Amid fears over the coronavirus pandemic, people around the world have adjusted to the new normal and began taking preventive measures, such as social distancing and home isolation. But these measures have dealt a heavy blow to particular trades, like barbers.
Jama Abdi Jama, a Somali barber, was excited to open a new shop in the Turkish capital in February. He was looking forward to offering exotic haircuts and see some returns for his investment. But fate had other plans, as Turkey adopted strict measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including curfews.
“I was so positive when the shop finally opened. But this coronavirus outbreak changed all our plans as people put themselves under home quarantine and barbershops were closed shortly after,” said 27-year-old Jama.
In addition to the shop’s maintenance and rent, Jama had to shoulder another burden, as he had to cover the rents of his employees – barbers with years of experience who he had convinced to move to Turkey from Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen in an effort to increase the quality of service at his shop.
“They were supposed to work and I was looking forward to paying back my loans. But we were all confined to our homes with me assisting them with payments. The past couple of months have been really challenging, both mentally and financially,” he said.
However, the future is bright despite those difficult days, according to the Somalian entrepreneur. He now looks forward to welcoming customers, with more and more people starting to show up at his barbershop following an easing of restrictions.
“Slowly but steadily, we are recovering from this crisis and things will hopefully get much better in the coming days. We are using single-use items for each customer while paying attention to measures like wearing masks and using disinfectants.”
Jama said the virus would hopefully be completely eradicated soon and people could enjoy going outside like before.
“We all will emerge stronger mentally once this is over and value our daily lives even more.”
Asked about Turks’ attitude toward him at peak of the crisis, while some foreigners were being treated badly in various parts of the world with locals accusing them of spreading the virus, he said his neighbors were really friendly and offered to extend a helping hand if need be.
“Turkish people are really good from a humanitarian point of view. I mean they do not discriminate or alienate you. Except for a very few incidents, I have not had any problems,” he said. “There have been one or two occasions of verbal abuse, but the vast majority of Turks do not show such behavior. They support us, which is satisfying.”
“My skin color is not a source of problem in this country. They see people of African origin as brothers and sisters. There is no systematic racism or anything like that here. They ask me, ‘Why would we hate you when you do not do any harm to others?”