Who is Türkan Dağdelen?
An incredible story of everlasting perseverance...
Türkan Dağdelen was born in 1965 in a small village on the outskirts of Ortaca (a town in Turkey close to Dalaman and the tourist areas of Fethiye and Marmaris). During her childhood she experienced poor health, various difficulties, hardships and poverty.
In the years that followed her father sought work in Germany and decided to take his family with him. So, in 1976 Türkan flew from Izmir on an aeroplane that took her to new horizons and adventures.
Then, in 1988 she tragically lost her mum in a traffic accident in Bulgaria.
In 1994 Türkan began work at Dalaman Airport, but she could only put up with one season. Instead she accepted a job as an air hostess for a private airline. While she was waiting to start the new job, she went to England for three months and didn’t return.
Between 2000 and 2005 she travelled to a number of countries: she survived a disastrous tsunami in the Maldives; and she also went on holiday to Indian where spent all her time with the street animals, only returning to the luxury hotel where she was staying to shower.
Some years later Türkan returned to Ortaca in Turkey intending to open a lovely little restaurant. While trying to adjust to life again in Turkey, she was shocked by the unbelievable cruelty endured by street animals, including poisoning, at the hands of the public and the council.
Türkan rebelled against people’s insensitivity, lack of mercy, incompetence and blindness to the suffering of the stray animals who were collected like rubbish and dumped away from inhabited areas or massacred by poisoning. Instead she set about a programme of neutering as a more modern and civilised solution. The council’s inhumane mentality left over from the Middle Ages infuriated her.
When Ortaca Council poisoned a mum and her six puppies right on the street where she lived, she felt overwhelmed by helplessness.
As a result HAYDOS (Animal Friends Association), with a no kill policy, came into being.
The restaurant in the orange garden, which had been Türkan’s ambition, was to remain a distant fantasy. It was decided; without a backward glance she would walk this sacred path that God had opened up to her.
Türkan took action and made countless protests. She relentlessly wrote hundreds of petitions. She even placed a dead dog on the desk of the Council Chief Executive at the time, who had repeatedly thrown dogs like rubbish in the mountains or poisoned them. She raised awareness in Turkey generally by undertaking a hunger strike in the forest.
Türkan has neutered and rehomed more animals than she can remember. She has nurtured them, fed those that were hungry and treated those that were sick.
She has suffered much abuse and harassment along the way: her car tyres were slashed and her mirrors smashed; on three occasions her house was broken into; a poisoned dog was left on her bed; and she was physically attacked. She thought about abandoning the project many times, but she just couldn’t turn her back on her voiceless friends. Gradually, as time went on things started to improve.
At the time the Chief Executives of Ortaca, Dalaman and Köyceğiz Councils did not want to set up an animal rescue centre and instead preferred to remove or kill them in one way or another. With an air of authority they said things like, “Dalaman’s God is my God”, “I will do whatever I want”, “I won’t spend money on dogs and lice” and they did not believe that dogs had a right to exist.
With less than a year to the 2009 elections Türkan decided to stay a little longer. She would either quit her country or she would take part in one more election.
On a whim she sold for next to nothing the 2.5 acres of land with its young orange trees that she had bought to fulfil her dream.
Eventually, after the 2009 local elections Türkan received the support of the newly elected Ortaca Council Chief Executive, Hasan Karaçelik. This at least meant that the insults, verbal abuse and physical assaults she had been enduring, came to an end. In spite of all the difficulties, hardships and obstacles, she used what little money she had from the sale of the orange grove to set up HAYDOS, initially a makeshift rescue centre.
HAYDOS Rescue Centre is now home to more than 800 injured dogs, 170 cats and 7 old donkeys.
Of course we don’t even talk about the never ending numbers that are left at the gates of the home or nearby…