TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Urgent Appeal for Catherine and Abit in Turkey! Help keep Abit out of jail...

Remember this movie? Midnight Express....

I have no idea what prisons or jails are like in Turkey today, but I know that they are not good places to be in any part of the world, and Turkey, especially, gives me the weakness in the knees. Well, today I have a cyber-friend, Catherine Salter Bayar, who wrote in a panic because her husband, Abit, might be thrown into debtor's jail for almost a year. I have no money to help her, but I do have this blog and I am hoping that many of you out there will rise to the occasion and help prevent this disaster.

Catherine and Abit own a store and coffee shop in Turkey. They have a shop on Etsy and I approached Catherine several months ago to write for Fiber Focus. She has become a regular contributor (see her other articles) and we were just talking about the next two she will be submitting. Little did we know we would have to put out this appeal!

We bonded immediately because of our passion for textiles, for the people who make them, and because we are both American white girls married to wonderful Muslim men who drive us crazy. (Not really crazy, but we can compare notes, right?) Catherine is writing a book on Turkish textiles and is a member of our Fiber Focus group. I asked Catherine to write a short description of what their needs are so I could post it here and here is what she wrote:

Help keep Abit out of Jail!!!

"The summer is nearly over, and it's been a pretty good one...until this past month of August. Always tough due to the heat (smart tourists do not visit now if they can help it!), our cash flow has dwindle to near $0. Anyone who has a small business knows that cash flow is crucial - no business stays afloat long without it. September and October have always been our best months for sales here, so we were hoping to ride it out.

But here in Turkey, there is an interesting twist when a cash flow crunch means a missed small business final loan payment of $5,200, due this past Monday, August 25th. We promptly received court papers today (delivered on a Sunday!). If not paid by this coming Thursday, my husband Abit will have to go to debtor's jail...for 340 days!

We knew there could be jail time involved, but had no idea they could keep him nearly a year, for Heaven's sake! Makes no sense whatsoever. At the same time, we have to renew our Cafe Mosaik's lease for the next 6 months this week at $5,000 or they will move us out of there.

We have travelers coming to see us from the US both here and in Istanbul in September. We plan to spend November through March in the US, visiting friends and selling a huge vintage collection of kilims and carpets a colleague has in California. But we need an immediate $10,000 to make it until then.

Can you help? Our Etsy shop is full of lots of wonderful Turkish textile treasures to buy. Or, make a donation to keep my hard-working, extended family of 15 supporting husband out of debtor's prison. Anyone wanting to partner with us in either shop or Cafe is welcome to inquire as well.

Thanks for all your help and best wishes - we appreciate them immensely!"

-Catherine Salter Bayar

I've been writing articles about all these different people and groups around the world who are facing all kinds of challenges in production, finding markets for their work, and in maintaining their social fabric intact. This is a personal instance, for me, where the people involved are my peers. Anyone who knows me will know why I feel so profoundly about their situation. For the past twenty years, I have also been under the constant burden of debt and financial stress. If I were in Turkey, I would have been thrown into debtor's prison a long time ago. Debt is an immense problem that many Americans are facing these days. People are losing their jobs, houses, and have no health insurance. (Sound like some political speeches we've heard lately?)

Well, the thing that gets me is that if Abit goes to jail, he becomes unproductive. How can he even hope to get caught up from there? I can understand being penalized by a fine or serving time doing community service, but what good is to anyone to be in jail or prison or confined in any way?

So, WHY do we put ourselves through all this stress? Why, why, oh, why? I think about it all the time. I think it is because we love what we do and we have that undying hope that someday all our hard work will support ourselves and the people we represent. The business of working with artisans is not only about the finished product. It is about preserving choices in our world that remain outside the net of mass consumerism and production. But, because we may be white or educated, possibly from a middle class background, we are perceived as people who are affluent and full of options. If you stick with it long enough and don't succeed, eventually those options do dry up.

Well, without writing a dissertation about this, if you would like to help Catherine and Abit, there are several things you can do:

  • Shop at their Etsy store.
  • Ask them what other inventory they have on hand they could sell you.
  • Catherine mentioned they are open to investors in their business. Take a look at their website and see if there is a possibility there for you.
  • Shop at my Etsy store. If you buy something now through September 5th, I'll give 15% of the sale to them. (Wish I could do more, but I have my suppliers that need to be paid, too...) Leave a note for the seller at the time of purchase or through Pay Pal at the time of payment saying "This purchase is for Catherine and Abit".
  • Finally, here is a donation button that goes to Catherine's Pay Pal account. Any amount will help!

    We finish with "Money Makes the World Go Around"


    Catherine reported this morning that $744 has been raised through this article in sales and donations! What a wonderful response! Yesterday's traffic to the site was the highest Fiber Focus has ever had which reinforces for me, how ready people are to help in whatever way they can. They still have to raise another $4K, so please spread the link to this article. We have another four days to work on this. Abit is seeing a lawyer today to see if he can get an extension. We'll report again later in the day. Many, many thanks to all of you who have been so generous with purchases, donations and spreading the word!

    Update, September 3rd

    An enormous THANK YOU to everyone who purchased from our Etsy site or gave a donation - we made $1,744 because of your generosity!!! And a huge debt of gratitude to Rachel at Fiber Focus for bringing this to your attention.
    Knowing that sum of money was on its way to our bank via PayPal plus giving them the cash we had on hand, Abit managed to talk the small business loan people plus the cafe landlord into holding off, but only until Friday.
    We do still have to come up with about $4,000 more by then. After jumping that hurdle, we have 10 days (actual, not business days) to pay the final $4,000 owed to both parties.
    So, we would appreciate you spreading the word to anyone else you may know. We are truly thankful for your support! All orders will be shipped this week - I apologize for being too 'wound up' to finish packing them up today.
    Another update Friday...

    (Note to all: You probably already knew this, but when I return to the States this fall, I will be getting a PayPal debit card so I could have withdrawn funds immediately, instead of being in nail-biting limbo for 3 days as I am now...)

Newest Update, September 5th

"As of today, we are halfway out of the woods, I'm glad to report! An exceptional soul in Istanbul, an American friend of a friend whom I'd only met once, was incensed about jail time for a debt. After living here and running a business for several years, she too had heard and experienced similar stories and did not want to see a woman in trouble. She offered to use her credit card to help us, in return for a very good wholesale deal on carpets that she will sell to others or back to us when we can. A little tricky to work out the logistics, since she is 350 miles north of us. Fortunately, she knows and trusts another carpet dealer here in Selcuk, and asked him to assist in reviewing our rugs. I was happy when she mentioned his name, because he happens to be Abit's cousin! It's truly a small world here sometimes...
We will be able to pay half the Cafe lease tomorrow, and enough of the small business debt for them to suspend the arrest. So Abit remains free, thanks to the support of many good people. We still have about $4,000 to make by Friday the 12th though, to complete paying these two debts in full."

From Rachel:

The reader response really has been wonderful! However, they still need help, so if you can keep this post going by forwarding it to your friends or posting about it in your blog, maybe we can help them a bit more. Help Abit a bit? I'm sure he's heard that before!

I'm going to return to my regular posts now, but will continue to update here as Catherine sends me news. Many, many thanks to all of you!



  1. Hey, I'm a softhearted person, but how do we know that this is not a scam? You know how we all get emails from people in Nigeria or some other place who want our financial help. It would be good if we could have some assurances that this is legit... I've been to Turkey and while it's not the world's most open society I just find myself being skeptical. I know that Rachel knows Catherine, but ... I just don't feel too comfortable about this, and I doubt I'm the only one.

  2. Well, what would help give assurance? Catherine didn't ask me for help. We were talking about her articles several days ago and she mentioned that she was really stressed out about these bills that were coming up. Then when they got the notice she e-mailed me and was upset, but still not asking for help. I'm the one that offered to make it public on the blog, which must certainly feel embarrassing for her, but there are times when you just have to put your need out there.

  3. Dear Mart Bright,

    I understand your skepticism and I am not at all surprised to read that someone questions this post. It IS incredible that a small business owner in the relatively modern country could be jailed for that length of time because of a debt, but unfortunately, it's true. I could ask several other business owners that I know here to post their horror stories, which are all too common.

    It's also true that I did not ask Rachel to post this; she offered, good proactive friend that she is, and several women have already placed orders on our Etsy site, for which I thank them. Abit has not even seen this because he'd be mortified. But I have to do what I can to help my husband, who supports his parents and several siblings as well. My pride's not as important as his freedom.

  4. Surely these bills were not a surprise! Why didn't they save up for them during the good tourist months?

  5. Hi, Priscilla- I got a note from Catherine that they were going to close down for the night, but I'm sure she will address this herself when she gets up. I can't speak for her, but almost everybody I know who is in this business is constantly playing catch up, so that when there are savings, they are slim. And, if you have one bad month, you can hit bottom.

    The other angle is that Abit, like most of the males I know who are selling textiles and rugs, are supporting a whole host of people aside from paying the business bills. Catherine will have to speak to that for herself, but I know that my other peers are truly in a constant panic for all the people who are dependent on them.

  6. Dear Priscilla,

    Yes, we've had two good tourist months here this year - May and June. We paid off other debts then, and were down to this last loan payment - the one that will put Abit in jail. Yes, we knew it was coming, but had no idea that nearly a year's jail time would be involved, and hoped we could be given a little more time - but no. Unfortunately, tourism is very hard to predict, and in the past two seasons (from May to October), we have only had two or three good months in an entire year.

    As for the money toward the cafe lease, in prior years we've paid month to month. This year - after 10 years - the landlord decided he wanted 6 months up front. We did not see that coming, but based on experience, how could we?

    We do support my husband's parents and four siblings, we support three school age nieces and nephews with school expenses, plus paid for a sister's wedding this summer - which we did not know about in advance. In this culture, family helps family, even when you may not have enough for yourself.

    We do this because we love it and it helps keep the family together. Obviously we do not do this for the big money, and yes, we make mistakes. I am grateful for the several people who have made purchases today.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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