In the business world besides companies which grow overnight, there are those which grow gradually but with sound steps. The light for those companies which grow very rapidly is likely to soon die away.


Biography As a cultural crossroad where 7 different languages, 7 religions and 7 cultures lived in 7000 years, Mardin has been the cradle of many civilizations and has hosted various ethnic groups and people.
The people of this historical city where different cultures, languages and religions have been welcomed and a common history shared, which used to be a mesopotamian capital where the sun rose and fell for 2.555.000 times, have welcomed all diversities and lived with love and respect for each other for thousands of years. Mardin is a city where different religions such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism; and people belonging to various ethnic groups such as Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Chechnians and Turks have lived in an environment of piece, fraternity and social harmony.

Biography 1944- In Mardin, which is located on a green piece of land -in contrast to its natural surrounding- on one end of Turkey, in the province Savur the fifth child of the Erdem family was born on February 15, 1944. The baby, being born with a twin brother, surprised the Erdems; now, the family had six children. The twin brothers which were named Zeynel Abidin and Mehmet Nezih would become famous persons within and outside the country, thanks to their works and services.

According to the 1750-year-old family tree, Abdülkerim Bey, who is Dr. Zeynel Abidin’s grandfather, and his family are the Prophet’s descendants. The family, which also has had a special prestige in the eye of the Ottoman rulers has always obeyed Islamic requirements and proven with their acts and attitudes that they’re from the family of the prophet . In time they were vested with important powers which enhanced their dominance in the area. Hacı Ali Bey who is the 7th generation grandfather of Zeynel Abidin Erdem, was delegated financial powers and responsibilities. The family came to Mardin from Arabia, nearly 600 years ago and settled down. The family which undertook the role of an arbitrator during the conflicts between two groups of people, known as İsmani and Mahmutki, who settled in the region, were given the title “Bey” by the Ottoman Government. “It was forbidden to lock the doors in the area ruled by my great-grandfathers because nobody used to steal anything, and if they did, they were given certain opportunities so that they would never have to steal again. If you observe the region, you will see that there is no inclination towards terrorism in Mardin apart from the territories. Certain ideological movements have occurred in the neighboring cities, to other places where known families live, events have moved from outside. Mardin’s people have always been loyal to the government. Our nationalistic conscience, our flag, our religion, Atatürk and God are very dear to us. This well-known family which resides in Savur, Mardin besides trade, has been working in agriculture with thousands of employees on millions of square meters of land.

BiographyThe family, which is known in the region for their “wisdom”, took the surname “Erdem” (which means “wisdom” in Turkish) upon the enactment of the law on Surnames after the Republic of Turkey was founded. However, in the family previously known as Hacıbeyoğulları, Hacı Abdülkerim Bey, who was Zeynel Abidin Erdem’s grandfather, and his seven brothers took different surnames. The governor of that time, telling that he is a very wise person, gives the surname “Erdem” to Hacı Abdülkerim Bey. The other siblings get other surnames among which are Özbek (Nurullah), Öztürk (Halim), Aras, Hacıbey, and Fidan. Thus, the family has members with different surnames. Hacı Mehmet Sait Erdem, the son of Hacı Abdülkerim and Hasibe Hanım who also was a descendant of the Prophet, is known as a person who brought many innovations to trade in the Southeast Region. For instance, the first person to bring an automobile to Mardin (in the year 1927) was Mehmet Sait Bey, Zeynel Abidin Erdem’s father. “We were the first family to bring the camera, the cinema, the radio and other innovations to the Southeast. In 1927, when my father drove through Savur, Cizre, Midyat, İdil, Gercüş and Mardin, people used to give him grass as a gift, so that the car would eat it! I mean, people were so far away from technology. Likewise, the governor ordered a cinema for Mardin and a summer cinema named İstiklal was established. That day, important persons such as the governor and the mayor were there. It was the era of silent cinema. A cowboy film was on the screen. One of the cowboys pointed his gun towards the movie screen and fired it and suddenly everyone started running out. Now, look at what point the world stands.” Mehmet Sait Erdem distributed Sümerbank’s goods in Mardin and the area. As you may understand, the family was then, too, a prosperous one. “My father had a shop in Midyat where he distributed Sumerbank’s goods. My mother’s father was Midyat’s mayor. My father went to Midyat one day, and visited Hacı İbrahim in his house, where he saw my mother and liked her a lot. But they didn’t want their daughter to get married and leave Midyat for Savur. So my grandmother popped in my grandfathers’ and said “We’re coming to sit and talk about this marriage between our children” and on hearing that, my grandfather left home to avoid that conversation. However, the links between the families, and particularly the fact that both families were descendants of the Prophet brought them together and everything ended up happily.” This is how Mehmet Sait Erdem married Menci Hanım.

BiographyThe mother gives birth to 13 children four of whom died at early ages. Zeynel Abidin and his twin brother Mehmet Neziz, born on February 15, 1944, are the fourth and fifth children born into the family (the other children’s names are Sabiha, Seniha, Veysi, Müzeyyen, Nezihe, Mualla and Muazzez). “I had a great childhood. My father’s uncle, Abdülhalim Bey had a very beautiful, distinctive house. It had ornaments like those on Topkapı palace. In that house, which was built about 300 years ago, there even was a central heating system. The chimney passed between the two lines of the walls and climbed upstairs. That house still stands upright, with its private rooms for women and for men, saloons, reading rooms, and chat rooms.” In that chat room where important persons from the judge to the provincial governor still meet three days a week with one-day intervals, any and every subject is discussed. “This environment led to a common culture within the family, which hindered conflicts..” Zeynel Abidin Erdem throughout his life benefits from what he learned at those parties. “One day at the university, as we were playing basketball, the secretary general of the university, who had been watching us play, called my name and asked “Where are you from? You seem to act in a way different from others.” When I told him about those parties, he said “You seem to know so much for a boy of your age.” I wish today, too, the youth discussed the issues like those we used to discuss those times.

Biography1950 – Starting from the early 1950s, Zeynel Abidin attended primary, secondary and high schools together with the children of Mungan, Saraçoğlu and Ensari families and at high school he published the school newsletter. He was a leading student at school activities and perhaps, thanks to what he learned from those discussions, he was like a mediator whenever there was a problem between other students. “When there were conflicts between groups at school, the managers used to call me and ask me to mediate between them. My friends who will read this will confirm what I say.” He puts his energy into volleyball (team leader at high school) and basketball (team leader at university). Due to the characteristics of the area in which he was brought up, Zeynel Abidin Erdem speaks 4-5 languages, however, he started speaking Turkish no earlier than the age 6. Erdem, who went to a school where the temperature was –20oC in winter and where the teachers had to teach subjects outside the scope of their branches due to inadequacy of their number, tried to overcome the negative circumstances by studying very hard.

Biography 1963 – Erdem, who succeeded to pass his classes despite the insufficiency of education, entered the university exam in the year 1963 and made a grade among the highest ones. The fact that his ancestors were leaders of their regions during the Ottoman era caused him to be curious about politics. “My grandfather was a “Bey”, we were leaders before the Ottomans, we are leaders now that the Ottoman era is over. So, at high school, I dreamed about having an education in social sciences, becoming a political authority in Turkey and governing Turkey.” Erdem, who attended the Faculty of Social Sciences where he had entered with great passion, for a period as short as three months later left that school as he thought it was highly “classical” and it did not stipulate creativity, and chose Chemical Engineering, a popular occupation at those times, which had always been in his mind. Thus he went to Istanbul. In fact, he had been dreaming about continuing his education at a metropolitan city, Istanbul was not exactly where he wanted to go to school, but he said “At least, it is better than Ankara.” In 1970, he graduated from the Faculty of Chemistry of Yıldız University. He worked as an assistant in the Board of Industrial Inorganic Chemistry for a while, and then completed the Business Administration Doctorate Program in Istanbul University. Thus, he got a title: Dr Zeynel Abidin Erdem.

Biography 1965- The same year, he takes his first step in business. At firts, he works in the textile sector together with a few friends of his (one of them is Oğuz Koraltan, son of Refik Koraltan). He never forgets the advise his father had given him “I have two advises to you. Never accept any unjust money, never benefit from interest.” Perhaps due to these advises and the way he was brought up, when he noticed extra materials among the fabrics he bought from a textile company to distribute to certain places in Istanbul, he always took them to the company’s boss. “One day 300 pieces of extra material came in one package, when we paid them their cost, the vendors were surprised. The owner of the company was very impressed by our attitude. While, at the beginning, I only made partial distribution to Istanbul, after some time he started giving all the material to be distributed to Istanbul, and then to the entire Anatolia. After some time, he took me to the owners of the paint plant. So we started selling chemicals, too.”

Biography Dr Erdem, for the sake of not having to answer loads of useless questions he was addressed during business contacts, named his company “Gen-Pa” which is the abbreviation for “Genel Pazarlama” (General Marketing). Gen-Pa, which operated in international trade from Iraq to Canada, exported 121 types of goods to Iraq, after a while started to meet 10% of Iraq’s vitrifying and substructure requirements. Gen-Pa, which also has offices abroad, is a family company. Dr Erdem has never preferred partnerships and always opts to take decisions with his free will.

Biography 1970 – Zeynel Abidin Erdem at the same time continued his education at a time of intense political motility. At university, he was the head of a students’ foundation, and since those times, he has not changed his side. He took the same classes at the department of Chemistry of Yıldız University with Yalım Erez, Halit Dikmen -who later became a national representative from Aydın-, Edip Yağcı, Fevzi Pakkan, İbrahim Demir, and many other well-known persons, and then graduated from that school in 1970, became the head of the Chamber of Chemical Engineers, and later worked as an assistant in the Board of Industrial Inorganic Chemistry between 1973 and 1976. In 1973, he became the general manager of Kimsan Labour Union. Apart from his duty in the Ülkü Ocakları (a nationalist foundation network), his presidency at the Youth Branch of the Justice Party was an experience which would be useful to him during the efforts he made together with Turgut Sunalp in MDP in the following years.

Biography 1974 – Zeynel Abidin Erdem fulfils his military service as an Assistant Lieutenant at the Ammunitions School in Hacıoğlu, Istanbul having made precious friends.

1978 – Dr Zeynel Abidin Erdem, who successfully led his professional life and academic life in harmony, made his greatest progress as Genpa’s head between 1970 -the year he graduated from university- and 1978. “In 1970s Turkey went through a period of volatility. No Foreign Exchange, no that, no this... People were buying expensive goods just to have invoices in hand. Right there, we made serious progress, because we obeyed the rules when importing and selling. In those 8 years Genpa grew to become a thousand times bigger.” Genpa, which is the representative of Ericson, Alcatel, Nokia, Siemens, and Sony and Erdem Holding Company which was founded five years ago, would make a second great progress years later with GSM.

Biography 1980 – Genpa, made progress and kept growing rapidly by the year 1980. In 1980 and the following years, a person known by everyone gained an important place in Zeynel Erdem’s life. That peson was Özal. “Özal said he wanted to meet me and Hüsnü Çınar, who was the president of the Confederation of Vendors and Artists at Sadıklar Apartment. For two and a half hours he told us about the economy program he had made. Özal was talking about highways, mobile telephones, energy plants, and about the Turkish Lira becoming an international currency at time when people were deprived of salt, gas, and clothing. To tell the truth, listening to Özal, I was shocked. Özal said “I want to be a founder member of your party.” However, unfortunately, we had already promised Turgut Sunalp, who was then working at the Canadian Embassy and would later be our general director that we would be members to his party. And for the sake of keeping to our promise, we could not give Özal’s proposal a positive answer.”

Biography Erdem becomes the provincial president of the Nationalist Democratic Party (MDP) in Istanbul. “I only served as a provincial president, because I didn’t have politics in my mind. What I’d been thinking was : “The party will take office, and having fulfilled my task, I will return to my business.” However, Özal would not let Erdem go, insisting that he join ANAP. This time they came together in a meeting held at Tarabya Hotel in 1984. “He said to me: “You had told me that you would take office with 300 representatives, and that if you failed, you would come to our party. I am waiting for you.” And I told him that I would not be able to go as long as Sunalp was the general manager. He said “We need honest and sincere people like you.” Our families had taught us to be faithful till death.” In fact, Zeynel Abidin Erdem and Turgut Özal knew each other for a long time, since the times they lived in Mardin. “Özal’s father was an official in Mardin. Turgut Bey and Korkut Bey went to school with my aunt’s children.” However, he could get registered to Özal’s party only after the MDP resolved, together with a group of 18 which involved, besides others, Imren Aykut and Yılmaz Hocaoğlu. And Erdem’s frienship with Özal continues until Özal passes away, and after his death, Erdem maintains his links with the Özal family (Erdem is the general secretary for the Foundation for Research on Turgt Özal’s İdeology). “Özal was not a man who lived the day, like us. He was a man of a century. He took notes for 50 years. He wrote down whatever he was supposed to do, he was a man equipped to fulfill significant tasks, and one who could see the future.” Till the day he died, we had a profound relationship. None of his services involved a critical movement that we did not know about at least partly.”

Biography 1982 – Zeynel Abidin ERDEM experienced something he would never expect, in Silivri where he used to go for a rest from time to time. He found out that his house was near that of Professor Dr Ali Rıza Berkem who was his chemistry instructor at University, the founder of the Faculty of Chemistry, the Head of the Chemistry Foundation, the member of the General Board of TUBİTAK’s Group for Counseling and the Education of Scientists and of UNESCO, and had many other titles. The next day was the Sacrifice Day and he visited his teacher. There he also met Emine Hanım, his teacher’s daughter. After that visit, they start to meet more and more often. In 1982 Dr Erdem married Emine Hanım who is a lawyer. They now have two children whose names are Mehmet Rıza and Zeynep Berrin.

Biography 1998 - The state seals belongining to Ottomon Emperor , II.Abdülhamid were purchased by twins businessmen , Zeynel Abidin Erdem and Mehmet Nezih Erdem in an auction which took place in Drout Hall in Paris. These seals were later given to Culture Minister İstemihan Talay by a ceremony at Topkapı Palace. Dr. Zeynel Abidin Erdem and Mehmet Nezih Erdem purchased to state seals belonging to Ottoman Emperor II.Abdülhamid in an auction which took place in Paris. Topkapı Palace hosted a very meaningful ceremony.

Dr. Erdem is the Chairman of TABA AmCham (Turkish American Business Association) since 2000, and the Chairman of Turkish-Spanish Business Council since 1995. He is the Vice Chairman of Turkish–French Business Council and the Vice Chairman of Turkish – Iraqi Business Council. HONORARY CONSUL OF SUDAN DR. ZEYNEL ABIDIN ERDEM WAS AWARDED “A LEGION OF HONOR” AT THE STATE CEREMONY HELD IN SUDAN REPUBLIC ON 29TH JUNE 2000. Dr. Erdem continues his contribution for the education as Former Chairman and member of the Association of Yüzyıl Işıl High Schools. Dr. Erdem is a member of the Global Advisory Board of the George Washington University.

BiographyDr. Zeynel Abidin ERDEM, as the chairman of DEIK - Foreign Economic Relations Board - Turkish Spanish Business Council since 1996 IS BESTOWED BY HIS MAJESTY KING JUAN CARLOS I “ COMMANDER OF THE ORDER OF THE SPANISH CIVIL MERIT “ ON 13 DECEMBER 2002.

Ambassador of Spain, H.E. Manuel de la Camara made a speech during the ceremony and said: “I would like to say that Mr. Erdem in promoting international friendships, but here also in my view is a great patriot. He has been always in front of promoting the candidate of the full membership to European Union visit many capitals together with other businessmen in the very important moment of discussions. He has been also very active importing the Turkish image and Business in United States. So I would like to say that my Dear Friend you have also a good career as diplomat. I cherish very much the friendship of Mr. Zeynel Abidin ERDEM, as he is a friend. I arrived here in September 2000, and only in few hours after I arrived he was there to say hallo. I think he has always been there when I needed him.Dear Zeynel Bey, I thank you very much for being our friend.”