Çetin, Hikmet (1937–)

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Çetin, Hikmet

Turkish minister Hikmet Çetin's political career began in 1977 when he was elected and later became head of the Republican's People Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi; CHP). He served as Turkish foreign minister from 1991 to 1994, as Speaker of the Turkish Parliament (1997–1999), and occupied many other ministerial positions in different governments in Turkey. Çetin was elected to lead the efforts of the Alliance in Afghanistan as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) senior civilian representative and concluded his work in 2006. Throughout his political career, Çetin's mission and dedication to support the peace efforts in the Middle East brought him international reputation and distinguish him from many contemporary political leaders of his time.


Çetin was born in Lice, a province of Diyarbakir, Turkey, in 1937. He attended elementary school in Lice and continued with his high school education in Ankara. In 1960 he received a B.A. in economics and finance. During the same year, he started working as a specialist for the State Planning Organization (SPO) of Turkey (Devlet Planlama Teșkilati [DPT]). During this time, Çetin spent some time in the United States and other countries to conduct further research in this field. He also received a M.A. in economics with a thesis on "Economics of Development" during his stay in the United States. In 1968 Çetin went to California and began research on planning models at Stanford University. He returned to Turkey to do his military service which he completed in 1970. From 1970 to 1977, Çetin worked as the head of the Economic Planning Department at the SPO, while being part-time faculty at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara.

Çetin's political career began with the general elections in 1977 when he was elected as deputy to Istanbul and representative for CHP in Parliament. From 1978 to 1979, he was appointed deputy prime minister in Bülent Ecevit's cabinet. After the military coup in 1980 that banned political parties, Çetin was involved as a planning consultant for the Yemen government. His return to politics is marked by the elections in 1987, when he was reelected as deputy of Diyarbakir to the Parliament and represented the Social Democratic People's Party (Sosyal Demokratik Parti; SHP), which was a new formation of the banned CHP. During this time, he acted as an executive on different levels, one of which entailed the position of the secretary general. In the elections on 20 October 1990 Çetin was elected as a member from SHP for the third time into Parliament as deputy of Gaziantep, a city in the east of Turkey. During the coalition government under Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel, which was formed in 1991, Çetin became minister of foreign affairs. He continued serving in this position when Tansu Çiller, the first female prime minister of Turkey, was elected and created a coalition government based on cooperation between the SHP and Dog̈ru Yol Partisi (DYP; True Path Party). Çetin resigned from this position on 24 July 1994. When both left-wing political parties (the CHP and SHP) merged in 1995, Çetin was elected head and chairman of this joint convention on 18 February 1995. He resigned from this position on 9 September 1995. After the general elections in 1995, Çetin was reelected to Parliament. In 1997 he served as the speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM), a position that he held until 18 April 1999.

Çetin's career as a diplomat began on 19 November 2003 when he was chosen to be NATO senior civilian representative (SCR) for Afghanistan. He was the first Turkish politician to be appointed this position. He took office in Kabul on 26 January 2004 and was in charge of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for two consecutive terms until 24 August 2006.


Characteristic for Çetin's political career is that he served several times as deputy to the Turkish Parliament. During this time, he made every effort to improve Turkey's relations with its neighboring countries. Especially, his modesty and diplomacy toward improving the Greek-Turkish relations impressed West European diplomats, as did his efforts with the European Union regarding the full customs union on manufactured goods.


Name: Hikmet Çetin

Birth: 1937, Lice, Diyarbakir, Turkey

Family: Wife, Inci Çetin; two daughters

Nationality: Turkish

Education: High school in Ankara; B.A. in economics and finance, Ankara University, School of Political Science, 1960; M.A. in economics of development, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts


  • 1977: Deputy of Istanbul representing the Republican's People Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi)
  • 1978–1979: Minister of state and deputy prime minister
  • 1987: Deputy of Diyarbakir representing Social Democratic People's Party (Sosyal Demokratik Parti, SHP)
  • 1990: Deputy of Gaziantep representing SHP
  • 1991–1994: Minister of foreign affairs
  • 1995: Head and chairman of CHP
  • 1997–1999: Speaker of the Turkish Parliament (TBBM)
  • 2004–2006: NATO senior civilian representative for Afghanistan

Çetin's nomination to serve as NATO senior civilian representative for Afghanistan marked the first time Turkey had taken on such responsibility. In an interview with Nükhet Kantarci for the Turkish magazine Ekonometri, Hikmet points to the fact that this responsibility was new for Turkey, for Çetin, as well as NATO. For the first time, as Çetin points out, NATO had stepped out of its geographical and operative realm and took responsibility for a country such as Afghanistan. Çetin received great support from Turkey, from NATO's supreme allied commander, General James L. Jones, as well as Afghanistan's president hamid karzai. In a presentation held at the NATO school, Çetin referred to the significant progress that had been made since the Bonn Summit of December 2001 in Afghanistan. This progress can be recognized in the arrangement of presidential elections, followed by the election of the National Assembly Line, and the Provincial Councils. Çetin made also clear that the future and the country's stability depended on further support of the NATO and the international community. He stated, "The Alliance cannot turn its back on the call for assistance and partnership with the Afghans" (M2 Presswire, 9 February 2006).

After his service ended in Afghanistan, Çetin expressed his sympathy for the Afghani people in saying that half of his heart is still with its people. In the interview, Çetin also points out that although attempts have been made to improve the country's impoverished situation, it is terrorism and the illicit opium trade in Afghanistan that must immediately come to an end. However, to eradicate poppy cultivation in Afghanistan would rob its farmers of their livelihoods. The dilemma also lies in the fact, as Çetin remarked, that after decades of war, Afghanistan is left no irrigation networks and markets that would provide farmers a basis to cultivate more traditional crops. "Now for the farmers, [poppies have] day by day became the only crop, the only source of income. […] And farmers get only $1 billion every year on average from opium, but its [worth] … is maybe $40 billion in the European market" (Lobjakas, 2005). He also stressed that one has to make every effort to win the heart and mind of the Afghani people which can only be achieved through economic and social help. He also mentioned that important steps have already been made and we will see more outcome from these efforts in the future.


When NATO became involved in the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, it marked a turning point both in the European Union as well as NATO's history. With this decision, NATO became a key component in the mission of the international community to assist the Afghan authorities to maintain peace and establish stability and security in its country. On the other hand, when Çetin became NATO's civilian representative, he also became part of the most difficult challenge the world had at the time: keeping peace in the country and to overcome the obstacles that the Afghani people face. As Çetin remarks, since NATO's involvement in the war against terrorism, thirty-two of its soldiers were killed on land and fourteen in airplane accidents in Afghanistan. The war, which lasted for twenty-three years in Afghanistan, destroyed the country's economy, political system, infrastructure, and society. As Çetin describes, when in 2001 the world turned its attention to Afghanistan, it was at a zero-hour stage as it had no income, budget, government, or police or military force. The education rate was the lowest in the world. Only 14 percent of its female population was literate. Perhaps one will remember, says Çetin, when the Taliban regime took power from 1994 to 2000, not only girls but nobody was allowed to walk on the streets without permission. Women could step outside only with first-degree relatives, their husbands, and fathers. "This is the Afghanistan the world went to and took over from this point. If we look back today, six million people are in primary school education of which two million are made up by girls. Succeeding in establishing these figures does not undo the still many difficulties the country faces. For many years the world and NATO cannot leave Afghanistan. In other words, it cannot leave before it succeeds" (2006)

In many references, it is mentioned that during his service in Afghanistan, Çetin was referred to as "Hikmet Abi" (literally "Brother Hikmet"), which expresses the respect and friendship that the public and officials felt toward this politician.


Being from Turkey, Çetin indirectly represents a country that because of its strategic importance on the world map plays a pivotal role in promoting peace and development in the Middle East. Çetin's dedication and commitment to transform this goal into his politics won him a distinctive place among Turkish politicians. He not only is interested in developing positive bilateral relations with its neighboring countries but also to maintain peace, stability, and progress in this part of the world. His involvement in the reconstruction of Afghanistan has tied both countries closer together. Turkey and Afghanistan are nations that have already had close relations since the 1920s.


"Hikmet Çetin." Biografi.TV. Available from http://www.biografi.tv/hikmet_Çetin_biyografisi.asp.

Kantarca, Nükhet. "Hikmet Çetin Ekonometri'ye Konuștu," Ekonometri (18 November 2006). Available from http://www.ekonometri.com.tr/kategori.php?link=devam&grup=3&kat_id=0&sayfa_id=88.

Lobjakas, Ahto. "Afghanistan: Antidrug Minister Vows Action but Says Farmers Need Aid, Alternative Incomes." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (21 January 2005). Available from http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/01/40329d50-e200-454b-8a7b-ec05b7d59dfc.html.

"Nato'nun Afganistan'daki Sivil Temsilcisi Hikmet Çetin: 'Dünya terörün acimasiz yüzüyle tanisiyor …,'" in Anadolu: Avrupali Türklerin Dergisi (April 2004). Available from http://www.anadolu.be/2004-04/10.html.

                                                    Mine Eren