Migration from rural to urban parts of Turkey, and from eastern parts of the country to the west, started to become widespread in the early 1980s. Industrialisation expelled young agricultural workers from the production cycle, and migrants started seeking their ways to the urban centers for new sources of income. It has continued since: every year, thousands of migrants leave behind their homes in sleepy towns and villages and move to Istanbul, Ankara, and other big cities.
In addition to this movement, forced migration related to the Turkey-PKK conflict took place during the 1990s, changing profoundly the social structure of Turkey’s major cities. Two and a half million people from nearly 4000 villages in eastern and south-eastern Anatolia have since migrated west, causing a disruption of lives and livelihoods in both countryside and cities.
Nearly five years ago, I began documenting the situation for inhabitants of Eminönu, Küçükpazar, in Istanbul. The project Away From Home looks at a group of internal migrants who reside there. Many work as day labourers, since they lack access to higher education. Collecting trash and selling scrap are common jobs, which earn workers about $200 per month. Around one fourth of the wage goes to paying rent in Istanbul; after that, as much as possible is sent back to family members in the countryside. Most houses in Istanbul have only one room, limited supply of electricity and water, and are shared by around ten people. Only a lucky few are able to achieve the oft-sought goal of earning enough income to bring their families to live with them in the city.