Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A New Breed of Politician

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A New Breed of Politician

Article excerpt

A New Breed of Politician

Oya Akgonenc is a new face in Fazilet and it's clear she will not be a token uncovered woman in the still largely traditional male party. I met her at Ankara's prestigious Bilkent University, where for the past five years she was an associate professor of history and a specialist in Balkan politics. She has a Ph.D. in international relations from American University and taught there before taking up a senior post at the World Bank and returning to work on development projects in Turkey.

As a social activist, she has wanted to go into Turkish politics for some time. She first received a bid from former Prime Minister Tansu Ciller to become a candidate for her conservative True Path Party in the 1995 legislative elections. But True Path lost out to Refah, and Ms. Akgonenc went back to teaching until she was approached by Fazilet last July (1998).

Admitting she is uncomfortable in a chador -- the cloak worn by pious Muslim women -- Ms. Akgonenc describes herself as "a devout Kemalist" and says Fazilet's leadership has accepted this. (Kemalists are followers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the modern secular Turkish Republic in 1923.) She is openly critical of some positions taken Fazilet -- such as its opposition last spring to the law on domestic violence. …

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