Syrian Refugee Children Labor in Turkish Factories

Photos by Lefteris Pitarakis & Text by Berza Simsek

On any given summer day, the hot sun glares down on the streets of Gaziantep, a Turkish city on the border with Syria. Inside stifling garment and shoe workshops, Syrian refugee children are hard at work, sewing machines buzzing in the background.

They should be at school. Instead, they are making trousers and footwear for other children.

Ahmad Abo Baker, 11, from Aleppo is one of them. He works 12 hours a day, six days a week for about $35. It is a repetitive routine devoid of any play time with friends. The boy rises at 7, goes straight to work and doesn’t stop until sundown, except for a brief lunch break.

After work, he says, “I go back home, have dinner, talk with my family and then go to sleep.”

His father, Yahya Abo Baker, who works with him, wishes his son was at school rather than at work.

“We don’t have any other choice,” he explains. They need the dual income to be able to pay the rent of a flat shared with strangers and send money to the rest of the family who stayed in Syria.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, more than half of Turkey’s 2.7 million Syrian refugees are children. Only 325,000 are enrolled in school. About half a million school-age children have no access to education.

There is no official figure on how many Syrian children work in Turkey, but human rights organizations say those who do not attend school have become part of an informal economy, working for a pittance in a range of sectors including agriculture and textiles.

The International Labor Organization has designated June 12 as World Day Against Child Labor. Turkey is a signatory of the ILO’s Minimum Age Convention, which sets the legal age for work at 15.

Here is a gallery of photos by Lefteris Pitarakis, chief photographer in Turkey for The Associated Press.

See these photos on



Text from the AP news story, AP PHOTOS: Refugee Children Labor in Turkish Factories, by Berza SimsekDominique Soquel and Ayse Wieting contributed to this report.


Follow Lefteris Pitarakis | Twitter


Follow AP photographers on Twitter:


Spotlight is the blog of AP Images, the world’s largest collection of historical and contemporary photos. AP Images provides instant access to AP’s iconic photos and adds new content every minute of every day from every corner of the world, making it an essential source of photos and graphics for professional image buyers and commercial customers.  Whether your needs are for editorial, commercial, or personal use, AP Images has the content and the expert sales team to fulfill your image requirements. Visit to learn more.


Written content on this site is not created by the editorial department of AP, unless otherwise noted. 


AP Images on Twitter | AP Images on Facebook | AP Images on Instagram 



One thought on “Syrian Refugee Children Labor in Turkish Factories

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: