“In Turkey we were treated like slaves, here we work for ourselves” – Avîn Muhammed Sherif, Nisrîn Co-operative

This is a translation of an Arabic article by Bretan Medusa and Jomrad Shekho that appeared on Hawar News on 1 May, 2018

Avîn went to Turkey looking for work at the beginning of the Rojava Revolution, but she couldn’t endure the injustice in the treatment of the workers. She returned to Qamishlo and now works in Nisrîn Co-operative. Avîn saiys that in Turkey, they were treating the workers like slaves.

Millions of people have left Syria since the start of the war, and many went to Turkey. According to a statement made by Süleyman Soylu, Interior Minister of the Turkish Republic, in 2017, there are 3,551,078 Syrian refugees in Turkey. The situation of refugees in Turkey grabbed the attention of the media and human rights organisation. Refugees in Turkey are working in harsh condition for less money, and without insurance. According to the statistics of the workers organisations in Turkey, 1,928,592 workers lost their lives while at work between 2002 and 2017. Sixty percent of these workers were uninsured.

“We couldn’t tolerate the injustice of the bosses for more than five months”

Avîn Muhammed Sherif, who is 32, is one of many who have gone to Turkey in search of a better life since the start of the Rojava Revolution in 2011. She left with her husband, daughter and two sons. But life in Turkey wasn’t as easy as they had imagined. They lived in the Kanaryah neighbourhood in Istanbul. Avîn and her husband started working to feed their children. Her husband worked as a driver and Avîn found a job in a restaurant. The conditions at work were very harsh that they had to return home.

“They looked at us as if we were slaves.”

Avîn and her family went to Qamishlo, and noticed that many co-operatives were forming in Northern Syria, and the structures for co-operatives were being established by the Democratic Self-administration. Avîn and her husband formed Nisrîn Co-operative together with eight other people. Now the co-op has 44 members. Avîn and her partners are improving their economy with communal work.

Avîn said, “There will be oppression when the economy of Kurdish people is in the hands of those who are hostile to them, but while our economy is in our hands, no-one can oppress us. I work in Nisrîn Co-op with my own will and I love to work. There is no injustice in our system, we work lovingly with confidence and the product of our labour is in our hands.”

Avîn made a call for many Syrian people who live in Turkey and other countries to go back to rebuild their country. She finished by saying, “It’s better for one to stay where they are instead of facing injustice and humiliation elsewhere. If we worked as much as we work in those countries, we would progress and develop.”