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Turkish Women Mayors

Women won a record number of mayorships in 2024 Turkish local elections


Women Mayors in Turkey (from left): Fatma Şahin (Gaziantep); Ayşe Ünlüce (Eskişehir); Hazal Aras (Ağrı)


April 2024: In Turkey’s municipal elections, held on 31 March 2024, women candidates won the mayorships in eleven of 81 metropolitan provinces. In addition, some 65 women were elected as district mayors. In the previous 2019 local elections, women mayors were elected in only four metropolitan provinces. (The eleven metropolitan women mayors are featured below.)

 

Six of the women elected as metropolitan mayors are from the centre-left opposition party CHP (Republican People's Party), four from the pro-Kurdish DEM (Peoples’ Democratic Party) and one from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s  AKP (Justice and Development Party). Women were elected in important cities such as Aydın, Diyarbakır, Eskişehir, Tekirdağ, Ağrı, Afyonkarahisar, Batman, Bilecik, Edirne and Siirt as well as in Gaziantep, where AKP Mayor Fatma Şahin was re-elected to a third term.

 

In the western city of Aydın, Özlem Çerçioğlu of the CHP was re-elected mayor, achieving a remarkable victory with more than 50 per cent of the vote. Çerçioğlu’s political career began in 2002 as a CHP deputy for Aydın. She is now beginning her third term as mayor.

 

Tekirdağ elected its first female mayor, Candan Yüceer, also from the CHP. Yüceer is a medical doctor and an experienced politician with several terms as a CHP deputy.

 

In the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakır, Ayşe Serra Bucak Küçük from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ DEM Party was elected mayor, bringing her extensive background in education and social work to local politics.

 

After the 2024 elections, three of the 15 largest Turkish cities are led by women mayors.

 

Female mayors of Turkish metropolitan provinces

Gaziantep

Popl: 2.1 million (National rank 6)

Fatma Şahin, Mayor since 2014

Party / Politics: Justice and Development Party (AKP), Conservative nationalist

Notes: Born 1966; Chemical engineering degree from Istanbul Technical University; Co-founder of the AKP; First female member of the Turkish parliament; Only female minister in the third cabinet of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan (2011).

 

Eskişehir

Popl: 617,000 (National rank 11)

Ayşe Ünlüce, Mayor since 2024

Party /Politics: Republican People’s Party (CHP), Centre-left, social democratic

Notes: Born 1970; Law degree from Dokuz Eylül University; She worked in criminal law before former Eskişehir Mayor Yılmaz Büyükerşen appointed her Secretary General of Eskişehir Metropolitan Municipality.

 

Diyarbakır

Popl: 614,000 (National rank 12)

Serra Bucak, Mayor since 2024

Party / Politics: People's Equality and Democracy Party (DEM), Leftist, pro-Kurdish

Notes: Feminists; Campaigned against the killing of women by partners and family members; “Eight women were killed in this country in a single day. These women were killed by the closest men in their lives – their brothers, fathers and lovers. As a DEM Party, as a woman, and as a politician, I want these murders to stop. I say, ‘Women should not be killed’. I have a goal. I want to build cities where women are not killed, and I want to spread an understanding of building cities together with women. I dream of a geography where women and children are not killed.”

 

Batman

Popl: 313,000 (National rank 21)

Gülistan Sönük, Mayor since 2024

Party / Politics: Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM), Leftist, pro-Kurdish

Notes: Feminist; The Municipality of Batman, historically known for its troubled past, including a surge in unresolved deaths of women dubbed as ‘honour suicides’, now celebrates a significant victory of the women’s liberation movement. In the fiercely contested election, Sönük garnered widespread support, notably defeating candidates from the Islamist Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR) and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), with the DEM Party achieving 64.52% of the vote.

 

Afyonkarahisar

Popl: 252,000 (National rank 27)

Burcu Köksal, Mayor since 2024

Party Politics: Republican People’s Party (CHP), Centre-left, social democratic

Notes: Born 1980; Law degree from Istanbul University; She started work as a lawyer in 2004 in Afyonkarahisar; In 2007, she became President of Afyonkarahisar Provincial Women's Branch of the CHP; She was elected to the Turkish parliament in 2023.

 

Aydın

Popl: 180,00 (National rank 47)

Özlem Çerçioğlu, Mayor since 2009

Party / Politics: Republican People’s Party (CHP), Centre-left, social democratic

Notes: Born in 1968; Degree in Construction from Selçuk University; Worked in the US after her degree; Elected to the Turkish parliament in 2002; As a member of parliament, she was a member of the parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission. She resigned from parliament in 2009 after being elected Mayor of Aydin.

 

Tekirdağ

Popl: 143,000 (National rank 44)

Candan Yüceer, Mayor since 2024

Party / Politics: Republican People’s Party (CHP), Centre-left, social democratic

Notes: Born 1973; Degree in medicine from Gazi University; Member of the Turkish parliament for four terms; She served as member of Women's Hand in Hand Association and as member of the Chamber of Medicine; She served as the Chairperson of CHP Women's and Children's Rights Monitoring and Investigation Commission;

 

Edirne

Popl: 140,000 (National rank 45)

Filiz Gencan Akın, Mayor since 2024

Party / Politics: Republican People’s Party (CHP), Centre-left, social democratic

Notes: Born in 1983; Law degree from Marmara University; In 2017, she started working as a lawyer and mediator; In 2019, she was elected to the Edirne municipal council.

 

Siirt

Popl: 127,000 (National rank 50)

Sofya Alağaş, Mayor since 2024

Party / Politics: Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM), Leftist, pro-Kurdish

Born in 1990; After high school, she worked as a journalist; she also worked for several NGOs.

 

Ağrı

Popl: 100,000 (National rank 69)

Hazal Aras, Mayor since 2024

Party / Politics: Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM), Leftist, pro-Kurdish

Notes: Born 1975; Economics degree from İnönü University; In 2014, she was elected mayor of the Diyadin district of Ağrı and in 2017 arrested by the Turkish police for allegedly being a member of a terrorist organisation. Her party, the leftish, pro-Kurdish DBP, was closed down by the Turkish authorities for being unconstitutional.

 

Bilecik

Popl: 46,000 (National rank 151)

Melek Mızrak Subaşı, Mayor since 2024

Party / Politics: Republican People’s Party (CHP), Centre-left, social democratic

Notes: Born in 1988 in Bulgaria; Family moved to Turkey in 1989; Degree in architecture from Sofia University; Deputy mayor from 2022 to 2024; Director of Bilecik Women’s Co-operative.


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