Exclusive: Man loses house built by hand over 18 years in Turkey earthquake

It took him nearly five years to complete the ground-floor construction

By Text: SM Ayaz Zakir from Gaziantep in Turkey, Visuals: Neeraj Murali

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Photo: Neeraj/KT
Photo: Neeraj/KT

Published: Fri 24 Feb 2023, 7:21 AM

Last updated: Fri 24 Feb 2023, 6:57 PM

The man holding a key is 60-year-old Husyen Keklic. It was his key to happiness, his house, and it took him over 18 years to construct. But now, it’s just a regular key for him.

When the earthquake struck Turkey on February 6, his family and him managed to escape and run into an open place. Sadly, the house he built by hand, remains in ruins.

“I never thought I would move out of this house, but unfortunately I have to,” said Keklic mentioning that he is temporarily moving to his son’s house.

Keklic started working as a plasterer when he was just ten years old. When he was 20, he joined the Turkish Army as part of a mandatory service. After completing his term, he came to Islahiye, purchased land, and started constructing his home, all by himself.

It took him nearly five years to complete the ground-floor construction. “I started with the foundation of the house. I made it so strong that it could hold the weight of four floors. I got in people for plumbing and electrical work and completed the construction,” said Keklic.

Photo: Neeraj/KT
Photo: Neeraj/KT

After completing the ground floor, Keklic married Fathma and started the next chapter of his life. The couple gave birth to four children – 3 sons and a daughter. He then continued his work as a plasterer constructing many houses in the province of Gaziantep. After accumulating enough money, he started the construction of the first floor of his house. “It took me nearly eight years to finish the completion. My children were then old enough to get married,” said Keklic.

Keklic’s elder sons moved into the first floor with their wives. His financial burden was reduced as his sons started earning an income.

As his younger son and daughter grew, he resumed the construction of his house. “I wanted to construct the second floor a bit differently for my younger son and the daughter,” said Keklic.

After completing the second floor, his children were married and shifted to the second floor. “The whole house was completed in twenty years. My age was then 45, and I was blessed with four grandchildren,” said Keklic.

Photo: Neeraj/KT
Photo: Neeraj/KT

“My grandchildren were very fond of me and often lived with my wife and me in our home on the ground floor. We have thousands of memories in this house,” added Keklic.

It was all going smoothly for the family until 2020. As the family grew, Keklic’s eldest son moved out and constructed his own house. “He got a good job in a neighbouring province and often visited us. But in 2021, I lost my wife. She passed away during the pandemic,” said Keklic.

But the pall of gloom descended on the Keklic’s home on February 6, 2023. “It was devastation. Finally, I have to bid farewell to my house, which I built by hand. The construction still stands. Cracks have developed, which is not feasible for accommodation,” said Keklic.

Keklic is now waiting for the government to reconstruct his home and move in when it’s ready. “If people help me with donations, I would like to start the construction on my own, even at this age. I believe I still have the expertise and knowledge in construction to withstand the earthquake,” concluded Keklic.

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