EWI Leader: Zuhal Kurt

News | March 29, 2012

EWI board member Zuhal Kurt, who was voted 2012 Director of the Year award by EWI's staff, is Chief Executive Officer of privately held Kurt Group, a Turkish company whose investments include a broad portfolio of real estate holdings as well as race horse training technologies.

How did you first come to hear about the EastWest Institute, and how did you get involved?

I was introduced to EWI by Allen Col­linsworth, an acting fellow and former staff member. He shared with me some exciting work EWI was doing to curb violent extremism and also their work to bring development in Afghanistan. [EWI President] John Mroz visited me in Istanbul and in­spired me to get involved.


How did Kurt Enterprises come about? How would you sum up its long-term mission?

Kurt Enterprises was founded by my father Mehmet Kurt who was born and raised in the southern town of Adana, Turkey. Here he established the first flour mill and fostered a broader food production enterprise including sunflower oil and jam as well as pack­aging. Today, his focus is on perfecting his revolutionary race-horse training technology called Kurt Systems. Our family for generations has owned land around Turkey, which we continue to develop according to the economic demands of the era.


What major international relations and public policy issues are you most passionate about?

Violent extremism as well as the empowerment of women in business and political life are areas where I hope to see more progress in my lifetime— particularly in the predominantly Muslim areas of Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa, which lag behind Europe and the United States.


How do you see Turkey’s role on the international stage changing in the coming years?

It will become a staging point for Western commercial activities directed toward the resource-rich Middle East and Caspian Basin. Politically, it will become an im­portant go-between for Western powers engaging with emerging Muslim democ­racies with strong Islamic identities.


What are your thoughts on the launch of the Economic Security Initiative? How do you see the institute making a difference in the field of economic security?

Trade interdependence is the funda­mental basis for security. Countries who trade together share peace together, and governments allowing fully participatory economic systems are more stable. Corporations today have brought distrust to the economic system, suggesting that wealth and risk are not fairly distributed, and early generations benefit at the ex­pense of those in the future. Whether we are talking about investing in state and global assets such as water and energy supplies or even cyber infrastruc­ture, these can all be pursued under the banner of economic security.


What are the advantages of working with EWI as a director?

Firstly, I have met wonderful people at EWI, people who genuinely care about making this world a safer place. It is fulfill­ing to be a part of an organization that doesn’t just talk about problems but gets out there and solves them.