Şafak Pavey started showing what she was made of as early as age 19. While helping a leukemia patient friend onto a train, she noticed the friend looked like he was about to fall onto the tracks. She quickly pushed him back on, saving him from injury, but subsequently fell onto the tracks, losing her left arm and leg in the process.
She was not about to let that get her down, though. First she, with the help with her firebrand journalist mother Ayşe Önal, wrote a bestselling book. Then she attended the London School of Economics, first in a wheelchair and then with prosthetics. She proceeded to become a coordinator at the UN High Commission for Refugees after graduation. Most recently, because she is apparently genetically incapable of resting on her laurels, she joined the Turkish parliament, at age 38.
Now, by the time she’d taken office, Turkey had taken on some serious social problems. Freedom of expression, women’s rights, and minority rights were all under attack. The rate of violence against women had risen 14-fold from 2002 to 2011. Serious debates were being raged on ludicrous topics, like whether pregnant women should be allowed out in public, or whether boys and girls should be taught in the same room. Even the act of Pavey wearing trousers instead of a skirt sparked enormous discussion in parliament.
But none of this has tempered her fiery personality. She repeatedly calls out politicians who apply a double-standard to her because of her gender. When someone tweeted hate speech at her (“Allah took one of your legs and you haven’t woken from the sleep of blasphemy. What is it with your stubbornness?”), she got him fired. She eschews drivers and limos, going from event to event in the dinged-up family car. She often shows up with her mother instead of bodyguards (although, to be fair, her mother is probably just as effective a butt-kicker). She still fights for LGBT and minority rights despite it being an enormously difficult — and often dangerous — uphill battle.
And she’s just getting started.
(thanks to Hannah Draper for sending this in!)