Puppies walking - Turkey Feeds Stray Animals

Wavering In Its COVID-19 Response, Turkey Seeks To Save Its Stray Animals

The Turkish government has mandated that local councils throughout the country provide food and water for the country’s hundreds of thousands of stray cats and dogs. According to an April 7 BBC report, the order requires councils to “bring food and water to animal shelters, parks, gardens, and other areas where animals are found.” In Istanbul alone, there are nearly 300,000 stray animals.

This seemingly humanitarian gesture contrasts sharply with the country’s pandemic response and the general authoritarian inclination of its government. Controversial strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been the de facto leader of the country for 18 years. His initial response to the crisis was to suggest a voluntary quarantine, but insist that almost all Turkish industries continue to operate. Many in the country and throughout the world have criticized these lax measures. They have additionally called for 90,000 inmates to be released in order to prevent mass deaths in the prison system. Legislation in this regard is on the table. However it excludes legions of political prisoners, including journalists, politicians, and lawyers who were jailed for opposing Erdogan.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Last night, a surprise announcement from the government threw the nation into chaos. Authorities ordered a 48-hour lockdown beginning at midnight. Confused by the order and fearful of shortages, many thousands of citizens mobbed convenience stores and markets late into the night.

Turkey is experiencing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. As of today, there are nearly 57,000 infections and approximately 1,200 reported deaths. A recent op-ed in Foreign Policy magazine contends that “Erdoğan, through years of political and economic mismanagement, has put his nation in arguably the most vulnerable position of all major emerging markets.” A 2013 corruption scandal led to the arrests of some of the president’s close allies. Since a 2016 coup d’état attempt, the president has increasingly sought to consolidate power and silence dissidence.

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