806) On Turks' Kindness to Animals

From the book, "Golden Horn," Chapter
"Vultures of Christendom," pp. 82-2

"Turkish atrocities! This cliché of the Crusaders (published everywhere with the help of the banknotes of the Balkan Committee in London) continues to be reproduced in the French Press. . . . Alas, it may be true. But the Crusaders! When will their crimes be known? Wounded Turkish officers and soldiers have been found without nose, lips, or eyelids, all of them having been cut off with scissors. . . . I am nearing the end of my life on earth. I desire and fear nothing, but as long as I can make myself heard it is my duty to speak the truth. Down with wars of conquest! Shame on these slaughters I

“From Turkey we French have taken Algeria, Tunis, Morocco. The English have robbed her of Egypt. Poor, beautiful, meretricious Italy, thinking she was marching to glory, turned Tripolitania into a charnel house. We lay our heavy and disdainful hands upon these conquered countries; the least of our little bureaucrats treats every Moslem as a slave. From these believers we have taken, little by little, their trust in prayer; and upon these dreamers we have imposed our futile excitements, our anger, our speed, our alcohol, our intrigues, our iron civilisation; unrest follows us everywhere, together with ambition and despair.

"I do not believe there is a race of men more thoroughly good, loyal, kind."

“The Turks are misunderstood by Westerners who have never set foot in this country. I do not believe there is a race of men more thoroughly good, loyal, kind. I must except, alas, some who have been brought up in our schools and gangrened in our boulevards: they become officials afterwards: I leave them aside. But the people, the real people, the petits bourgeois, the peasants — what better men could you find ? Ask those of us who have lived in the East which they prefer: Turks, or Bulgarians, or Serbs, or any other Levantine Christians, and I know what the answer will be!

“The kindness of Turks for animals might be an example to us all. With what cheerfulness the dogs of Constantinople were nourished for centuries ! How often some Turk would come down into the street to cover their puppies with a rug when it rained! And the day when the Municipal Council, composed chiefly of Armenians decreed their destruction in the atrocious way the world knows,[1] there were battles in every quarter of the city, indeed almost a revolution to defend the dogs. As to cats, they never get out of the way of the inhabitants, knowing that passers by will leave them in peace. And at Broussa, in one of the adorable corners of that old Moslem city, there is a hospital for old or wounded storks who have not been able to escape the winter. Some of them are swathed in bandages, others have their legs in splints. When I visited the place, there was a senile owl there, who lived on charity, like the storks. . "

Pierre Loti was my literary hero, but he and his sick owl belonged to another age: the new era was being ushered in by the booming of the rival artilleries of Krupp and Creusot.

* * * *
1 There was a saying in Constantinople that when the Turk should rid himself of the race of dogs that had followed his nomad ancestors from the steppes of Central Asia, the city would cease to be Turkish. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, under Mahmoud the Reformer, an attempt was made to abolish them. They were taken to an island, but promptly swam back. Nearly a hundred years later, a merchant offered to put them all in a lethal chamber, intending to turn their skins into gloves, but even Abdul the Damned rejected this proposal. Under the Young Turk regime, however, it was felt that something should be done to creatures who merely lay in the sun, contemptuous of Progress, so they were collected in rubbish carts, with closed iron lids, and taken to the island of Oxyea, eight miles from Constantinople, where there was no water. Daily the lighter brought new dogs and those already on the island killed them in order to drink their blood. Eventually all died of thirst.

Are Armenians & Greeks correct when they say Turks are for the birds?

From the Italian writer Edmondo de Amicis (1846-1909)'s book named "Istanbul"

Istanbul has a unique vivacity and elegance because of countless birds from all kinds, which Turks love and protect. Mosques, groves, ancient city walls, gardens, palaces, everything sings songs, boozes, tweets, warbles, chirps; the touch of the wings is felt everywhere, in every place there's liveliness and harmony. Sparrows courageously enter homes to bait from the hands of women and children; swallows build their nests on the doors of coffee houses or the domes of bazaars; innumerable flocks of pigeons that were fed by sultans or other people form circles of white and black around the minaret balconies and along the eaves of the domes. Seagulls fly with joy, thousands of doves make love under the cypresses of cemeteries; crows caw in Yedikule; vultures fly in circles; terns shuttle between Black Sea and Marmara in long lines, and storks chat on the kuppels of deserted mausoleums. For Turks, each of these birds has a beautiful meaning or a fortunate impression: Doves protect love, swallows protects the houses on which they build their nests from fire, storks go to Mecca for pilgrimage every winter, terns bring the good souls of believers to heaven. Hence with appreciation and devoutness, Turks preserve those birds and feed them, so the birds convive around their houses, above the sea, and amid the cemeteries. Everywhere in Istanbul, above people's heads, all around them there are birds; chirpy herds, which spread a pastoral joy and refresh you by renewing the sense of nature in your spirit, just pass you by, barely touching.

(With thanks to Damla Ozdemir for the translation.)

© Holdwater

The source site of this article gets revised often, as better
information comes along. For the most up-to-date version, and
the related photos, the reader may consider reviewing
the direct link as follows:


Complementing notes by Sukru Server Aya:
“Lords of the Horizons” Jason Goodwin, Henry Holt Co, NY, ISBN 0-8050-4081-1

P.325: In the last years of the empire, a French firm offered half a million francs to turn 150.000 street dogs in Istanbul into gloves. The Sultan nobly refused. The dogs were locked up in an old tramp steamer and transported, howling and fighting to a waterless island (Hayirsizada) where they were turned loose.


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