The Interview Of Ambassador Ahmet Demirok Has Been Published In "qatar Tribune" Daily , 08.09.2016
“With the Blessings of Rumi
Sep 08, 2016
He was born in the central Anatolian town of Konya as the last child to his parents. His father belonged to a family of rich farmers in Turkey. This youngest child of his family, who believes he has the blessings of Jalal al Din Muhammad Rumi, the founder of the Mevlevi Sufi order of Islam, is none other than the popular Ambassador of Turkey to Qatar HE Ahmet Demirok.
Many of us know HE Ahmet Demirok as a successful career diplomat, who often dominates the headlines because of his active diplomacy and his day-to-day engagements.
Perhaps it was for the first time that the ambassador agreed to talk about his personal life, taking out time from his busy schedule, as he sat down for a tete a tete in a cosy corner of his big office.
How was your student life? I was always good in my studies, having received my early education until high school in a small town of Kulu at a distance of approximately 110 km from Ankara. Having lived in a small town, I was raised in a disciplined way of life with a spiritual atmosphere surrounding our family due to the influence of Rumi, who was from the area of my hometown too.
Besides being good in my studies, I was also an active sportsman all through my younger days. I always managed to represent my schools, as well as university, as a soccer player. Be it studies or sports, I had always maintained a balance between the two due to my strict and disciplined life. As far as I remember, my mother, who played the role of my father also after his demise when I was 11, never forced me or tried to discipline me in any way.
Perhaps this sense of disciplined life came naturally to me due to the intense spiritual atmosphere that surrounded me due to the blessings of Rumi. We were a large family of nine siblings and being the youngest, I have enjoyed being pampered by the rest. In all, I must admit, I had a very happy childhood. Maybe it was luck or the blessings of Rumi, all my siblings carved out a good career for themselves.
Why did you choose to become a diplomat and not somebody else like a doctor or an engineer or a lawyer? There is a story behind it. Being the youngest in my family, I followed my siblings who naturally were ahead of me in education.
When my sister went to Ankara to join the university, it was only natural for me to receive advice from her friends, who would often visit our house during vacations. Having raised in a small town, there was always a limiting factor towards access to latest information and trends being followed in bigger cities like Ankara and Istanbul.
During one such visit of my sister’s friends on a weekend, they advised me to seek admission in the public administration or international relations department of so and so university. It was one of the mentoring sessions where I decided to become a diplomat in future and started studying hard in order to become a diplomat.
It can be only the blessing of the Almighty that I became a diplomat and not a farmer.
Having been born in a family of traditional farmers in a small town of Turkey, it was far more probable for someone like me to join farming but destiny had others plans for me.
Joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to become a career diplomat was a proposition that was considered very elitist and reserved for those coming mostly from big towns only.
I finished my university in 1992 and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish government next year.
Did you have to overcome many challenges when you moved from small town to Ankara during your university days? Sure. There were challenges and the biggest one was that of my disadvantage of having come from a small town and to complete with those from urban backgrounds. I did have a problem mixing with the class in my initial days. But I stayed focused on my studies and later, settled down and built some acceptance within the friends’ circle.
My excellent skill in sports also helped me gain confidence and boost my ego. I always believe in doing my best in whatever situation I find myself. I am always in completion with myself rather than others. This approach has helped me stay positive as well as disciplined in life. I could overcome many disadvantages by staying positive all through my life and it was a big help during my university days.
I love to share whatever I have with others and this character must have come into my personality through my inspiration, from Rumi. This is the spirit of Sufism that has influenced me all through my life and helped me overcome some of the toughest challenges that I had over the course of my career.
How was your diplomatic career shaped? My first posting was as a Consulate General of Turkey in Komotini, Greece, which is situated close to Turkish border and the office was opened to help 150,000 Turkish miners working in that area. This posting was more of a political nature and was good for me to gain experience. Another reason why this posting was important for me was because my son was born during this time.
But my second posting to Australia was more interesting and memorable. Perhaps my real diplomatic experience started from there and not from Greece. In Greece, it was just a small Turkish mission set up to help a small Turkish population living in that region, while the story was different in Australia.
There was a completely different diplomatic environment there and I had a wonderful learning experience as Third Secretary, later promoted to Second Secretary while working with a very successful ambassador.
After serving for three years in Australia, I returned to Ankara and started working on the Middle East desk in 2002 to 2004 and I was blessed with my daughter during this time.
I was posted to Slovakia in 2004, which was in a transition phase, entering into the European Union at that time. It was a good learning time for me to follow up the developments in Eastern European countries. During my tenure in Slovakia, I took the initiative to set up a Turkish learning desk at Comenius University in Bratislava. My persuasion of the Turkish government led to the signing of an agreement to start Turkish language teaching in this premier university.
The Turkish language course in Comenius University is still popular and it is heartening to see a number of students after learning Turkish from the university, speaking it fluently. Some have even joined the faculty too. It was a wonderful example of promoting Turkish culture outside Turkey.
After serving for two years in Slovakia, I was then posted to Vienna, Austria, to join the UN mission, which was a completely different experience. My previous posting pertained to bilateral relations while in the UN there was a chance to deal with multilateral relations with over 200 member countries. It was a good for my professional career.
After serving in the UN for two years, I came back to join as advisor to then foreign minister of Turkey Ali Babacan, who later became the minister of economy and steered Turkey safely during the financial crisis of 2008 through his visionary abilities.
In 2010, I was posted to London as Consulate General. To head for the first time, as a chief of mission, was a huge challenge for me. But the highlight of my service was the string of new initiatives taken to make the consulate run efficiently. By the time I finished my tenure over there, it was already considered as a model for other Turkish missions.
Half way through the London posting, I received orders from the ministry to join Doha, Qatar as Ambassador of Turkey.
Perhaps my hard work in the past paid off.
I am proud that my government trusted my ability and appointed me as an ambassador in Doha. Qatar is one of the most important countries for Turkey. We are two countries that complement each other in all fronts such as politics, business, culture and so on.
We have common interests in peace, prosperity and stability of this region.
It is my sheer luck or the blessings of Rumi that I am serving in this country. I am really enjoying my time here strengthening our relations with the country that has opened all doors for Turkey. For the first time in this region, Turkey and Qatar have agreed to visafree travel between the two countries, which is a landmark decision in bringing the two countries closer to each other. I find Qatar is my second home.
Please describe some good memories from your past postings.
I have many memories to cherish from my postings to various countries. One incident that I remember off-hand was in Australia, where I took the initiative of forming a diplomatic soccer team inviting soccer lovers from all missions. It was purely my idea to form a football team and take this sport as a platform to socialise among the diplomatic community.
With some initial difficulties, the team successfully took off with 11 diplomats. With time, more people joined and there were over 30 diplomats from different nationalities joining together to form a soccer club. By roping in the Australian Football Federation, we started having quarterly matches to raise funds for charity and the group become bigger and bigger. The team at its peak included five ambassadors. It was great fun and with time, the organisation reached a professional level.
Similarly, while in London, with the help of resident Turkish community there, I established a think tank by the name Turkuyaz UK that helped unite Turkish nationals. The chairman of this group was the professor from the local college having affiliations with people of all kind of diverse interests.
But then the saddest part of the diplomatic life is that nothing is permanent. No sooner we settle down in a posting it’s often time to bid adieu to the friends and acquaintances, with the orders for the next posting ready. All realities turn into memories but life goes on and new experiences keep on pouring layer by layer in the life of a diplomat.”
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