Dr Merve Safa Kavakçı is a Turkish politician, who was elected as a Virtue Party (Turkish: Fazilet Partisi) deputy for Istanbul on April 18, 1999. She is currently serving as the Turkish ambassador to Malaysia. She was famously kicked out from the Turkish Parliament because she was wearing hijab, even though she won the election. She was accused as practicing against the secular policy of Turkey.
Kavakçı was born on August 19, 1968, to Imam Dr Yusuf Ziya Kavakçı in Ankara, Turkey. Dr Yusuf Kavakçı’s family emigrated from Georgia to Turkey. Dr Yusuf Kavakci left Turkey and lived in the US because his daughter was not allowed to study there while wearing a hijab. This could be one of the reasons why Dr Merve fought for the right of wearing hijab in Turkey after her return to Turkey.
2 May 1999 was Dr Merve’s first and last day in Turkish Parliament. At the age of 31, she was elected to the Turkish Parliament, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey as the first Muslim woman with hijab. However, she was prevented from serving her term. Kavakci’s political party was closed down by the Constitutional Court and her Turkish citizenship was revoked, banning her from politics for a period of five years. She took her case to European Court of Human Rights and won in 2007.
Since then, Kavakçı has been an outspoken critic of Turkey’s secular political system, traveling the globe in support of Muslim women’s rights, especially to the hijab. In addition to lecturing at universities throughout Europe and the United States, Kavakçı addressed the 2004 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona. Kavakci also addressed British Parliament House of Lords in London, England. She has lectured and spoke at myriad American and European Universities including Harvard, Yale, Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover, Duisburg and Cambridge Universities.
Dr Merve Kavakçı is a Hafizah Quran. She received her master’s degree from Harvard University and her PhD from Howard University. She is the mother of two, Fatima Abushanab, and Dr Mariam Kavakci.
Kavakci is among Georgetown University’s The World’s Most Influential 500 Muslims (2009). She was awarded with “Appreciation for Social Justice” certificate by New York University (2006). The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s Body of Belief exhibition exhibited the headscarf Kavakci wore in the parliament, at the U.S. Congress as a symbol of religious freedom (2005). She was recognized among “Women of Excellence” by National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and George Washington University (2004). She was awarded the Public Service Award in Tribute and in Recognition of efforts for the advancement of human rights and Muslim Women’s empowerment by International Association for Women and Children (2000). She was awarded Service to Humanity Award by Haus Der Kulturellen Aktivitat und Toleranz (1999).
(Attached pictured: Br Mohd Safwan (KLC Parent) with Dr Merve at her office n Kuala Lumpur)