10 women who make a difference in Turkish society

10 women who make a difference in Turkish society

March 08, 2017

Istanbul’s history abounds with important women who shaped society around them, and there are women in this country today who continue to take up their mantle. As it is International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight their accomplishments and contribution to the wellbeing of our community. Here are stories of some of the females who embody the power of women - but we know the list is far from complete. Have someone to add? Feel free to comment down below.

Aslı Pasinli

Restaurant owner Aslı Pasinli is the first woman to apply the Yeşil Nesil Restoran Hareketi (Green Generation Restaurant Movement) to an eatery in Turkey. Her restaurant La Mancha in Kuruçeşme became an example for other restaurants by applying sustainable kitchenware and technologies to the kitchen and considering the nature in every step that’s been taken by the kitchen crew. Other restaurants in Istanbul following this movement include Sunset, Fenix, and Frankie. Pasinli recently became the general manager of WWF Turkey.

Eczacıbaşı VitrA Women's Volleyball Team

Eczacıbaşı VitrA Women’s Volleyball Team

Eczacıbaşı VitrA Women’s Volleyball Team broke a record by becoming the world champion two years in a row, on top of all other medals and accomplishments they’ve won on the court.


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Eser Aksan Erdogan

Eser Aksan Erdoğan flies a Boeing 737 for Pegasus Airlines, a pilot in a field still dominated by men. Erdoğan visits destinations around the world and constantly encourages young girls to become pilots. Her Instagram feed is full of awe-inspiring photos from exotic, interesting destinations. 

Hay Atölye by Nef

Hay Atölye by Nef Foundation provides employment for women in need by holding workshops to educate them and by creating an environment in which they can use their own potential. The bags, notebooks, clutches and other products they produce are already being sold by big brands. They even have a namesake sewing technique for the bags they produce.

Melek Pulatkonak

After working at both Microsoft Global and Turkey in countless projects and positions, Melek Pulatkonak founded the Turkish Women’s International Network. This organization helps young women by appointing mentors and holding conferences and talks to educate and help shine a light for young women. Pulatkonak actively participates in the organization to help create healthy and successful future generations.


Nike Women recently published a video featuring accomplished Turkish women athletes, breaking and addressing general stereotypes about women. From professional athletes to dancers, the women in the video make a statement to show how they achieve. 

Nurhan Atasoy

With a variety of honors and awards from Turkey, the Council of Europe, the Economic Cooperation Organization, and Harvard University, Nurhan Atasoy is one of the country’s top historians. Her focus is Ottoman and Islamic art, with publications in several languages on ceramics, gardens, palaces, textiles, and portraits. Her work has played a major role in popular understanding of Turkish culture abroad, and she is currently a scholar with the Turkish Cultural Foundation.

Prof. Dr. Feryal Özel

After getting her education at Üsküdar American High School, Istanbul born Prof. Dr. Ferya Özel added Colombia and Harvard Universities to her curriculum vitae by gaining a Hubble Scholarship. Özel became the first and only Turkish person in the Hubble crew and she has researched black holes, neutron stars, and much more in  NASA’s Astrobiology Institute.

Rakel Dink

Rakel Dink, the wife of journalist Hrant Dink who was assassinated in 2007, works tirelessly to create a free and peaceful society. She founded Hrant Dink Foundation to prevent hate crimes and continue her husband’s work towards a freer, fairer, happier country and world full of hope.

Şakirin Mosque

Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu

Internationally acclaimed interior designer Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu is the first woman to design the interior of a mosque. Şakirin Mosque was completed in 2009 and Fadıllıoğlu consulted art historians and theologians during the project to blend influences from past and present, East and West.  With the help of her team of designers and artists, she has created a truly remarkable contemporary space for worship.