Being active in NGOs and working for the society is in Aynur Hasanzadeh’s blood: the AEGEE-Leiden member had a long youth organisation vita even before she found AEGEE. Running for the position of Civic Education Working Group Coordinator at the upcoming Agora in Bucharest seems therefore like the next logical step. However, getting elected won’t be easy, since this is one of the most contested positions in AEGEE: with Aynur Hasanzadeh, Izabella Khanzratyan (AEGEE-Yerevan) and Zeynep Ozan (AEGEE-Ankara) there are three candidates.

Aynur Hasanzadeh at the Rotaract Rivierenland Santa Run

Golden Times: Where would you be now if you hadn’t joined AEGEE?
Aynur Hasanzadeh: Uh, I don’t know actually. However, I couldn’t have met so many great people and visit so many different places if I hadn’t joined AEGEE, that is for sure.

GT: How did you join AEGEE exactly? How did you find out about it?
Aynur: I am already very active from my high school years in the society; from establishing a political youth organisation at a local level, and the first Rotaract in our region, until being the president of the Youth Council in our city. I was doing quite a lot and was following anything related to youth empowerment on social media. I came also across AEGEE and was following it. Before I started my study in Leiden, I met AEGEE-Leiden by chance during the introduction week of our university and became a member.

GT: How long did it take you from the first moment until you signed the membership form and joined AEGEE?
Aynur (laughing): Literally a few minutes!

GT: At an AEGEE party where will we find you? On the dancefloor? Talking at the bar?
Aynur: Ah, I really enjoy dancing and I need all the space when I do that. So, I am often dancing where it is not crowded that much, even if that means on the stage or pole dance floor!

GT: What was your favourite event as organiser – and why is it your favourite?
Aynur: I still enjoy our lectures related to taboos as Knowledge Commission of AEGEE-Leiden. One of them was about Polygamy. There was so much curiosity about this topic! We had a full room of students asking questions to those giving information. It was really interesting.

GT: What was your first Agora and how did you feel there? Happy, excited, overwhelmed, lost?
Aynur: My first Agora was 2017 in Enschede and that was the place where I literally felt the power of AEGEE. It was amazing to see so many students coming together to have a say about the future of their organisation. I mentioned this Agora experience also during my speech at the District 1550 Conference of Rotary, which was right after the Agora. It was a conference about Peace, Security and Tolerance with five speakers, each representing a different perspective: political, economic, academic, military and from the perspective of youth.

Aynur Hasanzadeh on a music performance on 8th of March

GT: What’s your biggest frustration in AEGEE?
Aynur: Oh, I am very happy with this question since I am very frustrated about the case of Yigit Aksakoglu. He is an alumni and a former board member of AEGEE-Istanbul. As an active volunteer of Amnesty International, I already knew about the situation and signed the petition, but I did not know that he was an alumni. Fortunately, they were able to reach out to CD and they did a great job with spreading this petition through every possible channel within AEGEE. However, there was almost no attention from the members and locals. Before the deadline of the petition, the CD sent another reminder to help to get the remaining 400 petitions, but the petition was increased only by a low number. I personally started to share where I could share and was expecting the same from many members too. And also from the locals, especially AEGEE-Istanbul. This was the moment to show our solidarity to an alumni of us who was unjustly imprisoned. An organisation with 13,000 members failed to react on this issue, and the only thing they had to was signing an online petition of five seconds.

Aynur Hasanzadeh protesting in Den Haag

GT: What do your parents think about the idea that you are so active in AEGEE?
Aynur: Hmm. It is not only AEGEE, but includes many other activities too. This leads sometimes to missing out my responsibilities at home. But in general, they always support me and are happy to see me so acctive. Especially my dad. He is the one who taught me the importance of being an active citizen and contributing to the community.

GT: In a typology of members there are the three aspects fun member, career member and idealist – to which percentage are you?
Aynur: I am definitely an idealist member. I am member because I want to contribute to AEGEE as an organisation, but also to contribute to Europe and European youth through AEGEE.

GT: What other hobbies do you have aside from AEGEE?
Aynur: Too many! I am playing a Turkish instrument, saz. Minimum once a month I visit a concert. So, I am really into music, but also into cinema. I can describe myself as cinephile. I am a member of the Youth Cinema Club “La Riot” in Amsterdam, which has the aim of promotion arthouse films among the youth. It is also one of my dreams to be a director of at least one film or a cinematographer, since I am passionate about photography too. I will visit Cannes Film Festival this year!

GT: Did you consider joining a political party or maybe want to do it later?
Aynur: Yes! However, I am not satisfied with the political parties in the Netherlands, so that is why I am not joining any of them at the moment. Maybe I should found my own party! [laughing]

GT: What do you study – and why?
Aynur: I am studying International Studies Middle East track, which is a very unique study. It is broad and includes politics, culture, economy, history and language. I mainly focus on Turkey as a country, because I can speak Turkish and can easily access academic resources. However I am learning Persian for the second year right now, and hopefully I will start with Arabic lessons as minor next semester too.

Aynur Hasanzadeh with AEGEE-Leiden at EPM Izmir

GT: Do you like cooking and what’s your favourite dish you like to cook?
Aynur: I like everything which is homemade. It makes me really happy to have natural food, like right from the farmer. But sadly, I do not have that much time as I wish neither to buy my food from a farmer nor to cook.

GT: What’s never missing in your fridge?
Aynur: Haha, this question was already asked by Facebook! And my answer was vodka.

GT: What’s the favourite city or place on this planet you ever visited?
Aynur: I really enjoyed my visit to Venice. It was such an extraordinary place. Their canals are like our roads here. It was crazy to see these boats as taxi and bus. Really fun to be there!

GT: And where would you really like to go?
Aynur: I want to visit Egypt and India one day. I am already planning a trip to Middle East this summer, probably to Tunisia or Libanon, but not to Egypt yet.

GT: Please complete the sentence: “AEGEE is for me…”
Aynur: The place for intercultural communication at the very first place!