Ruhat Yıldırak, a denim sandblasting worker
who had been treated for silicosis for two years, has lost his life.
He is the 39th denim sandblaster
to have died of the disease, and the fourth in the last four months. His cousin
İdil Oral also suffers from the illness and his life is also endangered.
Yıldırak died at the Research Hospital
in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, on Saturday, 28 February.
He started working at a young age in workshops in Istanbul.
Workers did not know about dangers
In an interview with Sabah newspaper in 2008, he said:
“I worked for a denim sand
blasting workshop in Istanbul
for four years, without social security and under awful conditions. We did not
even know about such an illness. When a friend from my village, Erhan, died, we
found out about it. Then we stopped working there.”
“I left work and started my
military service. I was on duty in Edirne,
and during the last two weeks of military service I developed breathing
difficulties and pains in my chest. First I did not take it seriously. After
finishing my military service in 2005, I went back to my village. When my
symptoms got worse, I went to Diyarbakır’s Dicle University
Hospital. They told me
there was no cure.”
A whole village affected
Yıldırak is from a village in the
of Bingöl. The village of Taşlılar has 287 households and a
population of 600. More than half the village suffers from silicosis, sometimes
more than one patient in one household. Five workers from the village have
already lost their lives.
84 people in the village have
been treated for silicosis, and three young men have lost their lives in the
Silicosis is normally an
occupational disease associated with people working with stone, such as miners,
quarry workers, stone blasters, etc. Silica dust enters the lungs and causes
respiratory problems by inflaming and scarring the lungs. Silicosis is
irreversible, and particularly the acute form leads to death.
The fashion in denim that is
faded and made to look old is achieved by blasting the material with sand from
air compressors. Workers using the equipment are then exposed to silica dust.
The Committee for Solidarity with
Denim Sandblasters (KTİD) has said that there are around 4,000 denim workers
with the disease and that the connection between the occupation and the disease
has been known since 2004.
Concert for solidarity
On 11 March, the committee has
organised a concert in support of the workers in Istanbul. Famous singers, actors and dancers
will take the stage on that night:
Şebnem Sönmez, Cahit
Berkay, Yasemin Göksu, Mor ve Ötesi, Kardeş Türküler, Anadolu Ateşi, Zeynep
Tanbay, İclal Aydın and actors
from the "Elveda Rumeli" series.