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Efforts to establish Rotary clubs in Turkey date back to 1928. International Rotary was promoting Rotary in the Middle Eastern countries through individual contacts. For this reason, James W. Davidson who was known as the “Marco Polo of Rotary” came to Turkey with his family in August 1928 to start various initiatives. Davidson visited Şükrü Kaya, the Minister of Internal Affairs at that time, and briefed him about Rotary.  However, nobody came up in the circumstances of those years to lead the Rotary movement in Turkey.

International Rotary was able to attract attention in Turkey in the period between 1950 and 1952. However, International Rotary’s proposals to journalist-author Falih Rıfkı Atay, journalist-author Ahmet Emin Yalman, history professor Ahmet Şükrü Esmer, and Ankara University, Department of Law faculty member Professor Doctor Münci Kapani to establish a club did not materialize. A petition given to the Ministry of Interior to establish a Rotary Club in Ankara received a “rejected” response because Rotary was an organization exclusively for male members and this was against the “constitutional principle on the equality of women and men”.

A while after this fruitless attempt, the Chairperson of the ınternational Rotary at that time J. Serratosa Cibils raised the matter again in 1953 with the mediation of Augustin J. Catoni, the governor of District 245, which included Lebanon, Egypt, Bahrain, Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Cyprus, to establish a Rotary club in Turkey.

Catoni organized a meal at Karpiç, a famous restaurant in Ankara, and invited the Turkish and foreign businesspersons who he believed would form the core of an Ankara Rotary Club. Among the invited businesspersons were Osmanlı Bank Ankara Branch Manager Cevat Girin, General Manager of PanAm Airlines Turkey Walter Pederson, Melih Çalıkkocaoğlu, and the young engineers who would establish Tekfen in the future Feyyaz Berker, Necati Akçağlılar and Nihat Gökyiğit.

Catoni made a proposal to Oğuzhan Koraltan who was the Manager of American Export Lines Ankara Branch and had gained a fair knowledge of Rotary during his education in the US to establish Rotary clubs in Turkey.

The works initiated in 1953 proved successful and initial preparations were started. During President Celal Bayar’s official visit to the US, Chairman of International Rotary J. Serratosa Ciblis had a meeting with him and gave information about Rotary.

In 1954, the founding members Oğuzhan Koraltan, businessperson Nail Avunduk, and Ankara Law School faculty member Assoc. Prof. Mukbil Özyörük completed all preparations and founded the “Ankara Rotary Club” and held its first meeting in Ankara Palace Hall on March 24, 1954.

Oğuzhan Koraltan moved from Ankara to Istanbul and together with Rifat Bereket, İsmail Hakkı Kutbay, Kazım Taşkent, Eli Rosental and Hilmi Naili Barlo, he founded the “Istanbul Rotary Club” on February 8, 1956. The Club held its first meeting in Istanbul Hilton Hotel and with its Charter Certificate dated July 24, 1957, it was accepted as a member of International Rotary. The Club Chairperson received the charter from the Deputy Chairperson of International Rotary Augustin J. Catoni on December 23, 1957.

“Izmir Rotary Club”, the third club in Turkey, held its first meeting on January 9, 1962 and received its Charter Certificate on May 2, 1963.

The fourth club in Turkey was “Bursa Rotary Club”, which held its first meeting in Çelik Palas Hotel on June 12, 1963.

In 1966, the number of Rotary clubs in Turkey became 6. With the establishment of “Turkish Management Consultancy” in 1968, the growth accelerated. The number of clubs reached 8 in 1968, 11 in 1970, 14 in 1972, 16 in 1974, 22 in 1976, and 30 in 1978. The rate of growth in this ten-year period was 2.4 clubs per year.

Turkey was designated as International Rotary District 243 in 1980. The growth further accelerated thereafter. The 31 clubs in 1980 reached 78 clubs in 1987.

Turkey was divided into two districts in 1988. West became District 242 and East District 243. The 82 clubs in 1988 reached 136 clubs in 1993. District 242 was recoded as District 2420 and District 243 as District 2430 in 1993.

Turkey was divided into three districts in 1994. Istanbul, Marmara, and surrounding areas were coded as District 2420, Middle and East Anatolia as District 2430, and Aegean as District 2440. The 150 clubs in 1994 reached 234 clubs in 2013.

As of June 2021, there were a total of 246 Rotary Clubs in Turkey, 79 Rotary Clubs in District 2420, 101 Rotary Clubs in District 2430, and 66 Rotary Clubs in District 2440 and the total number of members was 6235 Rotarians.

Rotaract clubs, which started to be launched in 1968 in the world, opened their first club in Turkey, “Çankaya Rotaract Club”, in 1982 under the sponsorship of Çankaya Rotary Club and with the efforts of Rtn. Melih Çalıkkocaoğlu.

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