War exacts a devastating toll for all living creatures — civilians, families, and children — but also the animals. Be it the deserted family pet or the feral dog, cat, donkey, pigeon, or parrot their numbers cannot be adequately reported in cities many of which are under curfew and already suffering significant human casualties and starvation.
There is some hope in Diyarbakir’s historic Sur district which has seen bloody clashes for three months between Turkish security forces and Kurdish youths fighting under the guerrilla arm of the PKK. An African gray parrot named Heval (“Comrade” in Kurdish) starving, dehydrated and distressed – but alive – has been reunited with his owner. (See: “Animal Victims of Southeast Turkey Clashes”) Less fortunate animals have been caught in war’s crossfire or simply died from hunger.
PHOTO: Reuters/Sertac Kayar : Sur District in Kurd-dominated Diyarbakir
However, animal rights activists are risking their lives to save animals. Sevgi Ekmekciler, deputy director of Haytap, one of Turkey’s top animal rights groups, leads the fight despite some local’s cultural taboos about animal contact. Some animals have been sent to Istanbul for treatment and many have been rescued from the streets.
Four years ago, Ekmekciler and the former town mayor, Osman Baydemir, set up a local animal shelter. Donor response had been great in campaigns to raise funds for dog and cat food, and many locals adopted — particularly cats. Said Baydemir: “Many were asking why we would spend millions of liras on animals when so many of our people are living in poverty, but a society that cannot be compassionate about animals cannot be compassionate about their fellow humans.”
Let us hope that this sentiment prevails in today’s Sur district. “Ekmekciler speculated that, since the prevailing climate of government repression equates sympathy for human victims of the Kurdish conflict with “terrorism,” many people might be finding it “safer” to reach out to animals instead.”
(For more stories, read: “#Jerusalem #Cat” , “Do Animals Need a UN Ambassador?” and “On the Road Again – Gilligan’s Compelling Journey in 2015” )