The stories that have left a mark on me are those about real life, says the Guardian’s correspondent in Turkey. So it’s essential to speak the language I remember, on one of my first visits to Istanbul, chatting with an acquaintance about his work with imprisoned journalists. He was trying to explain how polarised political opinion is in Turkey. “Let me put it this way: in Turkey the only time you’ll ever collectively piss off a leftist, an Islamist and a secularist is if you kick a cat,” he said. Before I moved to Istanbul last November from Beirut, where I was based for three-and-a-half years, I spent weeks getting the necessary paperwork together for my two cats: international rabies tests, cat passports, health certificates and expensive immunisations. I arrived at Atatürk airport and nervously took the pet carriers over to the customs officer. He gave me a strange look.
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