Miro: "I wish for a world where mothers don't have to cry anymore".


The 18-year-old Miro from the Kurdish city of Van comes to Istanbul to prepare for an exam and work part-time. Six days a week he waits tables in his uncle's café, learns English and is, for the first time almost free of family pressure. He makes friends and has little time to study. Eventually, because of inflation, he can no longer finance his life in Kadıköy.

Miro Illustration

Miro was 18 years old when he moved to Istanbul all alone. He grew up in a village in eastern Turkey, close to the Iranian border as the eldest of three brothers. Only Kurdish is spoken in the family. "I had to learn Turkish when I started primary school. The teacher scolded us for every Kurdish word he heard." he says, shaking his head. The Turkish school system does not provide for lessons in Kurdish, let alone on Kurdish history or culture.  "Now I am preparing for the central final examination." This will entitle him to study at a university. To prepare for this, Miro has taken a year and moved to Istanbul to live with an uncle in the Kadıköy district.

To finance his life, he started working in a hostel although he was not able to speak English. At first, he only cleaned the rooms and made beds, but in a few weeks his ability to speak English became so good that he could take over the night shifts at the reception. When his uncle opened a café, Miro started working there as a waiter and baking his soon famous walnut cake. "I work there five days a week and clean AirBnbs on the side which is quite a lot. Sometimes after work I just lie in bed and watch a series."

Under these conditions there is not much time left to prepare for his aptitude test. Miro tries to concentrate mainly on literature and history, as he has lost all access to mathematics: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has had no lessons. Without private lessons, money and time, it is not possible for him to fill this gap again.

Besides, he is just 19 years old and enjoys the rare free time with his friends. Compared to Van, he feels more carefree in Kadıköy. "Here I feel less oppressed by the state, many Kurds live here and the police are more relaxed than in Van. Also, I'm not so directly exposed to my family anymore."

Instead, he can sit in Modapark and eat börek, read books by philosophers and communists or watch series. "Still," Miro says, sighing, "I don't really feel equal. All the time I have to fight for it."

With a minimum wage of 5500 TL, it is also becoming increasingly difficult for him to live in Istanbul. Inflation is driving up prices, which has a direct impact on Miro's life. He says he has to buy everything he needs immediately; otherwise, it will surely be more expensive the next time. That makes saving money for future expenses almost impossible. As a result, he cannot buy most of the things he needs or wants. Instead, he has to be increasingly frugal and think carefully about what he spends money on and when. Inflation brings with it financial insecurity that greatly affects his future plans, limiting his scope for decision-making and restricting his freedom to live his life as he would like to live it.

The aptitude test has now been written and the results have been published. Miro has decided to repeat it: with his score, he has no chance of getting accepted at university. Besides, he now wants to study law. To be able to prepare for this more intensively in the coming year, he has moved back to Van. He shares his room with his brothers again and will try to fill his knowledge gaps. His father pays for his private lessons as long as Miro stays in Van. He cannot afford another year in Istanbul if he wants to prepare well for his exams.

Miro would like to live in Europe one day, preferably in Germany. Depending on the outcome of the upcoming elections in June 2023, he will decide how soon he leaves Turkey.

"I wish for a world where all people have equal rights and countries where mothers don't have to cry anymore," Miro says.

[Note: This statement refers mainly to the mothers who lose or have lost their children to attacks by the Turkish army.]