Özlem Cekic

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Özlem Cekic
Özlem Sara Cekic valby kulturdage 2011.jpg
Özlem Cekic in Valby, Denmark 2011
Member of Parliament
In office
Personal details
Born (1976-05-07) 7 May 1976 (age 43)
Ankara, Turkey
Political partySocialist People's Party (Denmark)

Özlem Sara Cekic (born 7 May 1976) is a Danish politician, former member of parliament for the Socialist People's Party (SF).[1]

A nurse by training she was first elected to the central committee of the Socialist People's Party in 2004. In the 2007 elections, she became a member of the Danish parliament, the first female MP with a Muslim immigrant background. She is her party's spokesperson for health related issues.[2][3] In the 2011 elections the Socialist People's Party lost many of the seats they had gained in the 2007 elections, including one seat in her electorate, which meant that either she or the other SF candidate Kamal Qureshi would have to leave parliament. After a count of the personal votes, Cekic was declared the winner with 5383 personal votes against Qureshi's 1977.[4]

Early life[edit]

Born in Ankara, Turkey, from a Kurdish background she arrived in Denmark as a young child and grew up in Copenhagen's Vesterbro neighborhood. At 20 she entered a marriage arranged by her parents, but at age 26 she decided to divorce and raise her child alone.[5] She was encouraged by her maternal grandmother who told her that she should strive never to be dependent on anybody, least of all on men.[6] She is now married and has three children.[7]

Political career[edit]

In 2009 she published the autobiographical book 'Fra Føtex til Folketinget' (Gyldendal) [English: "From Føtex to Parliament"], in which she recounted her experiences as a politically progressive Muslim woman from a working-class background. Among her experiences of discrimination in Danish society she recounts how her teacher told children with immigrant backgrounds that "it is incredible to see how much you struggle, while knowing that you'll never achieve anything", and how the Danish midwife who refused to address Cekic by name even once during her 23-hour labor, because it was "too hard to pronounce". Cekic also tells how she got in trouble during her years in the Nurse's Union, when she criticized the fact that the union leader's salary was higher than that of the Danish prime Minister.[6]

In 2011 she received negative media attention when she invited Libertarian politician Joachim B. Olsen, to visit a single mother on welfare. Olsen had claimed that there is no poverty in Denmark, and Cekic intended the visit to show Olsen what living in poverty was like. During the visit it turned out that the single mother, "Carina", received a welfare amount comparable to the minimum wage, and lived well above the OECD poverty line. Cekic's argument was considered by commentators to have "backfired".[8] Cekic later acknowledged that the woman in question was not poor, but she argued that this did not mean that poverty does not exist, simply that her research in preparation for the visit had been inadequate.[9]

In 2012 Cekic decided to vote against the tax reform proposed by her own party in collaboration with the Social Democrats. Cekic argued that the reform was socially lopsided, reallocating funds from the socially marginalized to the upper and middle class, saying that "I oppose the part of the agreement that takes money from people on disability pensions, social security and early pensions to give tax reductions to the rich."[10] The party leadership requested that she vote with the party line, but she refused and consequently lost her posts as spokeswoman for Social Policy, gender equality and housing although she remained a member of the party.[1] Although she was recommended by party leadership to simply not show up during the tax reform vote rather than vote against her own party, she insisted on participating in the vote, stating that "at some point you have to decide whether there is a limit to all the compromises you have to accept."[10] At a subsequent party internal vote about the priority of candidates she received strong support from her constituents, becoming the fourth ranking candidate in the Copenhagen constituency.[11] After Annette Vilhelmsen became the new party leader in September 2012, Cekic was given the post as spokesperson on health related issues.[2] In August 2013, she also became spokeswoman for gender equality again.[12]

In the 2015 Danish general elections the Socialist People's Party (SF) lost 9 of its 16 seats in parliament and Cekic was not re-elected.[13]


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