Stories Behind: The Statue of Tombili and the Cats of Istanbul

Tombili was one of the many street cats in Istanbul. A statue was erected to honour her and this is the story behind it.

Cities in Turkey, and Istanbul as the largest one, is famous with cats roaming free. Although the cats live o streets, it is hard to call them strays or feral cats. They co-habit with people for centuries. They are part of urban culture in the cities in Turkey. Recently an award-winning documentary on the lives of cats in Istanbul was in cinemas.

Individuls and sometimes municipalities take care of the needs of these beloved animal neighbours by feeding them and taking case of their health issues. For winter times, some individuals, NGOs and some municipalities locate cat houses on streets to help them to survive in colder days.

Tombili was a beloved cat citizen of Istanbul and roamed free on her street for almost 10 years. She became an internet celebrity when his famous pose is posted on the net. Tombili means chubby in Turkish and she is called as Tombili by her fellow humans for obvious reasons. A statue was erected on her favorite spot for her memory after her death.

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The Famous Photo of Tombili (Tombili Facebook Page)

People loved her so much. She became a mascot for the street with her laid back lifestyle. After her death, people started a petition to honour her and collected more than 17000 signature, which let them to erect the statue in October 2016. I am not quite sure if it is the only street cat statue in the world, but it took an attention from the media all over the world.



Unfortnately, not everyone values the friendship between Tombili and fellow humans. The statue was stolen in November in the same year, almost in a month. It sparked an outrage in the public and on the internet. Social media outlets were flooded with anger from people condemning the culprits.

Kadikoy municipality, the council which erected the statue twitted “It is stolen” with a crying cat emoji:

The thieves could not be indifferent to this massive outcry, and returned the statue to its place within a week. The statue is now on Ziverbey Street, Kadikoy, where it belongs. Tombili is still in her neighbours’ lives with this statue.

The Tombili statue on Ziverbey Street (Image Credit: Tombili Facebook Page)

And this is the story of Tombili and her legacy.

Tombili (Image Credit: Anadolu Kedisi / Huffington Post)


Stories Behind: Mary Barbour and The Legendary Rent Strike

I am starting new series called “Stories Behind” focusing on the stories behind statues on the streets.

The series starts with a brave woman, Mary Barbour, whose statue was erected in Govan, Glasgow today at the International Women’s Day.

The early 1900s were the times of overcrowding and poor living conditions in Glasgow. The rent strikes were against rent increases up to 25%.

Yet the Glasgow Women’s Housing Association, established before 1914 to fight for better housing conditions, soon galvanised growing discontent over the increases by calling for a city-wide rent strike … . Early support from the areas closest to the shipyards, such as Govan and Partick, where tens of thousands were crammed into poorly maintained tenements, soon spread across much of the city. By September 1915 around 20,000 households were on rent strike in Glasgow alone, and the protests were spreading to other parts of the west of Scotland and beyond. (theconservation)

Mary Barbour was a leading figure in these epic rent strikes in Glasgow in 1915. They form eviction resistance groups, mainly women, which were dubbed as “Mrs Barbour’s Army”. (commonspace) This is how they organised the strike and prevent evictions:

one woman with a bell would sit in the tenement close, watching while the other women living in the tenement went on with their household duties. Whenever the Bailiff’s Officer appeared to evict a tenant, the woman in the passage immediately rang the bell, and the other women put down whatever work they were doing and hurried to where the alarm was being raised. They would hurl flour bombs and other missiles at the bailiff, forcing him to make a hasty retreat.  It is said they even pulled down his trousers to humiliate him! (Remember Mary Barbour)

As a result of the successful fundraising Remember Mary Barbour Campain, the statue was erected and commemorate her legacy and as a constant reminder of the legendary rent strike in Glasgow. It was a very crowded commemoration with several groups of people gathered around the statue.

Some stories are never forgotten. After a hundred years, Mary Barbour’s statue now stands at Govan Cross. Well-deserved Mary.


(Image credit: Top Eveningtimes / Bottom Personal Archive)