Who is Turkan Dagdelen?
Full text as published by Gul Durulan Turan...
Some people’s fates lie within their last names. Those last names that they carry give them strength.
Turkan Dagdelen was born in 1965 in a small village of the district of Ortaca in the city of Mugla, Turkey. Taking care of her five siblings, she was never able to live her childhood; or youth for that matter. She probably was never a “kid”. She endured various diseases, overcame mountains of obstacles, and fought through poverty during her childhood. The only games she knew were playing around with lamb and sheep, and listening to the beautiful sounds of the shepherd’s pipe. At the age of six, it all went dark when she insisted on riding a donkey; the shock she went into rendered her bedridden for a whole week. She was the “gang-leader” of all the kids in the neighborhood. Her favorite pastime activities were stealing fruits from the neighbors’ yards and climbing to the top of the tallest trees. These were worth all the punishments she received.
In 1970, her father left Turkan a tiny olive tree and all her siblings to be taken care after when he was leaving for Germany to work. He told her to take good care of all of them, including the olive tree. The olive tree grew tall as her siblings did; but her father never came back home. Turkan had to leave her village to move in with her grandfather in Ortaca when it was time to start school.
In later years, Turkan’s father decided to bring all his family to Germany. In the meantime, Turkan had persevered through kidney failure, clinging to life with both hands. The plane leaving from Izmir took her to new horizons and adventures in 1976. Being so young, she quickly and easily learned German. However, the dark days during her school years made it very difficult for her to finish middle school and vocational high school. After graduating, she started a three-year long hotel management training at a big hotel in Frankfurt, Germany. Unfortunately, she had to quit her training six months earlier than expected, without receiving her diploma, as a result of an argument with her Dutch chief. During the later years of her life, she always worked in big hotels.
In 1988, Turkan lost her mother in a car accident in Bulgaria on the road from Germany to Turkey for vacation. Her life changed forever. She had no choice but to move back to Turkey with her siblings.
Moving back to her hometown, Turkan started working in ground operations for a private company at Dalaman Airport, which she was only able to endure for one season only. Next, her application to be a stewardess at a private airline company was accepted. She was waiting to begin her new job when she visited England for three months in 1994. Those three months turned into 13 years. While living in the UK, she travelled to many other countries, as well. She barely made it alive from the tsunami disaster in the Maldives, volunteered to work for orphans in Sri-Lanka, and for stray animals in India (where she was only visiting) stopping by the hotel she stayed only to take a shower.
Years later, Turkan moved back to Ortaca to open her small but cozy dream restaurant. But, as usual, things did not work out as planned. Her life change completely, again, when she coincidentally came across a poor black dog, a rape victim, begging for help with her eyes. A whole new page was in front of Turkan now.
All the suffering, tortures that stray animals were trying to endure, people’s and municipalities’ non-stopping murders and poisoning ‘operations’ have grieved her. Witnessing it all, animals dying of hunger, the remaining getting literally thrown away in the mountains like trash was a whole new level of reality for her. Rescuing a kitten, then a dog, and many others from dumpsters and other horrible places… there was no going back for Turkan anymore.
As she witnessed the barbarity, savagery, and all the tortures of people against animals more and more, each and every day, she devoted herself to animal rights. She rose against the medieval barbarity, murders and poisonings, and the 5199 times violation of the Animal Protection Law No. 5199 by the municipalities. And when the Ortaca Municipality murdered a mother dog and her six puppies in cold blood, she felt despairingly exhausted. Turkan learned how to rise against the government after the mass murder in Antalya. Most importantly, she learned how to write motion letters and get appointments, and became aware of the importance of corporate level, organized work force. In the meantime, she undertook a non-active -in fact, useless- animal rights association, and brought it back to life. That small dream restaurant among orange trees that she wanted more than anything were nothing but faraway dreams behind a screen of dust and smoke… But she was determined; she was going to walk this sacred road before her ’till the end.
Turkan grasped the fact that non-governmental organizations exist as a part of democracy. She devoted herself to the fierce battle against all institutions that refuse to carry out their duties, violate the laws, and attempt against lives. She carried out countless protests, wrote hundreds of complaint letters. She never gave up.
She brought a murdered dog to the Mayor’s desk, demanding answers. Turkan’s hunger strike made an impact worldwide. She received full moral support.
She neutered/spayed and rehomed countless animals. She fed the hungry, made sure all of them had food, and treated the sick. She became the Florence Nightingale of this sacred community.
Unfortunately, the number of narrow-minded people was overwhelming. She was harassed and slandered many times. Tires of her car were cut and deflated, side mirrors broken to pieces. Her house was broken into three times; she even found a poisoned dog on her bed once. She was physically attacked, as well. Instead of giving up after, all these made her into a sharp sword. She was now the voice, the defender, and most importantly, a mother to all the defenseless, reticent and mute.
No matter how many times she wanted to leave for good, it was impossible for her to run away from her heart, and most importantly, their eyes crying for help. Her companions that she took care of in the forests had always waited, and would wait, for her. She had already spent all her life savings for their well-being, anyway.
The Mayors back then did not want to build shelters, but to get rid of all the animals once and for all. The former Mayor of Dalaman was simply denying the poor souls the right to live; “I’ll do whatever I want! I will not spend a dime on dogs and their flees.” The simple solution that the primitive minds at the municipalities came up with was murder. Approximately a year before the elections, Turkan made up her mind; she was either going to leave the country for good or persevere until the elections.
With a snap decision, she sold her 1000 square-meter land for next to nothing. In the meantime, Hasan Karacelik had won the 2009 elections and became Mayor. With Karacelik becoming the new Mayor, all the allegations, accusations, attacks and slander against Turkan Dagdelen faded away.
She was now stronger than ever in her fight.
She was getting all her determination and passion from the eyes of the helpless and quiet souls.
Kafka said: “The answers to all the questions lie within the eyes of a dog.” Dagdelen understood the quiet words from those eyes and was able to communicate in the same way. Most importantly, she was able to let the immense love in her heart flow through to them.
With the support from the Ortaca and Koycegiz municipalities, Turkan slowly walked on her path.
After a very long struggle, she was built the HAYDOS Care Center with her own finances and efforts.
Today, the HAYDOS Care Center, which is operated and maintained by Turkan is home to over 150 cats, 600 dogs [as of 2016: close to 200 cats and 800 dogs], and a mule, many of whom are old, disabled, or sick. Turkan and her companions are on a long road to the unknown within the cosmos with the help of two municipality workers, appointed to the Care Home with her efforts.
No manicure, no lipstick; yet Dagdelen is a very beautiful woman. Because she spends her time working the soil, within the forest, with all her four-pawed companions. She speaks to them; shares her love and grief with them. That’s where the secret of her beauty lies.
And her strength lies within her last name.
(As published in a news article by Gul DURULAN TURAN)