Turkish mayor is likened to Game of Throne's Khaleesi, shaking social media

Imamoglu and Subasi, screenshot from the video report by Gercek TV.

While Bilecik, a provincial capital of Turkey's Bilecik Province, in northwestern Anatolia, normally escaped public notice, it has now been thrown into the spotlight, thanks to a recent visit by Istanbul's elected Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. But more than the mayor's visit, it was the town's acting Mayor, Melek Mızrak Subaşı, whose name has been trending on Twitter. Social media users and media members alike, have likened Subaşı to Daenerys Targaryen, the fictional character in George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire — which was later made into the HBO blockbuster Game of Thrones series.

Pictured in a black fur coat, with her platinum white hair neatly put up into an updo, it was this image that was widely circulated online that the public found most similar to Khaleesi.

Daenerys Targaryen in the eighth season of game of thrones (left) and Mayor Melek Mızrak Subaşı (right) in the Bilecik press conference. Images via Wikicommons (left) licensed under (CC0) and screenshot (right) composed via canva.

Social media users were quick to point out the similarities.

Daenerys of House Targaryen, rightful heir to the Iron Throne, rightful Queen of the Andals, and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains Melek Mızrak Subaşı.

She was born in Bulgaria in 1988, and immigrated to Bilecik when she was one year old with her family. After completing her secondary education in Turkey, she went back to Bulgaria, where she received an undergraduate degree in architecture.

Her interest in local politics started in 2014 while she was a graduate student. At the time, she was a city council candidate representing the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). The party came in third, following the Nationalist Movement Party, which came in second, and the ruling Justice and Development Party, which came in first. In 2019, during local mayoral elections, CHP won, and Subaşı was appointed Deputy Mayor. Due to a corruption investigation, the elected CHP head of the municipality was removed, and Subaşı was voted in as acting mayor in April 2022 in a third vote.

Subaşı joined İmamoğlu during his visit for the groundbreaking ceremony of the “Liberation War Memorial House and Observation Terrace” project. In an interview with a local news platform Haber Turk, Subaşı said İmamoğlu's visit to Bilecik was part of a joint project the two municipalities signed in September 2022. The project aims to help families in need and small business owners by allowing the families to pay for basic necessities through a payment system connected to the various small businesses in Bilecik who have also been hit with financial difficulties. This dual support mechanism is just one of many assistance packages provided by Istanbul Municipality under the leadership of İmamoğlu.

“This response was not something I was expecting. I have received so many tweets. We too, were surprised. Our press office was also very surprised,” Subaşı said in an interview with Haber Turk. Subaşı also confessed she was not familiar with the character and learned about who Daenerys was after googling her. Following İmamoğlu's visit, Subaşı's twitter followers went from 6,000 to over 90,000, and her instagram following is fast approaching 100,000.

Media closely affiliated with the ruling Justice and Development Party were quick to target the deputy mayor. In an article published by Yeni Akit, Subaşı was accused of corruption, contracting the deputy mayor's husband's catering company for municipality events and laundering state funding as a result, though there is no evidence to corroborate this. The Subasi Catering was set up in 1984 in Bilecik.

The 35-year-old Subaşı has not let any of the negative coverage impact her.

The deputy mayor has thanked her followers on Twitter:

I see your compliments, jokes and nice comments, and I thank everyone. Before I forget, Winter Is Coming!

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