Remembering inspirational woman Safiye Nadir

Safiye Nadir, mother of business tycoon Asil Nadir, passed away at her home in Bellapais on 17 April aged 94.

Of Turkish Cypriot origin, she was born in Lefkoşa in 1920 to a police officer father Mustafa Şevki and his wife Havva, a housewife. Safiye was their first child and their only daughter. Based near Mağusa, the energy-full Safiye is enrolled to her nearest school, which was run by Greek Cypriots, enabling her to learn both Turkish and Greek from a young age.

A progressive family for the era, Safiye’s mother became one of the first Turkish Cypriots to abandon the traditional Muslim burqa and instead dress in more Western fashions, which became more prevalent on the island during British colonial rule.

Young Safiye loved sport and was supported by her family to compete, winning many trophies and medals. At 15 she met İrfan Nadir, a young police officer who was working with her father. The young man became smitten with Safiye and asked for her hand in marriage, which she initially declined. When the heartbroken İrfan enquired why, Safiye told him she did not want to marry a policeman. He agreed to leave his work and so the two were married.

The couple move first to Mersin, but later settle in Lefke, where Safiye gave birth to three children: Meral, Asil and Bilge. Having not completed high school, Safiye instead focuses on learning needlework, sewing and embroidery while at home with her children, skills which would later play a big part in her family’s business interests. In her spare time, she loved to read.

In the 1940s they moved to Mağusa and turned their hand to business, opening a gift and book shop in Maraş. Her husband, like her father, was a modern man who encouraged his wife to live life to the full, and so Safiye became one of the first women on the island to drive a car.

Their post-war investments resulted in employment for 1,500 Turkish Cypriots

Having lived through the EOKA terror years of 1955-58, the family decided to move to London, which they did in 1961.  They opened a textile business called Nadir Mode, which grew spectacularly under their son Asil’s direction who rebranded the company Wearwell and opened branches acrossBritain, as well as exporting to various parts of the world.

Safiye & İrfan Nadir Photo: Kıbrıs Gazetesi

The company entered the Stock Exchange in 1973 and in 1979 Wearwell won the British Exporter of the Year award. The same year, the ambitious Asil led his family to acquire Polly Peck, which marked the start of their global empire.

She and her husband returned to Cyprus in 1976 and made important post-war investments on the island that resulted in employment for some 1,500 Turkish Cypriots. The first priority was to support the citrus industry in Güzelyurt. Polly Peck’s North Cyprus portfolio soon included Sunzest Citrus factory, Uni-Pack (a packaging company), ICP (pharmaceuticals) and the export of various farm products.

On 1st April 1986, after 49 years of marriage, Safiye lost her soul mate İrfan after a short illness. This was the start of a difficult period for her and her family, which culminated in the collapse of Polly Peck in 1990 through – according to the Nadir family and their close friends – ill-forces that were hell-bent on bringing the company and its TRNC investments down.

Well-loved among Turkish Cypriots for her good will, community deeds and strength of character, she spent her later years on numerous philanthropic works, and remained a role model for Turkish women throughout her life.