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Interviewer: Senem Yıldırım, Tuğçe Ük
Place: Atatürk Cultural Centre
Date: 04.09.2015



Can you please briefly introduce yourself to us?
I was born in Ankara. After graduating from TED Ankara College, I studied Italian Language and Literature at Ankara University, Faculty of Language, History and Geography. Later I went to Italy for my master’s degree. My life has become more interesting and I gained new insights because of my interest in Italian language and literature for many years. I’ve been involved in tourism, politics and diplomacy for 35 years. I’m married and have two children. I speak three foreign languages.

How did you arrive in Antalya?
After getting married we moved to Antalya because of my husband’s job. My husband has been working as an ENT doctor. It's been 35 years since we first came to Antalya. Both of my children grew up in Antalya. They are registered in Antalya and are very happy about it. I have a wonderful and happy family.

Can you tell us about your first impressions on your arrival in Antalya?
When we came to Antalya in 1980, the population was 100 thousand. Today Antalya’s central population is 1 million 260 thousand. I'm not originally from here, but I would have liked to be the daughter of a family from Finike, I would have loved to do my homework under the smell of orange blossoms, but I am a child of the steppe. It was the month of May when we first arrived and I saw orange blossom for the first time in Antalya. I thought I had arrived in heaven when saw the tangerine and lemon gardens of my friends. Witnessing the sea view to your right and the Taurus Mountains from your rear mirror is magnificent when driving from Konyaaltı to the main gate of the city, Kalekapısı. These were my first impressions when I arrived in Antalya. Later I thought what I can do for this city with my training and experience. I didn’t want to stay at home and we didn’t have children yet. My husband and I didn’t know anyone. We only had two family friends in Antalya. My first alternative was to work as an English teacher and my second alternative was tourism. I started teaching in a private high school. While I was still teaching I had my first child and quit to raise him. In later years, I started working in the tourism industry. I had essentially become a business woman when my daughter came into the world.

Are you happy to be working in the tourism industry in Antalya?
Yes, Antalya is such a beautiful city. When we go to international exhibitions we promote a very beautiful country. Antalya is a world renowned city in terms of regional marketing. I’m proud to have represented Antalya in different areas since 1980. In all the work I did over the years tourism always came at the forefront. In Antalya, the tourism industry gained momentum in the 1980s and I can say that I too flourished with tourism. My children grew up in an environment where I was working in travel agencies, as a professional tour guide and as President of the Mediterranean Association of Travel Agencies. Raising two children in this busy work life is even more meaningful to me. Of course my husband’s support was indispensable. Married life is a partnership. If I didn’t have my husband’s support I couldn’t have been so successful. Likewise I gave my husband a lot of support.

What was your work in the tourism sector?
Besides assuming senior management positions in travel agencies, I was the Honorary Consul of Italy in the 1990s for about 10 years. In that period I took up the mutual cultural promotion of Italy and Turkey. It was a very precious time for me. At the end of this period, I received an appreciation award from the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. As the General Manager of the Golden Orange Foundation I served at the opening of the Antalya Cultural Centre and Glass Pyramid Congress and Exhibition Centre. I was assigned to this task again after many years of hiatus and I’m organising important cultural events such as the 16th International Antalya Piano Festival and the 52nd International Antalya Film Festival. Besides all this work I’m a professional tourist guide in Italian and English as well. I'm delighted to give tours to foreign guests who come to our city and explain them the historical background of Antalya. I’m proud to represent my country.

Can you tell us about your work in politics?
It’s the most important turning point in my life. I was elected to the Muratpaşa Municipal Council in 1994. I’ve been a member of the Municipal Council since five terms. I’m immersed in politics. I set out with the conviction that if we are going to raise successful children for this country we have to shoulder the responsibility. Since 1994 I’ve been a Vice-President of the Chamber of Local Authorities in the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe covers 820 million citizens in 47 member states and is headquartered in Strasbourg, France.
For many years, I served as president of various working groups. I was involved in the issues of sustainable environment and energy. I organise and host meetings and congresses of the Council of Europe in Antalya every two years. I have one principle in life: we need to express ourselves. If we do not express ourselves in Europe, the Europeans will continue to judge us through their preconceived ideas. Today millions of tourists who come to Antalya don’t come by chance. They come, because we go to fairs in Europe and promote Antalya. You will reap the rewards once you put your mind to it and put effort to realise it.

As a woman what is it like to have such a busy work life?
I saw the advantages of being a woman in business life. In the business environment and political environment men were always polite to me as a woman. Not just me personally, they were also polite to each other in my surroundings. In a sense, I raised the working environment of men. I don't see a difference between men and women in business life. Our brains all work similarly. We women are more patient, tolerant, disciplined, and we work with the ambition to achieve. You are engaged in house chores, child rearing and having to attend meetings. Women don’t just work outside of the home, but also in the home. When you work abroad you are considered to be an individual first and not only a woman. I never differentiated between male and female employees in my work life. As a Turkish woman it was a great privilege and honour for me to represent my country in the Council of Europe and to represent the Council in meetings held in Turkey and other member states. I proved that Turkish women can become successful in managerial positions everywhere. 

What do you think the representation of women in decision-making positions?
Of course it’s not enough. I’m not happy in saying this. There are many women in middle management, but it’s hard to see women in decision-making positions. The number of women managers in the private sector is increasing, but I cannot say the same thing for politics.

What do you have to say about women taking part in politics?
I think women need to be more willing about it. Women should come and work in the youth branches and women’s branches of political parties. Women need to be combative; they have to fight to reach certain positions. As women we should have a voice in politics for our children’s future. I’ve acted the same way as my male colleagues. I didn’t want any privileges as a woman. I never wanted a quota allocated to me. I told them that if I was able to do this as a woman this only showed that I was no different from men and didn’t want any privileges. If you demonstrate this seriousness and determination you will carve out a place in politics. But I can’t say that it’s easy to for a woman to serve as a mother, a working woman and a politician. Your responsibilities overlap one another and require dedication.

From past to present did society’s views regarding women in working life, politics and diplomacy change?
It definitely did. There are more female members and presidents of NGOs. The number of women in politics is increasing day by day in Antalya.  The number of female neighbourhood wardens is increasing too. There is an upward trend every day. Are these developments sufficient? Of course not!

What do you think can be done for the social life of women in Antalya?
We have to ensure unity, strength and solidarity among women. We aren’t able to do this for some reason. Women are trying to act individually and they aren’t in favour of team work. There is no unity even among women's associations. Women don’t come together and carry a woman forward in politics. For example, there are many women on the teaching staff at the University. Hopefully one day we will have a female rector. We can’t see any unity or solidarity among them. They won’t even vote for female candidates. There is no female solidarity. I hope that the establishment of the Antalya Women will lead to positive consequences. Perhaps people from different professions will create an advisory board and initiate a team spirit.

What are the differences between women in Antalya and other countries?
Especially the female figure in Northern Europe is very different. Women don’t have to prove themselves there anymore. The role of women in politics is no longer a problem today. In Central Europe there is great development. Many countries have elected mayors and prime ministers. But when you descend to the Mediterranean region you see a male-dominated society. Women may work, but men have the final say in the family. Women in the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East managed everything, but from behind the scenes.
Women work hard, but they are always a step behind, always behind the scenes. Gender equality is a reality up north, but when you descend south you will see that women remain in the background, while men are at the forefront. There is such a difference.

Are you happy living in Antalya?
It’a great fortune and privilege to live in Antalya. The sky, the blue and green meet all at once in Antalya. I consider myself from Antalya. Anyone who migrated to Antalya like me should express himself/herself as such. If we don’t have this awareness we can’t lay claim to Antalya. When Hillary Clinton came to Antalya in 1999 I accompanied her to the Aspendos Theatre. She advised us to protect our cultural heritage in Antalya and carry it forward to the next generation. Antalya is also an important agricultural city. 65% of vegetable and fruit exports originate in Antalya. Flowers grown in greenhouses are being marketed to countries all over the world and invite people from all over the world to love on February 14.

I feel like Rumi. What I take away with my right hand I give with my left hand. I constantly think about what projects can be done for children, what support and job opportunities can be created for the youth and women or draw up new horizons for art and culture. I think about how I can share the knowledge and ideas I acquired aboard with the people of Antalya and work to accomplish them. I always strive to work together with the NGOs I’m a member of.
What do you think about Antalya Women Museum?
It’s a wonderful conception. I think it’s nice that it’s interactive. The virtual women museum is a medium that which I can transmit to my grandchildren. Times have changed now. Social media entered into our lives. My relatives live out of town or abroad. Thanks to social media we are able to share more with our loved ones far apart. First I would like to see the natural beauties of Antalya in the Women Museum. Professional women who shape society in the city should have a distinct place and the museum should also feature different language options. I support their efforts and wish them success.