Using the term ‘vegan’ in Turkey can get complicated and rarely stands alone. It’s often paired with a social or political –ism or two. A quick survey of Happy Cow listings for Istanbul will feature restaurants that are not only veg-friendly but self-branded as alternative spaces and hubs for activism. Regardless of how delicious the meals they serve are, not everyone likes the taste of politics on their platter. This added weight can be seen as a burden, slowing down the spread of veganism for fear of extreme or militant trappings, but there are a few innovative entrepreneurs who are broadening the scope and accessibility of veganism, inviting everyone to feast at the meat-free, apolitical table. In this series, we’ll meet some of Turkey’s homegrown vegans who are helping to broaden the scope of veganism and plant-based diets in the country.
In Istanbul’s Taksim Square, a neighborhood propelled into international media when protest erupted in Gezi Park three years ago, you’ll find a bright green shop with an even brighter, greener shopkeeper. Tarkan Apari, a vegan for almost nine years, has been operating a tiny store stocked with an impressive variety of cruelty-free food, beauty, and household products. Vegan Dükkan is a one-man operation in a single location but ships to every corner of the country. Originally a vegetarian shop called Eco-Life, Tarkan converted the store, along with himself, to veganism. With the word ‘vegan’ boldly brazened on his forearm, there is likely no turning back for himself or his business.
Recalling a time when vejetaryen was a new word in the Turkish lexicon, Tarkan has watched veganism blossom from obscurity to popularity. His love for animals led him to abstain from meat as a college student before blogs, books, or even the internet were available to him. Years later, his sister prompted him to consider veganism. “But I like cheese and I don’t harm animals!”, he laughs, recalling his response and admitting his error. By this time, there were resources for him to research. He watched videos online and read Brian Clement’s book Living Foods for Optimal Health, which has been translated into Turkish. Fast forward almost a decade and now he’s selling non-dairy cheeses and requesting custom-order vegan pies from his neighborhood pizzeria. A whole market has literally emerged right at his doorstep.
Sıraselviler Cd. Soğancı Sk N:8/C Cihangir Beyoğlu, Istanbul
Tel: +90 (212) 243 23 83
This article was originally published in Vegan Lifestyle Magazine, Issue 29. Download the entire magazine at the following links.