LIFE
FORCE
The magazine of the photo-essay
September 2017 issue
Unsafe Space:Afghans in Turkey
“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film maker
by Ogulcan Arslan
Unsafe Space is about Afghans living in Istanbul. Fleeing from their torned apart homeland with the hope of gaining refugee status in Turkey, these men have been living in limbo for years: no jobs, no residence status, no path to citizenship, no response from the UN. Unlike the 2.5 million Syrians here, 91,000 Afghan asylum-seekers have no access to Turkey’s refugee camps and no right to work. Most of them collect waste for a living while the rest have to beg in order to pay their rent. The men I encountered asked over and over again: "How long can we wait?" They are vulnerable, tired, and yearning for a warm welcome. Their eyes still sparkle when they talk about their dreams. Though they know better now not to trust smugglers promising them safe passage, even the slightest thought of having a 'normal' life puts a faint smile on their face. So they keep standing still, waiting for a change and hoping Turkey is not their dead end.
Backyard of an old apartment where they unload the waste collected.
Some of the people I met are still suffering from drug addictions, a serious problem in Afghanistan.
Listening to traditional Afghan music put them into a carefree mood, for a moment.
A flying kick is on the way for the killjoy friend.
Their decomposed ceiling.
After a bit of hesitation he (on the left) decided to be in the frame.
Starting the day walking through waste smoke with a giant empty canvas sack.
Each of the men have to gather around 180 kg of waste every day.
After collecting garbage, they sort it for different buyers.
Most of their meals consist of dipping a piece of old bread into spoiled eggs.
Afghan workers talk to their relatives via mobile.
Their simple household.
Some Afghans practice namaz while some don’t.
Having a good time sometimes means going back to old habits.
The times that they’re happy are rare.
Three friends are proud of where they come from. Holding an Afghan shawl.
Falling down the stairs.
The youngest Afghan in the neighborhood.
Some of the waste gatherers prefer to stay anonymous. Most of their families don't know that they work as garbage collectors.
Afghans come to Istanbul with the dream of a better life but, in reality,  find themselves far away from that dream.
Back to menu Back to menu