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Poopgate: Is Beloved Istanbul Street Dog Caught In Turkey’s Political Dirty Tricks?

Boji the dog was giving a good image to Istanbul's public transportation system. Some wonder if opponents of the mayor exercised the canine nuclear option...

Poopgate: Is Beloved Istanbul Street Dog Caught In Turkey’s Political Dirty Tricks?

The innocent Boji rides public transportation in Istanbul

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Boji, a street dog in Istanbul, has garnered national and international acclaim in recent weeks for his ability to navigate the Turkish megapolis all on his own — commuting on the metro, riding ferries and even taking elevators.

According to Getty Images photographer Chris McGrath, who followed him around the city, Boji loves riding the city's trams and trains. The dog's name comes from the word "bogie" ("boji" in Turkish), the framework of a vehicle that houses the wheel and axle, since his favorite spot is sitting on top of the bogie and feeling the vibrations of the engine.


City workers began to take care of Boji and track his movements with a mobile app; and a local dog instructor, Ali Yeşilırmak, set up social media accounts that quickly built major followings, with some reporting that even Istanbul's mayor is a fan.

Awwws to ewwws

But this past Friday evening, the mixed-breed canine was suddenly turned into public (transportation) enemy No. 1 after he was blamed for defecating inside one of the city's trams. On social media, a photo of a turd on a seat went viral, with Boji accused of the crime, reports local daily Hürriyet.

But just hours later, another plot twist was in store: The spokesperson of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality shared a security camera video from the tram in question, showing a bald man in a sweatshirt taking the piece of poop out of his pocket (yes, gross…) and planting it on the seat. Yeşilırmak also tweeted an alibi to the pooch's 100K+ followers: Boji had been hanging out at the shelter that day.

Here's a good Boji


Why would someone choose to slander man's best friend? The answer might just be politics.

Bilge Ebiri, a journalist and filmmaker, tweeted that Boji has become an unofficial mascot for Istanbul and its mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, a center-left politician, who is seen by many as the strongest rival to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his conservative Justice and Development Party.

Was poopgate the ultimate political stinkbomb to make both Boji and Istanbul look bad?

While Boji's Instagram says that he is still waiting for an apology, he seems to have taken the incident in stride, with little damage to his reputation. Anyway, he has a train to catch.


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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Hasn't Joe Biden Visited Ukraine?

U.S. President Joe Biden has been evasive when asked if he plans to follow European leaders by visiting Kyiv. However, such a move could have far-reaching consequences for Ukraine and the rest of the world.

What message would a visit by the U.S. president to Kyiv send to Russia?

Cameron Manley

U.S. President Joe Biden has been unyielding in his response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: heavy sanctions on the Russian government and financial markets and strong words about Russian President Vladimir Putin, labeling him a “ butcher" and “war criminal”. The U.S. has also sent upwards of $54 billion in aid to Ukraine.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

This week, the war looms heavily over Biden’s trips to Germany and Spain for meetings with world leaders at the G7 and NATO summits.

Already on this side of the Atlantic, the staging would thus seem perfect for the U.S. president to reaffirm support for Ukraine by going to Kyiv, following in the footsteps of top European leaders, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UN chief Antonio Guterres, who have paid recent visits to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

And yet, save a surprise detour this week, it appears that Biden will in fact not be making the much anticipated trip to Kyiv. What's holding him back?

Russians say he's scared

By all accounts, Biden had plans to visit Ukraine, responding positively in April to President Volodymyr Zelensky's invitation to come and see the destruction“with his own eyes.”

However, when asked last week if he still plans to visit Ukraine, Biden evasively said that it depends on “many things regarding whether this will cause more difficulties for the Ukrainians, whether it will distract from what is happening.” When asked to clarify whether this meant that he would not visit Kyiv during his trip to Europe, he replied: “During this trip, it’s unlikely.” He stressed, though, that he spoke with Zelensky three to four times per week.

Russian news has pounced on Biden’s notable absence from Kyiv. On Thursday, Russian daily Kommersant ran the headline: “Not the time to head to Kyiv” and notes that this is not the first instance where Mr. Biden has had to make excuses for not visiting Ukraine.

Russian media sites have mocked Biden for his “fear” of visiting Kyiv.

In March, the U.S. president visited Poland and was closer than ever to the Ukrainian border. The fact that he never walked the streets of Kyiv, unlike British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was explained by the U.S. president himself: He was "not allowed." The White House refused to clarify what or who was stopping him.

Other Russian media sites have also mocked Biden for his “fear” of visiting Kyiv, using tweets from U.S. citizens to substantiate calling the president a “puppet” or “coward.”

Over the course of several months, high-ranking officials from Washington have indeed visited Kyiv, most notably Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and even First Lady Jill Biden, who made an unannounced visit at the start of May.
Photo of \u200bUkrainian President Zelensky on the phone with U.S. President Biden on June 15

Zelensky on the phone with Biden on June 15

Sarsenov Daniiar/Ukraine Preside/Planet Pix/ZUMA

Leaders of war and peace

Of course, when and if he were to visit, the appearance would likely be unannounced, for security reasons. Indeed, a visit from the U.S. president himself carries higher stakes than perhaps any other world leader. It's worth remembering that during the Guterres visit to Kyiv in late April, Russia launched a new round of missile attacks on the city that the United Nations chief said were an attempt to "humiliate" the UN.

Moreover, it may be no coincidence that the first air strikes on Kyiv in weeks have coincided with this current round of European summits, as Russia has continuously demonstrated its readiness to escalate.The U.S. sending its president to Ukrainian soil would no doubt raise the stakes further.

Back in March, Zelensky said that Biden, as the leader of the free world, is also the “leader of peace.” But of course these are war times, and the prospect of a visit to Kyiv begs the question of whether Biden wants to be seen as the leader of the war.

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