Majid gets a job in Istanbul and talks about the Sudanese community

Majid comes from the Darfur region in Sudan and belongs to the ethnic group of the Fur people. He fled to Turkey via Libya and has lived in Istanbul for over 10 years. Currently he works as a freelance translator for English, Arabic and Nyala. In this part he talks about his escape from Sudan. Here he talks about his arrival in Istanbul, how he got his first job there and what role the Sudanese community does play in his life.

Majid in Istanbul. Privat photo.
Majid in Istanbul. Private photo.

I remember it as if it is running in front of my eyes. You know on very first days when I came from Mersin to Istanbul, I didn’t have any place to stay. Just I stayed in the park nearby Fatih area. It was a summertime and I first asked about where were the Black people. I asked where the student Black people were. There is a guy who is Sudanese in Fatih area and he shown us where the Sudanese population were living. And I went to the students’ place; and students guided me to other people. There were other guys living in houses and I shared their flats. I shared the rent fee. And I stayed with them. Then I began to go to Taksim and Sultanahmet everyday from morning until evening. And I didn’t know the language. Just I was speaking a broken English. And I began to tour over there and started to meet some people; tourist people. I began to guide tourist people. And one day I saw a lady on İstiklal Street; she is a very beautiful lady; I followed her. She asked me why I was following her. And after that she started to ask me where I was from. I replied I am from Sudan and she also asked me since when I was here and I replied that I recently arrived here. And she asked me if I had a work, I said no. And she is from Ireland. And she is working in an organization in Taksim. And after that she told me that: “Today is Saturday and on Monday morning come to Taksim, here, at the same place and I will find you work”.

And she guided me to an organization; showed me how I could get there and she directed me to Mr. Gordon. I met him. And ever since that time, I am working with them more than 10 years.

We became like a family. But lately, due to CoVid-19 right now we are working from so far.

Sudanese community in Istanbul

There’s a big Sudanese community here. They have very close relationship. And most of them are businessmen who studied here so they have been in here for a long time. Some of them have cargo shops. They own companies. Some of them received Turkish nationality and became citizens. More than 40 years they are here. You see? That’s why they stick together and gather frequently. And they contribute money every month. You have to pay. And if there is anyone who needs help, they support him/her. For example, if a person is sick and needs money; if a person needs to travel, they pay. it is only for Sudanese people. […]

All the members are paying. There is a fee like 10 dollars per month, and you have to pay it monthly. And if you are able to pay it, you pay it.

Majid comes from the Darfur region in Sudan and belongs to the ethnic group of the Fur people. Since 2003, rebel groups have been fighting against Sudanese government troops and local militias in the Fur settlement area. To date, more than 400,000 people are believed to have died as a result of the conflict, and 2.66 million people have been displaced.

Majid Bolat fled to Turkey via Libya and has been living in Istanbul for over 10 years. He now has legal residence status. He has worked in various international organisations in Istanbul. Currently he works as a freelance translator for English, Arabic and Nyala.

This interview was conducted in English by Elif Yenigun for the We Refugees Archive in May 2021 in a public park in Istanbul.