By Bonnie Klap.
Interview with Mrs. Isil Üzümcü.
The saying goes that, behind every successful man stands a strong woman. This could not be more of a truism than in the case of Mrs. Isil Üzümcü, wife of Mr. Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the OPCW.
We sit in the elegant living room of her residence as I ask her which issues are close to her heart? “After marrying Ahmet, I did not have the opportunity to practice my profession (she is a civil engineer with an MSc degree from the United Kingdom), so I had to begin somewhere again, I felt by doing charity I could contribute even better. I believe that we can contribute to peace in the world, by using every available means, including charity.
I have devoted a great amount of my time to charity, as a volunteer of course, in many countries. When we were in Ankara, in 2005-2006, I was the President of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spouses’ Solidarity Association. I had the chance to be involved in raising funds on large scales, giving grants to hundreds of students as well as other contributions to schools, orphanages, etc. I used to give bridge lessons at beginners level to young diplomats and their spouses to raise funds for our Association. In Israel, when Ahmet was the Ambassador of Turkey, I became the president of Diplomatic Spouses Club in 2001 and organized many fund raising activities. During the last year of our posting in Israel, I gladly accepted to become the Diplomatic chair of an internationally well known hospital.
But the most rewarding role was the position of Chair of the Bazaar of the United Nations Women’s Guild (Geneva) in 2006-2007. I admit it was hard to work for a full year but very satisfactory at the same time. Finally we were able to raise more than 300 000 dollars which were distributed to projects among the least fortunate areas in the world. To this day I cherish the many acknowledgments, by individuals and organisations, of my humble contribution to these efforts.”
Being the Director-General of the OPCW, Mr. Ahmet Üzümcü obviously holds a very important and prestigious job. In what ways does Mrs. Üzümcü support her husband?
“All our married life I have supported him by making his life easier. Every time we had to move, he didn’t have to worry about anything. I was the one finding a house, registering our daughter at her new school, taking care of all the formalities. My husband has always liked his job and I have given him the space to fully concentrate on that. Work has always been a priority for him and now our daughter is also a hard working young woman and I am very proud of her.”
Mrs. Üzümcü has been living in The Netherlands for 3 years now. What does she like and dislike about this country?
“I like the Dutch people and we also made very good Dutch friends through the years. While they may appear reserved at first, once you become friends, you are friends for life. I also admire the Dutch and how they value sports and the fact that rain or snow doesn’t stop them. They just keep riding their bicycles and living their outdoor lives. I also like how organized and well kept everything is here. And of course the museums, which are extraordinary! I should say I am not fond of the weather. And the traffic tickets! I must say that the authorities are quite strict in the application of traffic rules.”
Aren’t diplomats exempt from being fined and paying traffic tickets, I ask her?
My husband is very respectful of rules and we have always paid fines in all the places he served as a diplomat.”
As a parting message, what would Mrs. Üzümcü like to tell the readers?
“I am very sad about the fact that so many people died in Syria, and of course it was so tragic that some were killed by the use of chemical weapons. But hopefully now, Syria will join the OPCW and chemical weapons in this country will be eliminated. I hope that finally all states will join the OPCW and all chemical weapons will be destroyed in the world.”