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


President Lecture Series is a platform through which the MSU community is privileged with engaging insights into world issues, a compelling learning experience delivered by expert guest speakers from various disciplines. This November, MSU welcomed Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Merve Kavakci.

Speaking on ‘Enterprising and Humanitarian Foreign Policy of Turkey’, Ambassador Kavakci took her audience on a journey through history and across geography, with touch points on the present.

Closing gaps is one of her aims, she said, in business, as well as in knowledge.

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Engineering-trained Ambassador Kavakci particularly enjoys bringing the theoretical and the practical together.  

Knowledge is out there for all of us to better understand ourselves, our surroundings, our humanity, she said, encouraging the audience to not keep knowledge suspended in the air but to be on the ground manoeuvring it.

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With her expertise as professor of international relations, knowledge gaps were quickly closed but new ones soon came into place.   

Curiosity propels the mind, encouraged the Ambassador smilingly, and it was among her aims that afternoon to create it. 

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Curiosity successfully created, answers were then pursued to myriad questions.

Turkey is a nation-state at thirteenth largest in the world economy. It is one of MSU’s worldwide partners facilitating global mobility and exposure for MSUrians. Earlier this year, MSU’s Bachelor in International Business (Honours) students went on the MSU Global Mobility Programme (GMP) to Bilkent University in Ankara.

Turkey’s humanitarian spirit is shared by MSU with a 2G culture of giving and grateful and a compass of higher purpose in the university’s community engagement.

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As citizens of a global village we should all be looking out to what happens everywhere else because the impact will eventually arrive on our shores, offered Her Excellency. 

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That, in essence, is central to foreign policy. 

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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.