She was born around the year 2365 on the Cardassian colony world of Ithic II; and, at the approximate age of twelve, was described as being thin with big brown eyes, dark hair, and a small brown face.
Hulya and her parents were driven from their farm by Jem'Hadar during the Dominion War. She was placed in an on-world Dominion internment camp with her mother for about a year, until it was abandoned at the conclusion of the war. Her father was interned at a separate camp, where he was shot and killed by a Jem'Hadar guard for getting into a fight with a Cardassian.
Hulya returned to her family's farm with her mother after their liberation, but Hulya was soon orphaned when human looters raided the farm and killed her mother, causing the traumatized child to develop a fear of her own species. Hearing of a Cardassian farm nearby, she made her way to the lands abandoned by Penelya Khevet and met Rugal Pa'Dar, who was living there alone after deserting the Cardassian military. On their first encounter Hulya bit his hand, just as he had done to Elim Garak as a boy. They eventually developed an inseparable bond and Rugal took charge of her. A group of human locals objected to Hulya living with a Cardassian and a police officer attempted to remove her from Rugal's custody by force. She became hysterically upset and it was agreed that she was best left in Rugal's care.
In 2378, she accompanied Rugal off-world to Cardassia Prime where she befriended Molly O'Brien while Rugal sought advice from Miles O'Brien. Hulya and Rugal went to Earth next in the company of Professor Keiko O'Brien, where with her help and the help of Ambassador Garak, Rugal applied for and was granted Federation citizenship. Afterwards Hulya and Rugal traveled to Bajor to visit the graves of Rugal's adopted parents and then back to Cardassia Prime where Rugal began the process of formally adopting her. At this time Hulya was estimated to be thirteen years old. (DS9 novel: The Never-Ending Sacrifice)
Judging by her name, Hulya is probably of Turkish descent. This is further evidenced by the fact that they are said to have visited a city her family came from, which was described as having many names and sitting astride two continents (the city is likely Istanbul).