Fatma Şahin, the mayor of the city of Gaziantep, became the first Turkish woman to be awarded Italy's Minerva Prize for her and her city's embrace of refugees from war-torn Syria.
Şahin received the award primarily dedicated to women at a Thursday night ceremony in Rome. The prize is a tribute to late journalist Anna Maria Mammoliti and is under the auspices of the Italian Presidency.
Luca Giansanti, the security and political affairs director-general of the Italian Foreign Ministry, handed Şahin her award at the ceremony. Giansanti said Turkey, home to more than 3 million refugees, has exerted extraordinary efforts to help refugees on a government level and local administration level. Şahin served as the mayor of Gaziantep, a city with a population of about 2 million that strived for the hospitality of refugees. Şahin said in a speech at the ceremony that for about seven years they hosted 500,000 refugees and called herself "a mayor of a city of good-hearted people with a conscience." Speaking to reporters after the event, the mayor said the prize was the result of Gaziantep city hall's work for better integration of refugee women and efforts to address the needs of refugees. "We live in a country that made the path of migration a path of peace and brotherhood and sisterhood, while the world had no clue what to do in the face of [refugee flow]," she added.
Last year, Gaziantep was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its role in helping Syrian refugees.
Turkey is home to more than 3 million refugees from Syria, making it the host of the largest displaced Syrian population in the world, as the nearest destination for millions fleeing the war. Only a small fraction of them live in state-run refugee camps, while others live in cities all across the country, from border cities like Gaziantep to Istanbul in the northwest. Turkey has been praised for its hospitality to refugees, especially for state-of-the-art refugee camps and continuous humanitarian aid.