Who cares about the Yalova district governor?

Who cares about the Yalova district governor?

Belgin Akaltan - belgin.akaltan@hdn.com.tr
Who cares about the Yalova district governor

Former Yalova Governor Esengül Civelek is seen at a Yalova school yard with children in 2011.

There is a Turkish saying which goes, “Kim takar Yalova kaymakamını?” One version of the story is that the newly-appointed Yalova district governor arrived in town on the same day Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, was expected. An overexcited crowd was waiting at the port and the poor district governor thought the welcome was for him. He asked a shoeshine boy nearby whether the crowd was for the new district governor. The boy answered, “No. Who gives a f…k about the ‘Yalova kaymakam?’ We are waiting for Atatürk.” 

There are other versions of the story and they all include a shoeshine boy, a newly-appointed district governor, a crowd at the port and a misunderstanding. But the saying remains, “Who takes notice of the Yalova district governor?”

Yalova was a popular resort in the late 1920s and 1930s. People would spend their weekends there. Another reason for its popularity was because Atatürk was very fond of the place, frequently visiting its thermal hotels. The civil servant law of the time required any public employee to get written permission to travel outside the province. So Istanbul civil servants had to go through formalities if they wanted to go to Yalova. To eliminate this, Yalova was made part of the province of Istanbul in 1929, even though geographically this is not quite possible. Much later, in 1995, it was made a province. 

You may or may not have heard that current Yalova Governor Selim Cebiroğlu visited a school the other week and insulted a teacher in front of his class because he did not like his appearance. He told him his clothes, hair and beard were not appropriate and he looked like a beggar. On that weekend, while teachers’ unions were staging a demonstration protesting the insulting behavior, math teacher Halil Serkan Öz, 42 years old, had a heart attack and later died. The Interior Ministry has sent inspectors to look into the incident, but probably nothing will come out of it. Ever since, we have all been discussing why we have such coarse administrators, why people use their positions to belittle subordinates and what could be the real reason of this life-threatening, vulgar behavior. 

The Political Sciences Faculty of Ankara University, also called “Mülkiye,” is a well-established school and the traditional education place for qualified civil servants, local administrators, diplomats and financial inspectors of Turkey for over a century. Former Yalova Governor Esengül Civelek was my classmate at “Mülkiye.”
She was the only female governor in Turkey at the time she was appointed to Yalova in 2011, and the second after Lale Aytaman, the governor of Muğla between 1991 and 1995.  Now, we have two active woman governors, the other being Sinop Governor Yasemin Özata Çetinkaya. 

Esengül Civelek is the pride of our class; she is now Governor of Kırklareli. I also need to note here that her late husband, Governor İsmet Gürbüz Civelek, was also a dear classmate. 

When she was first appointed to Yalova, I wanted to go and visit her, congratulate her and do the first interview with her. I was making preparations and planning with another dear friend, Yasemin Özeş, but since I am not the brightest journalist in town, her first interviews appeared in papers while we were still in the planning stage. I read the one in daily Hürriyet, by Şehriban Oğhan. In that interview, they were wandering the delightful Yalova shore, sitting at a café while people greeted them, smiled, waved and some even hugged the governor. 

A child stopped by, a street vendor. Governor Esengül Civelek was interested in his situation and asked him to come see her at the office of the governor. The child and his friend looked on, talking to each other. “Oh, I know this governor. She’s a girl.” “Yes, she is the girl governor.” I mean, the Turkish version was hilarious - “Tanıyom seni, sen kız valisin,” girl governor. If there are only two or three of you, depending on how you count, in the entire history of the Turkish Republic, then of course you are known, with a sweet, loving name.   

We in Turkey are so used to guys occupying top positions that many are confused about how to address a female judge, prosecutor, doctor, lawyer… Many woman judges are called “Hakim Bey Hanım” something like “Mrs. Mr. Judge.” 

I just wanted to point out the difference in public relations and the approach to a citizen in the same town, Yalova, by a female and a male governor. If a “kız vali” was still active in Yalova, teacher Halil Serkan Öz would still be alive.