Istanbul's Last Pork Butcher Fights Islamist Crackdown on Swine
By Firat Kayakiran
Lazari Kozmaoglu, Istanbul's last pork butcher, takes a break from a two-hour backgammon session to recall the days he spent slicing bacon instead of rolling dice.
Eight workers used to rush in and out of the cutting room, placing wrapped meat in refrigerators, Kozmaoglu, 63, recalls in his store in central Istanbul. Today the shop is down to its last two months of stock and attracts only a handful of customers.
Turkey's Islamist-rooted government has clamped down on the pork industry since 2004, closing all but two of the country's 25 pig farms and revoking slaughterhouse licenses. Kozmaoglu, unable to add to his meat supplies, spends most of his time shuffling paperwork as he seeks permission to reopen his abattoir.
"I don't know what I can do if they don't give it to me; this business is my life,'' Kozmaoglu says as he watches a news bulletin on Greek television.
He's one of about 2,000 ethnic Greeks remaining in Istanbul. Most Greeks left the city after Turkish mobs attacked their homes and workplaces in 1955. Others were expelled in 1964 after fighting between Greeks and Turks on Cyprus.
Before the 2004 crackdown, Kozmaoglu was one of four pork butchers in Istanbul. All of his competitors quit handling pigs after losing their slaughterhouse permits. The state granted Kozmaoglu temporary licenses to let him kill the swine on outlawed farms, but those have now been cut off, he says.
In 2004, the Agriculture Ministry assumed the power to issue livestock handling permits previously controlled by local authorities. The ministry has refused applications for pig facilities, citing a failure to meet sanitary or other standards.
A ministry spokeswoman declined to answer questions about pig farms and slaughterhouses.
1) Istanbul's Last Pork Butcher Fights Islamist Crackdown on Swine