Amnesty Turkey Director Idil Eser holding her cat Private

I miss music my friends, my work and of course my cats

The film-maker Jean Cocteau once said that he loved cats because he loved his home and “little by little, cats become its visible soul.” As a cat-lover, İdil Eser, Amnesty International director in Turkey, would understand this sentiment. Having been in jail for than 100 days she lists her cats among the things she misses most. On the eve of her birthday we thought we would make a list of the cats in İdil’s life.


İdil’s first cat was called Vanya. She got him soon after her mother was diagnosed with cancer in the 1990s. İdil had heard that cats can have a beneficial effect on cancer patients.

At the time Idil was studying for her PhD in Chicago on Russian history and was doing research in Moscow. She stumbled upon Vanya – a beautiful striped Siberian cat – in Moscow’s cat market. She took Vanya in a wooden bird cage to Istanbul and gave him to her mother.

“You bought this cat in Moscow so that I can’t tell you to take him back” laughed İdil’s mum who wasn’t a ‘cat person’, when İdil presented her with the cat. But over the next eight months she grew very fond of Vanya. “This is the best present you have ever given me,” she told İdil before she died.

After her mother’s death, İdil adopted Vanya and – although he is no longer alive – his memory lives on.

Sasha and Misha

İdil found Sasha and Misha as kittens in a box outside the Miniaturk museum in Istanbul. Their mother had been run over by a car. She took them home and cared for them.

Both are brown striped cats. Misha is the naughty one of the pair. Sasha – who lost an eye in a cat fight – is more shy. “Since he lost his eye Sasha has became my favorite cat,” İdil says.



Kiki is a black and white cat. She was found by one of İdil’s colleagues trapped in a car engine in a mechanic’s garage. İdil ended up adopting Kiki who was at first very easily scared and spent her time hiding from Sasha and Misha. Now she has grown in confidence and is very much part of the family.


Pamuk, is the office cat. She is white with a pink nose. Her name means “cotton” and she is five years old. She is very curious and affectionate. She has favourite people in the office. İdil is her favourite. When İdil talked to her she responded as if she was talking back to her.