‘Uncle Demirel'

Published 19.06.2015 19:54

Süleyman Demirel, who passed away at the age of 91, was an exceptional figure in Turkish politics as he overcame many obstacles throughout his career with courage and determination

Süleyman Demirel passed away at the age of 91. He definitely imposed his style and put his signature on the political developments in Turkey for the last 50 years. He was elected prime minister with a very handsome 53 percent of vote in 1965 just five years after the first military takeover in Turkey. His predecessor, the extremely popular prime minister, Adnan Menderes, had been deposed, sentenced to death and executed. When Demirel became the youngest prime minister of the multiparty period in Turkey, he had to deal at once with many obstacles, political influences and limitations of a huge traditional state apparatus. Much has been said and written about this exceptional politician, who occupied the post of the prime minister seven times and who served seven years as the ninth president of Turkey. I have no doubt that many more books and papers will be written on him in the coming years, but the moment I heard the news of his death, the only thought that crossed my mind was that "Uncle Demirel is dead."

I had the opportunity and the privilege to know very closely the Demirels, Uncle Demirel and Aunt Nazmiye Hanım, because my father remained a very close collaborator to Demirel throughout his political career. Few people have been as close as my parents to the Demirels at the height of the political career of Uncle Demirel. As a child I used to play among the elderly at the big house that became almost the symbol of Demirel's political life, No. 6 Güniz Street in Ankara. Aunt Nazmiye Hanım was an incredible cook and a very wise, authoritative lady in her house. Uncle Demirel always made a point to always come home for lunch, not only because of the culinary prowess of his wife, but because he also needed her wisdom concerning political developments. She was extremely secretive concerning the mass media and political appearances, but remained extremely knowledgeable about everything her husband did in politics.

My family memories are impregnated by Uncle Demirel and his political career. I remained almost part of a very close circle of friends and collaborators; Aunt Nazmiye Hanım even taught me the recipe for an eggplant dish, something she never used to do. Like a jealous artist she was extremely secretive regarding her recipes. Being so close to Uncle Demirel, as I used to call him when I was a child, taught me a number of very important things. First, never to despair in politics. Second, always fight back and never lose faith in your political beliefs. Third, always get first-hand information from all over the world. From the very humble Anatolian shepherd to the very sophisticated political analyst, Uncle Demirel would listen and retain with his incredible memory all the data he needed. His reading capacity was also phenomenal, always taking down notes when encountering people. His human warmth will be something I will miss dearly, especially after the passing away of my dear father Uğur Gümüştekin. Uncle Demirel is not just an important political figure for me, he takes away with him my childhood, my youth and represents the end of an important era in my life. He leaves a big void that will be very difficult to fill.

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