Last summer, European Council President Donald Tusk shared a video on Instagram from the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France. The video featured Melania Trump, Brigitte Macron, Malgorzata Tusk and Akie Abe — respectively, the spouses of U.S. President Trump, French President Macron, Mr. Tusk and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe where they could be seen gazing out at the sea as if though they were on the movie set of a female-only remake of “Ocean’s Eleven.”
The caption said it all: “The light side of the force.”
In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp hashtags, being a First Lady no longer has to do with merely being a pleasant presence in the room. While female public figures are speaking up more than ever, all eyes are on First Ladies. They are now expected to make use of the influence they hold and actively partake in public debates.
The history of “being a first lady in Turkey” could only be a short-lived documentary or at most a six-episode long TV series. The characters are there yet there wouldn’t be much dialogue or events to carry the story line. Nazmiye Demirel, the late spouse of the President Süleyman Demirel, was known is known for not have uttered one word to media throughout her whole life.
We now have Dilek Imamoğlu, the First Lady of Istanbul who became the center of much talk during the municipal election campaign simply by being who she is.
Her finest moment during the election campaign came when she made comments regarding social media comments on photos of the then-candidate, Binali Yıldırım’s wife Semiha Yıldırm, which reflected broader polarization over lifestyle in Turkey. “If they think they’re insulting or praising someone, they should know that they’re also insulting me… Because when I look at Semiha Yıldırım’s photo, I see my own mother, sister.”
Then came the “the ladies lunch” with the wife of the Republican People’s party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Selvi Kılıçdaroğlu, and the wife of the jailed former co-chair of the People’s Democratic party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş, Başak Demirtaş which was a response to what the women called ‘’rising polarization’’ that is plaguing Turkey.
Dilek Imamoğlu’s low-key but strong performance during and after the campaign has been received quite favorably. Her first ‘bold’ move came only three months after the election results: A cover in glossy fashion magazine.
This marks a “comeback” in the media and the adoption of a more vocal stance. It’s the first time in our still fledgling glossy magazine history that an unofficial first lady or any “first lady” appears on the cover of a magazine.
Her media outlet choice is questionable yet seems about right. Madame Figaro Turkey is relatively small, tidy, neat, and quite a silent fashion magazine compared to its rivals such as Vogue Turkey, ELLE Turkey and others.
Despite some harsh criticism on the timing – the cover came out the same day Turkey launched the operation “Peace Spring” in northern Syria – the reaction was largely positive.
In her interview, Dilek Imamoğlu plays the safe card and shares rather expected views on women’s rights, equality and concerns about not being able to leave a bright future to children.
She could be one’s distant cousin in the family. The kind whose presents delights you at extended family dinners once in a blue moon. Yet after the main dishes are served, you will most probably forget she’s still in the room and find yourself speaking to other guests.
Dilek Imamoğlu appears set on changing things. She just needs an agenda, solid “charity” works, well-structured campaigns focused on uniting all of Istanbul’s women, regardless of their background.
It seems that now is her time.