Hacı Bişkin / DUVAR
Since the Interior Ministry ordered barbers, hairstylists, and beauty centers to temporarily close down as a preventative measure against the coronavirus on March 21, barbers in Turkey have been struggling with paying their rent, electric bills and tax debts.
Barbers have complained to the government that they have been left unprotected, and have claimed that they are not benefitting from the government's economic relief package. Şükrü Akyüz, chairman of the Istanbul Mens Barber Chamber, says that the state should provide barbers with at least the current minimum wage.
“We haven't been able to work for a month and a half. At the beginning, we didn't think this period would last this long. It's true, every barbershop may not meet the required hygiene standards. But after improving these conditions, we need to continue on with our lives. For example, on certain days they should tell us to open our doors, and come in and inspect us while we are working,” said Erkan Ergüler, who has worked as a barber in Istanbul for many years.
Ergüler said that he is also dealing with problems with his customers, who are asking him when he will be able to cut their hair.
“I'm sure when life returns to normal I will have lost many customers. We have not been protected at all. We have been deprived of any kind of help or support. We are one of the most important occupations, but they are deliberately ignoring us. I'm very worried about the future, and I want them to hear our voices,” Ergüler said.
Ergüler's son Ertan, who works together with his father, shared similar complaints:
“Customers are calling and saying, ‘What are we supposed to do?’ We are asking them to be a bit more patient. During this period, we are saying that customers should be admitted after being checked. The government needs to hear our voices. We are unable to pay our rent. Most of my colleagues have lost their hope. When things return to normal, the number of those who will have to close their doors will increase,” Ertan said.
“Is there not a budget that has been set aside for us in our country for these difficult days? Why aren't barbers benefitting from this budget? We are on the side of the government. When they are in need we are always on their side but they need to be equitable in their sharing. We are not on the side of any political party. We have to provide for our families, this is all we want,” Ergüler said.
“Since the shops have closed there has been no support from the government. Barbers are tradesmen who earn on a day to day basis. Our state absolutely needs to support these tradesmen. Rather than giving those in need loans with interest, as long as the shops are closed they should at least pay out the minimum wage,” Akyüz said.An Istanbul Friday night in the coronavirus age