Turkish politics get dirtier as dog accused of pooping on metro


IZMIR, Turkey – Boji, the canine commuter who has captured the hearts of the public through videos and photos as he navigates Istanbul’s public transport system, has become the target of a smear campaign opposing the Istanbul municipality run by the opposition to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

In Turkey’s polarized climate, everything from dead poets to domestic violence can be recruited for political conflict. The most recent controversy, however, was surprising, even by Turkish standards: It’s over dog poop.

Boji’s conspiracy, as Turkish columnists call it, began on November 19 when a social media user posted a photo of dog feces on the subway, claiming it was left behind by Boji. “Boji, employee of Istanbul municipality, shit in the subway,” tweeted pro-AKP blog Sagdan Haber (“News from the Right”), which spews a constant stream of criticism targeting Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor. of the city from the opposition. Republican People’s Party (CHP) and possible candidate for the 2023 presidential elections.

The response from the Turkish-speaking Twittersphere was immediate. Critics, some of them perhaps weary of the dog’s frequently published adventures in town, claimed that Boji had become spoiled by the attention, while others claimed that the dog was highly unlikely. defecates on a seat. Still others joked about the state of the city’s public transportation if the city’s own mascot deemed it appropriate to poop.

Boji, a lean Anatolian Shepherd mix with a serene demeanor and 127,700 Twitter followers, immediately denied. “I was at the shelter all day with my trainer,” he tweeted (or maybe an accomplice). Someone “planted droppings to trap me.” How bad can you get? “

Then came a video posted by Istanbul Municipality spokesperson Murat Ongun. It showed a man taking excrement out of a plastic bag in his pocket and planting it on the subway seat.

Boji, who has an audience larger than the municipality, retweeted the clip saying, “I was ashamed of the man’s name when I saw the footage.”

The framing of the internationally renowned dog immediately becomes a trending topic on social media with the hashtag #Boji won’t walk alone. Although there has been no statement on the identity or political position of the man who planted the droppings, many social media users have pointed to the AKP trolls and the local official of AKP Mehmet Tevfik Goksu, Vice-President of Istanbul City Council.

“The media that revealed the history of feces is actively supported by Goksu, ”the nationalist daily Yeni Cag reported, saying the politician wanted to overthrow Imamoglu and become mayor in the next election in 2024. Speaking to Haberturk columnist Nagehan Alci a day later, Goksu brushed aside claims like too ridiculous to comment.

The blame game and jokes have flourished on social media and in the newspapers. Can Okar, whose sardonic Turkish affairs tweets have thousands of followers, posted a series of tweets about what Boji could be responsible for. “AKP publish images of Boji, the opposition dog, participating in a coup to undermine the Turkish lira, ”he tweeted, alluding to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claims that“ outside forces ”, rather than its unorthodox interest rate policies are responsible for Turkey’s economic woes. . In another tweet, he added: “It’s Boji who drank beer to the mosque ”- a reference to allegations that a group of protesters during the events in Gezi Park in 2013 violated the sanctity of a mosque by drinking alcoholic beverages there.

The AKP and its trolls “used everything from fake news to fake photos to defame Imamoglu,” wrote Yilmaz Ozdil, a fierce AKP critic with a particular penchant for conspiracy theories, in the report. opposition daily Sozcu. “They finally looked at throw shit to a dog, both literally and figuratively.

Istanbul in general and the city’s public transport system in particular has been a battleground between the AKP and Imamoglu, which wrested Turkey’s cultural and commercial capital from the AKP in 2019. In a symbolic gesture of property, the Department of Transportation announced in September that it would post the letter “U” (for “ulastırma”, Turkish for “transport”) on metro stations built by the ministry. The municipality opposed the decision, saying the Istanbul metro had been designated with the letter “M” since 1992. Imamoglu faces obstacles from Ankara on a wide range of issues, including the recent rezoning of Princes’ Islands.

In their efforts to make their views known, opposition municipalities are looking for subtle ways to reach the public. “The municipalities of Istanbul and Ankara offered animals that attracted a large audience, especially women and young people,” said Seyda Taluk, author of “How to Win Elections”. In Ankara, Mansur Yavas, another CHP mayor and potential presidential candidate, often exchanges cheerful tweets with his cat, Khaleesi of Ankara.

“Boji’s framing looks like a not-so-smart attempt to vilify Imamoglu. But whether it is a political framing or not, it will remain in political communications as an epic failure that backfired, ”Taluk told Al-Monitor. Noting that the animal rights movement is one of the most organized in Turkey, so awkwardly targeting Boji in the hope of smearing Imamoglu was highly counterproductive, Taluk added.

But the recent exchange could spell the end of Boji’s tenure as Istanbul Municipality mascot, as he may have become too big a target. “We are looking for a place – ideally with a large garden – where Boji can stay,” said Ongun.

The first offering came from Nesin Mathematics Village, an academy of sciences founded by Ali Nesin near Izmir on the Aegean coast. The official village account tweeted: “We have expressed our desire to provide a house for boji – we don’t have a metro but we will carry it on our backs. Perhaps the popular Istanbul dog, like many residents of the big city, will find peace in the Aegean region far from politics.

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