Haluk Levent, Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin named among TIME’s ‘100 Most Influential People of 2023’

TIME magazine has named Ahbap founder Haluk Levent and BioNTech vaccine inventors Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin in its annual list of “100 Most Influential People.” Levent later announced that he has declined TIME's title as he did not find the entry penned by renowned novelist Elif Şafak appropriate.

This collage photo shows Haluk Levent (L) and scientists Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin.

Duvar English

Turkish charity Ahbap's founder Haluk Levent and German-Turkish scientists Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin have been named among TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”  

The magazine has named the 100 people under the categories of “artists”, “innovators”, “titans”, “leaders”, “icons”, and “pioneers.”

Levent, who is also a musician, was listed under the “icon” category and his entry was written by renowned novelist Elif Şafak.

Şafak detailed how the Turkish government was insufficient in responding to the Feb. 6 earthquakes and how Ahbap greatly aided in the rescue and search efforts.

“Following the disaster, when minutes meant the difference between life and death, and the Turkish government proved terribly incompetent, Ahbap was already working on the ground, saving lives. Being in the public eye in Turkey is incredibly hard, but Levent is much loved and widely trusted. He is principled. Transparent. He lists and publishes in detail where every donation goes and how many families receive help,” she wrote.

Türeci and Şahin were listed under the “innovators” category and their entry was written by former TIME editor Walter Isaacson.

Isaacson detailed how the two scientists’ company BioNTech created a COVID-19 vaccine in 2020 and then partnered with Pfizer to test and distribute the vaccine.

Levent announced on Twitter that he has declined TIME's title and decided not to go to the United States to get his award as the entry penned by Şafak "saddened me." 

"The person who was the reference and the criticism of the Turkish Republic state through my works is not an issue that I can accept. Because of this, I reject the award and decided not to go to America," he tweeted.

"During the earthquake period, when all state institutions, the government, whole opposition, municipalities and 18,000 NGOs, i.e. the whole country, have become one heart, when everyone is doing their best, I have decided not to be involved in these discussions (of the government criticism)," he wrote.