A Turkish-Kurdish woman who came to the Netherlands as a child now has a senior role in the Dutch government.
Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius was appointed State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy in a government reshuffle by Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday, 25 May.
Born in Ankara on 18 June 1977, Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius has spent most of her life in Europe after her activist father Yücel Yeşilgöz fled Turkey following the military coup of 1980.
The Tunceli-born trade unionist was forced into hiding to avoid arrest after the coup and in 1984 escaped to the Netherlands via Iran and Iraq. He has since become a respected criminologist, researching and writing about Kurdish and Turkish mafia gangs.
His daughter Dilan became immersed in Dutch politics from a young age. She joined the centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), and has quickly risen up the ranks.
Between 2014 and 2017, she was a councillor on the Amsterdam City Council. She successfully stood in the 2017 General Election for VVD and was elected as a member of the House of Representatives.
Her new role as State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy includes overseeing the country’s climate and energy policies.
Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, who identifies as Dutch, has been critical of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian tendencies, including over the arrest of dual national Dutch columnist Ebru Umar in 2016 for “insulting the Turkish president” in her tweets.
The outspoken Yeşilgöz-Zegerius also voted in favour in February 2018 of a motion in the Dutch Parliament to recognise the World War I Ottoman massacre and ethnic cleansing of Armenians as a “genocide”. One of five Dutch MPs of Turkish origin to do so, the five became branded “traitors” by Turkish media and politicians.