Freedom Team Interview: Aret Demirci in Focus
Meet Aret Demirci, our most recent addition to the Freedom Team as a Project Manager in the Regional Office for East and Southeast Europe. His favourite freedom quote is by Martin Luther King, "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed."
Aret was born in an Armenian family in Turkey, but he grew up and socialised in Germany. So he feels close to three different cultures at the same time. Aret joined the Freedom Team in Turkey in March 2013, only a few weeks before the Gezi protests started. It is a coincidence, but it made more valuable for him to work for FNF while entire Turkey was struggling for more freedom.
Please share a few words about yourself?
I graduated from University of Cologne in Regional Sciences of Latin America, a mixture of Political Science, Ibero American History, and the languages Spanish and Portuguese. As part of the program, I studied one semester at the University of Salamanca and two semesters at the Catholic University of Buenos Aires. My final thesis was on the relation between the European Union and the Latin American Mercosur, which I wrote in Montevideo. Back in Germany, I decided to go to Turkey, where I am originally from. After having worked for ten years in Istanbul, I moved together with my family to Sofia in January 2020 to accept new challenges. I am married and have a son of almost three years.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Ready to start.
Tell us more how your career in FNF has evolved so far?
I started in March 2013 in the Turkey office as a project coordinator and I continued on this position until August 2019. During this time I have gradually expanded my area of responsibility. With the political changes in Turkey, where more and more basic human rights have been gradually reduced, we have adopted our work to the conditions and formulated our activities according to the needs of the civil society. Projects dealing with freedom of the press and freedom of expression and the rule of law have grown in importance over the years. It has always been a goal of our work to support the special relationship between Germany and Turkey by following various dialogue channels between these two countries. Bilateral projects between Turkey and Greece and/or Russia are also part of the repertoire that we have expanded in recent years. In 2019 I got the great opportunity to go to Sofia as the Project Manager of the Regional Office for East and Southeast Europe (ESEE).
What are your biggest achievements in FNF so far? What you are most proud of?
I am very proud that FNF did not gave up Turkey in the very difficult years and with its activities there set an example for democracy and the rule of law. I am also proud that the Raif Badawi Award 2017 went to the Turkish journalist Ahmet Sik. Since Ahmet was in jail at that time, his lawyer Can Atalay accepted the prize on his behalf. This award became a symbol of FNF's mission in Turkey and worldwide.
What is most interesting and challenging about your new position in FNF?
It was a very exciting and labour intensive time in Turkey. Now I am really looking forward to my new challenge in Sofia. Here I will have the opportunity to get a good overview of the work of the foundation in the entire region. ESEE with 18 project countries is a huge and diverse region with many exciting activities and partner organizations. Even if there are big differences between the countries, the struggle for more freedom determines our work in all of them.
Given your background so far, what and how would you contribute to the mission of FNF and pursuit of Freedom?
I had to experience the limitations of freedom first-hand: I saw how quickly freedom, which until then perhaps been taken for granted, can be taken away easily. A harmless tweet, which was interpreted as an insult, showed me the limits of freedom in a less democratic environment. Since then I have actually been even more motivated to work to expand freedoms.
What is your favourite freedom quote?
My favourite freedom quote is by Martin Luther King: "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed."