Turkey's Ambassador Kavakci Shares Outlook on Turkey's Future and The "Ummah"
By Nur Ashikin Abdul Aziz Dr Merve Safa Kavakci shares her thoughts on Turkey, its future and Malaysia, in her first interview with the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) since being appointed as Turkey's Ambassador to Malaysia in July, 2017. KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 (Bernama) -- Dr Merve Safa Kavakci, Turkey's ambassador to Malaysia, is a figure proud of her religion Islam and has made world headlines because of it. Her determination to fight for her right to wear the hijab in the Turkish parliament in May 1999 as the newly elected lawmaker from Istanbul not only resulted in her political party being closed down by the Constitutional Court, but also saw her being banned from politics for five years. "The then state machinery wanted to make an example of my case; but in a very negative way for anybody who wants to stand up for their rights. "The systematic attack was not just targeting myself but also the mentality (of the people), which our great leadership is trying to change. Now, we have our voice," she told Bernama, during her visit to the news agency's headquarters Thursday. Kavakci took her case to European Court of Human Rights and won in 2007. She was widely regarded as the icon of human rights and woman empowerment in Turkey, and has received numerous awards from various organisations. The Georgetown University's World's Most Influential 500 Muslims (2009) is positive about the future in Turkey, stating that the process of democratisation of the mind has happened among the Turkish people and this can be seen during 2016's failed coup attempt when they went to the streets to defend democracy. "The people are not the people of the 1990s anymore, or 2000 or even 2010 anymore. We are very empowered now," she said. Kavakci also shared Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's love for the '’ummah'’; refusing to call Syrian and Rohingya as refugees but as "guests" of Turkey. "I think, not everybody, like the Turkish people and leadership, has the conscience about embracing the rest of the '’ummah'’. After all, we are all one '’ummah. According to Islamic teachings, one who goes with a full stomach while the neighbour is hungry, is not one of us," the mother of two said. At the moment Turkey is providing ‘temporary protection’ to over 3.5 million Syrians. It is hosting 230,000 Syrians and over three million are currently living in 21 temporary shelters spread across 10 cities. Turkey has spent over US$30 billion to provide shelter, education and medical care for its Syrians guests. She said one of the reasons for Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Afrin since Jan 20, is to provide a safe passage for these Syrians "guests" currently hosted by Turkey to return to their country in the future. The Turkish military is currently engaged in Operation Olive Branch to clear the YPG militants from Afrin in northwestern Syria. Turkey’s humanitarian efforts have also extended to the Rohingyas. "Other than the fact that we are Muslims and we can hear their cries, we (Turkey) don't really share anything with the Rohingya Muslims. But, its a pain in us and long before the recent atrocities, the Rohingya Muslims have been on our map because of the humanity aspect." On Malaysia's aid for the Rohingya people of Myanmar, Kavacki commended the country for being among the major countries besides Turkey in opposing the mistreatment of Rohingya Muslims. "Both countries have taken a leading role to bring the issue on the agenda of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. In addition to these, both Turkish and Malaysian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are cooperating on the ground to provide humanitarian assistance to Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh," she said. (photoBERNAMA) -- BERNAMA