, half-razed buildings rotting with garbage like open wounds become temporary halfway houses for the homeless and office space for transgender prostitutes.
Turkish police prepare to block off portions of Tarlabasi in anticipation of a Kurdish student demonstration commemorating the death of a student two years ago.