Turkey’s Ambassador to Malaysia in November’s President Lecture Series
29 November 2018

Ambassador Extraordinaire Dr Merve Kavakci takes Management and Science University community Understanding Turkey through its Enterprising and Humanitarian Foreign Policy

A country that straddles Europe and Asia, Turkey is the world’s thirteenth largest economy. Economic collaborations between Malaysia and Turkey are worth around a little over 3 billion dollars, with Malaysia offering electronics, palm oil, aluminium, rubber and plastic, and Turkey its iron, steel, textiles, chemicals and the defence industry.

Her homework list, says Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Merve Kavakci, includes closing the gap in the number of companies on both sides, currently standing at forty-eight Malaysian companies registered in Turkey versus eight Turkish companies in Malaysia.

Proposes Ambassador Kavakci during her public lecture at MSU, a good question to ask could be: "How exactly do you do that?"

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Particularly enjoying bringing the theoretical and the practical together, engineering-trained Ambassador Kavakci promotes it; in the case of international relations students, deciphering the codes of politics and issues of humanity as institutions of learning, and maneuvering through the reality as we see it, in the role of activists. 

“From cradle to grave we are consumers and producers of knowledge – users and benefiters. Knowledge is out there for all of us to better understand ourselves, our surrounding, our country, our region, and our human politics. There is no point staying in theories, keeping them suspended in the air just to collect a diploma at the end.”

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Her Excellency the Ambassador is preceding her President Lecture Series with a disclaimer, "maybe even a caveat," she says. For her wearing of many hats ("headscarves!" in her case), as former politician and now a professor of international relations, jumping from one topic to another is to be anticipated.  

Indeed, in the ensuing back and forth, anything and everything are put out for consumption, with her distinct hope that by the time the lecture ends, the more mind-boggled, more confused you become, curiousity is a product.

"Of the kind that propels the mind to further dwell on issues past, present, and future, of Turkey, the region, all together," she smiles, encouragingly. 

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An answer is pursued to the fundamental question of where Turkey is as a republic and a people of the region.  

As it transitioned from empire to modern-day nation-state, Turkey found itself a niche – a bridge fielder between East and West, partly in the continent of Asia on the side of Anatolia, and partly in Europe (and therefore finding itself discussing membership of the European Community).

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In the spirit of doing the right thing for the good of humanity, Turkey has been opening its arms wide. Wherever the underdogs, the needy, the miskin are, Turkey is there as a humanitarian helper. 

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“As a citizen of this planet we should all be interested in what happens elsewhere because what happens anywhere will have an impact everywhere. Humanitarian assistance is not a novelty for Turkey but a testament of the Turkish gene,” offers Her Excellency. 

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In bringing geography into the discussion of influence to foreign policies, Ambassador Kavakci offers a further delightful stoking of the mind.

"Is the East actually the East? Whose west is the West? Is the Far East that far? Can the Far East in fact be the very, very Far West?

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President Lecture Series is a platform through which the MSU community is privileged with engaging insights into world issues. Expert guest speakers from various disciplines deliver compelling learning, widening perspectives across a host of topics including business, management, the sciences, technology, politics, philosophy, and education.

Management and Science University (MSU) counts Turkey among its worldwide partners in providing extensive global exposure. Read about our Bachelor in International Business (Honours) students on MSU’s Global Mobility Programme (GMP) to Bilkent University in Ankara.

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Ambassador Merve Kavakci, PhD

A headscarf ban had prevented the future Ambassador from continuing her studies at Ankara’s Medical School, which she attended in 1988. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1993, and furthered her education at Harvard University, receiving an MPA in 2003, and at Howard University, where she obtained a PhD in Political Science in 2017.

In 1999, Dr Merve Kavakci became the first woman in hijab elected to the Turkish Parliament. Her efforts for humanity began to be recognized, with a Service to Humanity Award by Haus der Kulturellen Aktivitaet und Toleranz in 1999, and a Public Service Award by the International Association for Women and Children for advancing human rights and Muslim women’s empowerment in 2000. She is among the Women of Excellence recognized in 2004 by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and by George Washington University.

The headscarf Her Excellency wore as a parliamentarian at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey was made a symbol of religious freedom by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in its 2005 exhibition Body of Belief. She was awarded an Appreciation for Social Justice by New York University in 2006, and The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims by Georgetown University in 2009.

Lecturer of International Relations at George Washington University and Howard University between 2004 and 2014, the author of ‘Headscarf Politics in Turkey: A Postcolonial’ had also been a columnist for the Turkish daily Yeni Akit from 2004 to 2017. Dr Kavakci served as Founding Director of the Postcolonial Studies Research Centre (PAMER) at Uskudar University from 2014 to 2017.

A widely recognized international figure, she has addressed the British Parliament House of Lords, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and the US Congress Helsinki Commission, among others. On 12 February 2018, Dr Merve Kavakci presented her credentials as Ambassador Extraodinaire and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Turkey to His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong XV of Malaysia.