Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
|Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
|25th Prime Minister of Turkey|
14 March 2003
|President||Ahmet Necdet Sezer
|Preceded by||Abdullah Gül|
|Leader of the Justice and Development Party|
14 August 2001
|Preceded by||Office established|
|Member of Parliament
22 July 2007
|Constituency||1st electoral district|
|Member of Parliament
9 March 2003 – 22 July 2007
|Mayor of Istanbul|
27 March 1994 – 6 November 1998
|Preceded by||Nurettin Sözen|
|Succeeded by||Ali Müfit Gürtuna|
26 February 1954 |
|Political party||Justice and Development Party (2001–present)|
|National Salvation Party (Before 1981)
Welfare Party (1983–1998)
Virtue Party (1998–2001)
|Spouse(s)||Emine Gülbaran (1978–present)|
|Children||Ahmet Burak Erdoğan
|Alma mater||Marmara University|
|Website||Prime Ministry of Turkey
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan website
|This article is part of a series on
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
|Early life and career · Electoral history
First cabinet · Second cabinet · Third cabinet
Civil–military ties · Foreign policy · Foreign trips · 2023 vision · 2013 protests in Turkey
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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkish pronunciation: [ɾeˈd͡ʒep tajˈjip ˈæɾdo.an];[note 1] born 26 February 1954) is the 25th and current Prime Minister of Turkey, in office since 2003. He is also the chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which holds a majority of the seats in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Erdoğan served as Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. He graduated from an Imam Hatip school, an Islamic high school, before studying in Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Commercial Sciences, where he graduated in 1981. Erdoğan was also a semi-professional footballer from 1969 to 1982. Erdoğan was elected Mayor of Istanbul in the local elections of 27 March 1994. He was banned from office and sentenced to a ten-month prison term for reciting a poem during a public address in the province of Siirt in 1997. After less than four months in prison, Erdoğan established the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001. From its first year, the AKP became the largest publicly supported political movement in Turkey. In the general election of 2002, the AKP won 34% of the vote and nearly two-thirds of the seats in parliament, forming the first single-party government since 1987.
45 years after Turkey signed an Association Agreement with the EU, the negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU started during Erdoğan's tenure. Parallel to this, inflation, which had for decades adversely affected the country's economy, was brought under control and the Turkish Lira was re-valued. Interest rates were reduced and per capita income grew significantly.
His foreign policy vision is claimed to rest on Neo-Ottomanism, the policy according to which Turkey should maintain and increase its presence in the lands formerly ruled by the Ottoman Empire. Under his premiership, the country has consolidated its position as a regional power with global ambitions.
The AKP won the elections of 2007 making it the first time in 52 years that a party in power had increased its votes for a second term. In the 2011 general election, the AKP was re-elected for a third term and Erdoğan remained Prime Minister.
2013-2014 saw protests against what large sections of the Turkish public perceive as a growing authoritarianism of Erdoğan and his government and his policies, starting from a small sit-in in Istanbul in defense of a city park. After the police's intense reaction with burning down the tents of the demonstrators, the protests spread all over Turkey. After the demonstrations began, the police continued with tear gas and water cannons to control and clear the demonstrations. In March 2014, when Turkey blocked Twitter for the first time, Erdoğan pledged to "rip out the roots" of the social network, which has carried links to numerous recordings that appear to incriminate him and other officials in corruption.
- 1 Personal life and education
- 2 Early political career
- 3 Imprisonment in 1999
- 4 Prime Ministership
- 5 Foreign policy
- 6 Elections and referendum
- 7 Honors and accolades
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Personal life and education
Erdoğan was born in the Kasımpaşa neighborhood of Istanbul where he lived with his first cousin, Danny "Talat" Torosoglu, to a family that had moved there from Rize Province. Erdoğan said, I'm a Georgian, my family is a Georgian family which migrated from Batumi to Rize.
Erdoğan spent his early childhood in Rize, where his father was a member of the Turkish Coast Guard. The family returned to Istanbul when Erdoğan was 13 years old. As a teenager, he sold lemonade and sesame buns (simit) on the streets of Istanbul's rougher districts to earn extra money.
Brought up in an observant Muslim family, Erdoğan graduated from Kasımpaşa Piyale primary school in 1965 and from Istanbul Religious Vocational High School in 1973 (İmam Hatip school). He received his high school diploma from Eyüp High School. Erdoğan studied Business Administration at the Aksaray School of Economics and Commercial Sciences, now known as Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences.
In his youth, Erdoğan played semi-professional football at a local club. Fenerbahçe wanted Erdogan to transfer to club, however, his father prevented it. The stadium of the local football club of the district he grew up in, Kasımpaşa S.K. is named after him.
Erdoğan married Emine Gülbaran (born 1955, Siirt), whom he met during a conference, on 4 July 1978. They have two sons (Ahmet Burak, Necmeddin Bilal) and two daughters (Esra, Sümeyye). His father, Ahmet Erdoğan, died in 1988. Erdoğan's 88-year-old mother, Tenzile Erdoğan, died in 2011.
Early political career
While studying business administration at what is today Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences and playing semi-professional football, Erdoğan engaged in politics by joining the National Turkish Student Union, an anti-communist action group. In 1974 he wrote, directed and played the lead role in the play Maskomya, which presented Freemasonry, Communism and Judaism as evil. In 1976, he became the head of Beyoğlu youth branch of the Islamist National Salvation Party (MSP). That same year, he was promoted to the position of chair for the Istanbul youth branch of the party.
After the 1980 military coup, Erdoğan followed most of Necmettin Erbakan's followers into the Islamist Welfare Party. He became the party’s Beyoglu district chair in 1984, and in 1985 he became the chair of the Istanbul city branch. He was elected to parliament in 1991, but barred from taking his seat.
Mayor of Istanbul, 1994–1998
In the local elections of 27 March 1994 Erdoğan was elected Mayor of Istanbul, the social and economic capital of Turkey and one of the biggest metropolitan areas of the world. He won a plurality (25.19%) of the popular vote. Many feared that he would impose Islamic law; however, he was pragmatic in office, tackling such chronic problems in Istanbul as water shortage, pollution and traffic chaos. The water shortage problem was solved with the laying of hundreds of kilometers of new pipelines. The garbage problem was solved with the establishment of state-of-the-art recycling facilities. While Erdoğan was in office, air pollution was reduced through a plan developed to switch to natural gas. He changed the public buses with environmentally friendly buses. The city's traffic and transportation jams were ameliorated with more than fifty bridges, viaducts, and highways. While taking precautions to prevent corruption, he took measures to ensure that municipal funds were used prudently. He paid back a major portion of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality's two billion dollar debt when he took office and meanwhile invested four billion dollars in the city.
Erdoğan initiated the first roundtable of mayors during the Istanbul conference, which led to a global, organized movement of mayors. A seven member international jury from the United Nations unanimously found Erdoğan deserving the UN-HABITAT award.
Imprisonment in 1999
Before his conviction, the fundamentalist Welfare Party was declared unconstitutional and was shut down by the Turkish constitutional court on the grounds of threatening the laicistic order in Turkey. Erdoğan became a constant speaker at the demonstrations held by his party colleagues.
He was given a ten-month prison sentence (of which he served four months; from 24 March 1999 to 27 July 1999) for reciting a poem in Siirt in December 1997, which, under article 312/2 of the Turkish penal code was regarded as an incitement to commit an offense and incitement to religious or racial hatred. It included verses translated as "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers...." The aforementioned verses, however, are not in the original version of the poem. The poem was from a work written by Ziya Gökalp, a pan-Turkish activist of the early 20th century. Erdoğan claimed the poem had been approved by the education ministry to be published in textbooks. With the conviction, Erdoğan was forced to give up his mayoral position. The conviction also stipulated a political ban, which prevented him from participating in parliamentary elections. He completed his sentence on 24 July 1999.
In 2001, Erdoğan established the Justice and Development Party. The AK Party won a landslide victory in the 2002 election, taking nearly two-thirds of the seats. However, Erdoğan could not become prime minister right away, as he was still banned from politics by the judiciary for his speech in Siirt; Gül thus became the prime minister instead. In December 2002 the Supreme Election Board canceled the general election results from Siirt due to voting irregularities and scheduled a new election for 9 February 2003. By this time, party leader Erdoğan was able to run for Parliament thanks to a legal change made possible by the opposition Republican People’s Party. The AK Party duly listed Erdoğan as a candidate for the rescheduled Siirt election, and he won, becoming prime minister after Gül subsequently handed over the post.
In 2009, the Turkish government under Prime Minister Erdoğan announced a plan to help end the quarter-century-long Turkey – Kurdistan Workers' Party conflict that has cost more than 40,000 lives. The government's plan, supported by the European Union, allowed the Kurdish language to be used in all broadcast media and political campaigns, and restore Kurdish names to cities and towns that have been given Turkish ones. "We took a courageous step to resolve chronic issues that constitute an obstacle along Turkey's development, progression and empowerment", Erdoğan said regarding the matter. Erdoğan passed a partial amnesty to reduce penalties faced by many members of the Kurdish guerrilla movement PKK who had surrendered to the government. On 23 November 2011, he apologised on behalf of the state for the Dersim Massacre, where Alevis and Zazas was killed, during a televised meeting of his party in Ankara.
Prime Minister Erdogan expressed multiple times that Turkey will acknowledge the mass killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians during World War I as genocide, only after a thorough investigation by a joint Turkish-Armenian commission consisting of historians, archaeologists, political scientists and other experts.[better source needed] In 2005, Prime Minister Erdogan and the main opposition party leader Deniz Baykal wrote a letter to Armenian President Robert Kocharian, proposing the creation of a joint Turkish-Armenian commission. Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian rejected the offer.
In December 2008 Erdoğan criticised the I Apologize campaign by Turkish intellectuals to recognize the Armenian Genocide, saying that "I neither accept nor support this campaign. We did not commit a crime, therefore we do not need to apologize... It will not have any benefit other than stirring up trouble, disturbing our peace and undoing the steps which have been taken." In November 2009 he stated that "it's not possible for a Muslim to commit genocide."
In 2011 Erdoğan ordered the tearing-down the Statue of Humanity, a Turkish-Armenian friendship monument in Kars, which was commissioned in 2006 and represented a metaphor of the rapprochement of countries after many years of dispute over the events of 1915. Erdoğan justified the removal by stating that the monument was offensively close to the tomb of an 11th-century Islamic scholar, and that its shadow ruined the view of that site, while Kars municipality officials claimed it was illegally erected in a protected area. However, the former mayor of Kars who approved the original construction of the monument said the municipality was not destroying a "monument to humanity" but "humanity itself". The demolition did not happen unopposed; among its detractors were several Turkish artists. Two of them, the painter Bedri Baykam and his associate, Pyramid Art Gallery general coordinator Tugba Kurtulmus, were stabbed after a meeting with other artists at the Istanbul Akatlar cultural center.
There have been several attempts to replace the Turkish Constitution of 1982 with a more "civil constitution", which failed due to the resistance of the main opposition parties CHP and MHP. After they lost the referendum in 2010, the CHP agreed to the creation of the Constitutional Commission which will, with the participation of all political parties in the Turkish parliament, develop a new draft for the Turkish constitution. The commission's effort is still a work in progress and was expected to be ready in 2013.
During his time as Prime Minister the far-reaching powers of the 1991 Anti-Terror Law were reduced and the Democratic initiative process, with the goal to improve democratic standards in general and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities in particular, was initiated.
After Turkey's bid to join the European Union stalled, European officials noted a return to more authoritarian ways, notably on freedom of speech, press freedom and Kurdish minority rights.
Reporters Without Borders observed a continuous decrease in Freedom of the Press during his later terms, with a rank of around 100 on the Press Freedom Index during his first term and rank 154 of a total of 179 countries in 2013. Freedom House sees a slight recovery in the recent years and awarded Turkey a Press Freedom Score of 55/100 in 2012 after a low point of 48/100 in 2006.
Under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the Turkish government tightened the laws on consumption and sale of alcohol, like banning all advertising for and increasing the tax on alcoholic beverages. A law that raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 24 years was in place from 2011 until it was abolished in 2013.
In 2002, Erdoğan inherited a Turkish economy deep in recession due to the financial crisis during the MHP-ANAP-DSP-coalition government under the leadership of Bülent Ecevit. Erdoğan supported Finance Minister Ali Babacan in enforcing macro-economic policies. Erdoğan tried to attract more foreign investors to Turkey and lifted most of government regulations. The hot cash flow into Turkish economy between 2002–2012 caused a 64% growth in real GDP and a 43% increase in GDP per capita, which are considerably lower than the commonly advertised numbers due to the fact that the inflation of US dollar between 2002-2012 was not taken into account. Therefore, the average annual growth in GDP per capita was actually 3.6%, which is expected for a developing economy that was just getting out of a financial crisis. The growth in real GDP between 2002-2012 was higher than the values from the developed countries, but it was close to the average when the developing countries are taken into account. The ranking of the Turkish economy in terms of GDP changed from 17 only to 16 during this decade. A major side effect of the policies between 2002-2012 was widening the current account deficit from 600 million USD to 48 billion USD.
Since 1961, Turkey has signed 19 IMF loan accords. Erdoğan's government satisfied the budgetary and market requirements of the two on his watch and received every loan installment, the only time any government has ever done so. Erdoğan inherited a debt of $23.5 billion to the IMF, which has been reduced to $0.9 billion in 2012. He decided not to sign a new deal. Turkey's debt to the IMF has been declared to be completely paid and he announced that IMF can borrow from Turkey.
In 2010, Five-year credit default swaps for Turkey's sovereign debt were trading at a record low of 1.17%, below those of nine EU member countries and Russia. The unemployment rate decreased from 10.3% to 9.7% in 2007. Along with the global economic crisis of 2008, Turkey's unemployment rate jumped to a record high of 16.1% in the January–March period of 2009. In the April–June period of 2010, the unemployment decreased again to 11.0%, compared to 10.0% in the eurozone. The unemployment rate in Turkey fell to 8.2 percent in May 2012, the lowest level last 10 years.
In 2002, the Turkish Central Bank had $26.5 billion in reserves. This amount reached $92.2 billion in 2011. In the same period, inflation fell from 34.9% to 5.7%, the lowest in 39 years. The public debt as percentage of annual gross domestic product declined from 74% in 2002 to 39% in 2009. In 2012, Turkey has a lower ratio of public debt to gross domestic product than 21 of 27 members of the European Union and a lower budget deficit to GDP ratio than 23 of them.
Early in his prime ministership, Erdoğan increased the budget of the Ministry of Education from 7.5 billion lira in 2002 to 34 billion lira in 2011, making it the ministry with highest share of the national budget. Before his prime ministership, the military received the highest share of the national budget. Compulsory education is increased from 8 years to 12. In 2003, the Turkish government started together with UNICEF the campaign "Come on girls, let's go to school!" (Turkish: Haydi Kızlar Okula!). The goal of this campaign is to close the gender-gap in primary school enrollment through the provision of a quality basic education for all girls, especially in southeast Turkey.
The parliament granted amnesty to students expelled from universities before 2003. The amnesty applied to students dismissed on academic or disciplinary grounds. In 2004, textbooks became free of charge and since 2008 every province in Turkey has its own university. During Erdoğan's prime ministership, the number of universities in Turkey nearly doubled, from 98 in 2002 to 186 as of October 2012.
The Prime Minister redeemed his campaign promises by starting the f@tih project in which all state schools spanning from preschools all the way to high school level will receive a total of 620,000 smart boards, while tablet computers will be distributed to 17 million students and approximately one million teachers and administrators.
Under Erdogan's government, the number of airports increased from 26 to 50. Between the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 and 2002, there was 6000 km of dual carriageway made. During 2002 and 2011, there was 13500 km of expressway made, increasing the total amount to 19500 km. Due to these measures, the number of car accidents fell by 50 percent. For the first time in Turkish history, high speed railway lines were constructed, and the country's high-speed train service began in 2009. In 8 years, 1076 km of railway was built and 5449 km of railway was renewed. The construction of Marmaray, an undersea rail tunnel under the Bosphorus strait, started in 2004. When completed, it will be the world's deepest undersea immersed tube tunnel. The construction of the 1,9 km long Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge began in 2013. The choice of name of the bridge led to protests by Alevis in Turkey because of Sultan Selim I's role, nicknamed "the Grim" due to his cruelty, in the Ottoman persecution of Alevis.
On March 2006, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) for the first time in Turkey's history held a press conference and publicly protest the obstruction of the appointment of judges to the high courts for over 10 months. It claimed Erdoğan wanted to fill the vacant posts with his own appointees which Erdoğan was accused of creating a rift with the Turkey's highest court of appeals (the Yargıtay) and high administrative court (the Danıştay). Erdoğan claimed that the constitution gave power of assigning members to his elected party.
In May 2007, the head of Turkey's High Court asked prosecutors to consider whether Erdoğan should be charged over critical comments regarding the election of Abdullah Gül as president. Erdoğan said the ruling was "a disgrace to the justice system", and criticized the Constitutional Court which had invalidated a presidential vote because a boycott of other parties meant there was no quorum. Prosecutors have already investigated his earlier comments, including saying it had fired a "bullet at democracy". Tülay Tuğcu, head of the Constitutional Court, condemned Erdoğan for "threats, insults and hostility" towards the justice system. The Turkish parliament agreed to reduce the age of candidacy to the parliament from 30 to 25 and abolished the death penalty in all instances, including war time.
Erdoğan supports the continuation of Turkey's high population growth rate and, in 2008, commented that to ensure that the Turkish population remains young every family would need to have at least three children. He has repeated this statement on numerous occasions. As of 2010, Turkey's population is estimated at 73,700,000, with a growth rate of 1.21% per annum (2009 figure).
On 26 May 2012, in a question of a reporter after the UN conference on population and development in Turkey, Erdoğan said "You either kill a baby in the mother's womb or you kill it after birth. In many cases [not all], there's no difference."
Erdoğan has stated that he opposes Turkey's high and growing rate of caesarean section births because he believes that they reduce the fertility of Turkish women, and he is in favor of limiting the number of such births at Turkish hospitals.
On April 2006, Erdoğan unveiled a social security reform package demanded by the International Monetary Fund under a loan deal. He claimed that the move, which was passed with fierce opposition, was one of the most radical reforms. Turkey’s three social security bodies were united under one roof, bringing equal health services and retirement benefits for members of all three bodies. Under the second bill, everyone under the age of 18 years old will be entitled to free health services, irrespective of whether they pay premiums to any social security organization or not. The bill also envisages a gradual increase in the retirement age. Starting from 2036, the retirement age will increase to 65 by 2048 for both women and men. The government unified three systems of hospitals and insurance for different professions that were criticized for offering unequal benefits and reserving the best hospitals for civil servants while others waited in long queues. Erdoğan claimed that the abortion is murder, saying "you either kill a baby in the mother's womb or you kill it after birth. There's no difference."
On January 2008, the Turkish Parliament adopted a law on a complete prohibition of smoking in most public places. Erdoğan is outspokenly anti-smoking.
2013-2014 saw protests against the perceived authoritarianism of Erdoğan and his policies, starting from a small sit-in in Istanbul in defense of a city park. After the police's intense reaction with tear gas, the protests grew each day that came after. Faced by the largest mass protest in a decade, Erdoğan made this controversial remark in a televised speech: "The police were there yesterday, they are there today, and they will be there tomorrow." After weeks of clashes in the streets of Istanbul, his government first apologized to the protestors and called for a plebiscite, but then brutally cracked down on the peaceful protesters.
2013 corruption arrests
In December 2013, Turkish police detained more than 50 people and arrested 16 people—including the general manager of Halkbank and the sons of three government ministers—under charges of corruption. Although Erdoğan blamed foreign ambassadors, and pro-Erdoğan newspapers accused the United States or Israel of a plot, outside analysts attribute the arrests to a power struggle between the prime minister and Fethullah Gülen. Gülen, who lives in the U.S., leads a religious movement that had supported the AKP's rise to power. In late 2013, Erdoğan's government proposed shutting down Turkish private schools, many of which are funded by Gülen. Gülen's supporters are believed to have wide influence in the police and judiciary in Turkey.
In late December, Hurriyet and Yeni Safak papers published comments by Erdoğan stating he believes he is the ultimate target of a corruption and bribery probe of his allies. The Turkish prime minister told journalists that anyone attempting to enmesh him in the scandal would be "left empty handed." Erdoğan reshuffled his Cabinet on Dec. 25, replacing 10 ministers hours after three ministers, whose sons were detained in relation to the probe, resigned.
A file containing five audio recordings of conversations between Erdoğan and his son from a 26-hour period beginning December 17, 2013, in which he appeared to be instructing his son to conceal very large amounts of money, was posted to YouTube and widely discussed on social media. On February 26, 2014 Erdoğan acknowledged that his telephone had been tapped, but denied that the conversation was real, instead calling it an "immoral montage" that had been "dubbed" by combining other conversations. An analysis by Joshua Marpet of the United States, published by McClatchy, concluded that the recordings were "probably real", and if not the fabrication was done with a sophistication he had not previously seen.
The night of February 26, Turkey's Parliament, dominated by Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party, passed a bill that allowed the government the power to block Internet sites, subject to court review within three days, and granting it access to Internet traffic data. Another bill previously approved by a parliamentary committee would grant the MİT intelligence service access to data held by the government, as well as private institutions and courts. The following day President Abdullah Gul approved placing an investigative agency that appoints judges and prosecutors under the control of Erdoğan's justice minister.
On March 20, Erdoğan made a speech promising to "rip out the roots" of the Twitter service. Hours later the telecommunications regulator BTK blocked DNS service to the site, citing four court orders the Turkish government had made requiring them to remove content to preserve privacy that had not been heeded. Sources covering the story attributed this to the use of Twitter to share links to the Erdoğan recordings on YouTube. Mr. Erdoğan also threatened to ban Facebook. However, the block of Twitter proved ineffective, with traffic reaching up a record 138%, and #TwitterisblockedinTurkey becoming the top trending term worldwide. To circumvent the block, Google suggested Turks use their free DNS servers at 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168, numbers which were soon graffitied in dozens of locations around Istanbul. President Abdullah Gül criticized the Twitter ban, defying it himself.
Erdoğan is a co-founder of the so-called "Alliance of Civilizations" (AOC). The AOC initiative was proposed by the Prime Minister of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 2005. The initiative seeks to galvanize international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.
Erdoğan was named "The European of the Year 2004" by the newspaper European Voice for the reforms in his country. He said in a comment that "Turkey's accession shows that Europe is a continent where civilisations reconcile and not clash." On 3 October 2005, the negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU formally started during Erdoğan's tenure as Prime Minister.
Erdoğan's government is not unconditionally pro-European. The European Commission generally supports Erdoğan's reforms, but remains critical of his policies. Negotiations about a possible EU membership came to a standstill in 2009 and 2010, when Turkish ports were closed to Cypriot ships. The Turkish government continues its refusal to recognize EU member state Cyprus. Furthermore, fundamental rights remain an issue in Turkey. A law establishing the Turkish National Human Rights Institution was adopted by the Turkish parliament, but the law does not comply fully with the UN Paris principles on human rights institutions. In a report that the European Commission presented in 2012 about a possible Turkish accession to the European Union, the Commission specifically mentioned the lack of freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of assembly, access to independent and impartial justice, children’s rights, and trade union rights as areas where the Turkish government needs to implement reforms. Freedom of the media continued to be further restricted in practice, according to the report. No progress was made on anti-discrimination policies, such as discrimination against homosexuals. The position of socially vulnerable persons and/or persons with disabilities, torture in prisons and the issue of violence to women in relationships outside marriage, as well as early and forced marriages, also remain concerns, according to the report.
Greece and Cyprus dispute
During Erdoğan's Prime Ministership, relations with Greece have been normalized. Political and economic relations are much improved. In 2007, Erdoğan and Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis met on the bridge over the Evros River at the border between Greece and Turkey, for the inauguration of the Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline, linking the longtime Aegean rivals through a project that will give Caspian gas its first direct Western outlet and help ease Russia's energy dominance. Turkey and Greece signed an agreement to create a Combined Joint Operational Unit within the framework of NATO to participate in Peace Support Operations. Erdoğan and his party strongly supported the EU backed referendum of Cyprus, 2004 to reunify the island. Negotiations about a possible EU membership came to a standstill in 2009 and 2010, when Turkish ports were closed to Cypriot ships. The Turkish government continues its refusal to recognize EU member state Cyprus.
Armenia is Turkey's only neighbor which Erdoğan has not yet visited during his prime ministry. Turkish-Armenian relations are difficult due to the denial of the Armenian Genocide by Erdoğan and had been frozen since 1993 because of the Nagorno-Karabakh War with Turkey's close ally Azerbaijan.
Diplomatic efforts resulted in the signing of protocols between Turkish and Armenian Foreign Ministers in Switzerland to improve relations between the two countries. One of the points of the agreement was the creation of a joint commission on the issue. The Armenian Constitutional Court decided that the commission contradicts the Armenian constitution. Turkey said that Armenian court’s ruling on the protocols is not acceptable. The parliament of Armenia and Turkey decided for the suspension of the rectification process.
Erdoğan has said that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan should apologize for calling on school children to re-occupy eastern Turkey. When asked by a student at a literature contest ceremony if Armenians will be able to get back their “western territories” along with Mt. Ararat, Sarksyan said, "This is the task of your generation.” Armenians attach great historical and cultural importance to Mt. Ararat on the eastern border of modern-day Turkey, around where Armenians are believed to have first adopted Christianity as an official religion in 301 A.D.
In December 2004, President Putin visited Turkey. This was the first Presidential visit in the history of Turkish-Russian relations besides that of the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Nikolai Podgorny in 1972. In November 2005, Putin attended the inauguration of a jointly constructed Blue Stream natural gas pipeline in Turkey. This sequence of top-level visits has brought several important bilateral issues to the forefront. The two countries consider it their strategic goal to achieve "multidimensional co-operation", especially in the fields of energy, transport and the military. Specifically, Russia aims to invest in Turkey’s fuel and energy industries, and it also expects to participate in tenders for the modernisation of Turkey’s military.
President Medvedev described Turkey as “one of our most important partners with respect to regional and international issues... We can confidently say that Russian-Turkish relations have advanced to the level of a multidimensional strategic partnership.”
On 12 May 2010, Ankara and Moscow signed 17 agreements to enhance cooperation in energy and other fields, including pacts to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant and furthering plans for an oil pipeline from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The leaders of both countries have also signed an agreement on visa-free travel. Tourists will be able to get into the country for free and stay there for up to 30 days.
At a joint news conference in Turkey, Obama said: "I'm trying to make a statement about the importance of Turkey, not just to the United States but to the world. I think that where there's the most promise of building stronger U.S.-Turkish relations is in the recognition that Turkey and the United States can build a model partnership in which a predominantly Christian nation, a predominantly Muslim nation – a Western nation and a nation that straddles two continents," he continued, "that we can create a modern international community that is respectful, that is secure, that is prosperous, that there are not tensions – inevitable tensions between cultures – which I think is extraordinarily important."
Under Erdoğan, Iraq and Turkey signed 48 trade agreements by the Iraqi-Turkish Strategic Council in Baghdad. Agreements signed included sectors of security, energy, oil, electricity, water, health, trade, environment, transport, housing, construction, agriculture, education, higher education, and defense. The Turkish government mended relations with Iraqi Kurdistan by opening a Turkish university in Arbil, and a Turkish consulate in Mosul. Abdullah Gül became the first Turkish head of state to visit Iraq in 33 years, on 23 March 2009.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has fostered very strong economic and political relations with Irbil, and Turkey is beginning to consider the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq as an ally against Maliki’s government.
Erdoğan paid a state visit to Israel in 2005, bringing along a delegation of businessmen to further economic ties. The President of Israel Shimon Peres addressed the Turkish parliament during a visit in 2007, the first time an Israeli leader had addressed the legislature of a predominantly Muslim nation.
At the 2009 World Economic Forum conference, the debate became heated in relation to the Gaza conflict. Israeli President Shimon Peres responded to Erdoğan's claims, stating that Turkey would have done the same if rockets had been hitting Istanbul. Erdoğan was interrupted by the moderator while he was responding to Peres. Erdoğan stated: "Mister Peres, you are older than I am. Maybe you are feeling guilty and that is why you are raising your voice. When it comes to killing you know it too well. I remember how you killed the children on beaches..." Upon the moderator's reminder that they needed to adjourn for dinner, Erdoğan left the panel, accusing the moderator of giving Peres more time than all the other panelists combined.
Following the Gaza flotilla raid in May 2010, tension between the two countries dramatically mounted. Erdoğan strongly condemned the raid, describing it as "state terrorism", calling for Israeli leaders responsible to apologize. Erdoğan has described Israel as "the main threat to regional peace", and has called for Israel's nuclear facilities to come under IAEA inspection. Erdoğan accused Israel of turning Gaza into an "open-air prison". UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon subsequently described Erdoğan's remarks as "hurtful and divisive."
In 2012, after a round of rocket fire from Gaza aimed at Israel, followed by Israeli retaliatory strikes, Erdoğan demanded that Israel must stop 'massacre' of Palestinians in Gaza, saying that it was a part of an Israeli campaign of "genocide" against the Palestinian people.
In February 2013, Erdoğan called Zionism a "crime against humanity", comparing it to Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and fascism. He later walked back the statement, saying he had been misinterpreted. He said "everyone should know" that my comments were directed at "Israeli policies," especially as regards to "Gaza and the settlements." Erdogan also said "in several statements "I openly condemned anti-Semitism", and it clearly displays my position on this issue" Erdoğan's branding of Zionism as a crime against humanity was condemned by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, criticized by the US Secretary of State John Kerry and called unacceptable by the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton.
In August 2013, the Hürriyet reported that Erdoğan had stated to a meeting of the AKP's provincial chairs that Israel was responsible for the recent military coup in Egypt which overthrew Mohammad Morsi. Erdoğan reportedly stated "Who is behind this? Israel. We have evidence" - specifically, Erdoğan cited a video posted online of Tzipi Livni speaking with French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy. Erdoğan claimed that Levy had stated: "The Muslim Brotherhood will not be in power even if they win the elections, because democracy is not the ballot box." However, according again to the Hürriyet, what Levy said was: "If the Muslim Brotherhood arrives in Egypt, I will not say democracy wants it, so let democracy progress. Democracy is not only elections, it is also values...I will urge the prevention of [the Muslim Brotherhood] coming to power, but by all sorts of means.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman later stated that Erdoğan’s accusation was “a statement well worth not commenting on." Egypt's interim government rejected Erdoğan' claim, describing it as "baseless,” and charged that "Its purpose is to strike at the unity of Egyptians."
During Erdoğan's term of office, diplomatic relations between Turkey and Syria significantly deteriorated. At first there were hopeful signs. In 2004, President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Turkey for the first official visit by a Syrian President in 57 years. In late 2004, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan signed a free trade agreement with Syria. The visa restrictions between the two countries were lifted in 2009, which caused an economic boom in the regions near the Syrian border. Before the Syrian civil war Erdoğan and al-Assad were described by The Economist as "the best of friends". However in 2011 the relationship between the two countries was strained following the outbreak of conflict in Syria. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he was trying to "cultivate a favorable relationship with whatever government would take the place of Assad." However, he began to directly support the armed opposition in Syria, creating a serious Syrian refugee problem in Turkey, conflict over armed fighter bases in Turkey and an unpopular conflict with Syria. Erdoğan's policy of providing military training for anti-Damascus fighters has also created conflict with Syria's ally, Iran.
Diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia were established in 1929. In recent years importance has been given to regional issues and to the improvement of bilateral relations to strengthen political, economic and military ties.
In August 2006, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz as-Saud made a visit to Turkey. This was the first visit by a Saudi monarch to Turkey in the last four decades. The monarch made a second visit, on 9 November 2007. Turk-Saudi trade volume has exceeded US$ 3.2 billion in 2006, almost double the figure achieved in 2003. In 2009, this amount reached US$ 5.5 billion and the goal for the year 2010 was US$ 10 billion. Trade is expected to increase even more, as the strategic locations of both countries translate into economies which are in a position to supplement each other.
Erdoğan had made his first official visit to Egypt on 12 September 2011, accompanied by six ministers and 200 businessmen. This visit was considered a diplomatic success. It was made very soon after Turkey had ejected Israeli ambassadors, cut all diplomatic and bilateral military agreements. because Israel has refused to apologize for the Gaza flotilla attack which killed eight Turkish and one Turco-American aboard a convoy headed to Gaza. This was the first visit by a Prime Minister of Turkey in 15 years and the first after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
Erdoğan's visit to Egypt was met with much enthusiasm by Egyptians. Even though it was midnight, Cairo traffic was reported to be jammed as thousands rushed to welcome the Turkish Prime Minister with Turkish flags. CNN reported some Egyptians saying "We consider him as the Islamic leader in the Middle East", while others were appreciative of his role in supporting Gaza. Erdoğan was later honored in Tahrir Square by members of the Egyptian Revolution Youth Union, and members of the Turkish embassy were presented with a coat of arms in acknowledgment of the Prime Minister’s support of the Egyptian Revolution. His visit also brought criticism from Middle Eastern Christians when he drew comparisons in a speech between the fall of Mubarak and the Fall of Constantinople, describing the Byzantine Empire as a "dark civilization".
When asked in an interview with Mona Al Shazly on Dream TV, Erdoğan stated that he recommends secularism for Egypt, which generated rage among Islamic movements, especially the Freedom and Justice party – the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
A week after he left, Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu proclaimed his vision of a strategic alliance between Egypt and Turkey which he described as an “Axis of Democracy”. However, some voiced concerns that the Egyptian revolution was not fulfilled and that Erdoğan was seeking his own country's strategic interests. It was feared that by forming an alliance with the military junta in Egypt during the country’s transition to democracy, Erdoğan may have tipped the balance in favor of those that stand between the Egyptians and their freedom.
Erdoğan's administration maintains strong ties with the Somali government. In 2011, the Turkish authorities announced that Turkey would reopen its embassy in Somalia. The Somalian federal government also maintains an embassy in Ankara.
During the drought of 2011, Erdoğan's administration contributed over $201 million to humanitarian relief efforts in the impacted parts of Somalia. Following a greatly improved security situation in Mogadishu in mid-2011, the Turkish government also re-opened its foreign embassy with the intention of more effectively assisting in the post-conflict development process. It was among the first foreign administrations to resume formal diplomatic relations with Somalia after the civil war.
Additionally, Turkish Airlines became the first long-distance international commercial airline in two decades to land at Mogadishu's Aden Adde International Airport. As of March 2012, the flag carrier offers two flights a week from the Somali capital to Istanbul.
In partnership with the Somali government, Turkish officials have also launched various development and infrastructure projects in Somalia. They have assisted in the building of several hospitals, and helped renovate and rehabilitate the Aden Adde International Airport and the National Assembly building, among other initiatives.
Elections and referendum
In terms of his successes in elections and referenda, Erdoğan is one of the most successful politicians in the Republican era of Turkish history. Since 1994, he took part in 3 general elections, 3 local elections, 1 by-election and 2 referenda; and has not lost any of them.
The elections of 2002 were the first elections in which Erdoğan participated as a leader of a party. All parties previously elected to parliament failed to win enough votes to re-enter the parliament. The AK Party won 34.3% of the national vote and formed the new government. Turkish stocks rose more than 7% on Monday morning. Politicians of the previous generation, such as Ecevit, Bahceli, Yılmaz and Çiller, resigned. The second largest party, the CHP, received 19.4% of the votes.
The stage of the elections of 2007 was set for a fight for legitimacy in the eyes of voters between his government and the CHP. Erdoğan used the event that took place during the ill-fated Presidential elections a few months earlier as a part of the general election campaign of his party. On 22 July 2007, the AK Party had won an important victory over the opposition, garnering 46.7% of the popular vote. The 22 July elections marked only the second time in the Turkish Republic's history whereby an incumbent governing party won an election by increasing its share of popular support.
On 14 March 2008, Turkey's Chief Prosecutor asked the country's Constitutional Court to ban Erdoğan's governing party. The party escaped a ban on 30 July 2008, a year after winning 46.7% of the vote in national elections, losing 50% of its public funding.
In the 12 June 2011 elections, Erdoğan's governing party won 327 seats (49.83% of the popular vote) making Erdoğan the only prime minister in Turkey's history to win three consecutive general elections, each time receiving more votes than the previous election. The second party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), received 135 seats (25.94%), the nationalist MHP received 53 seats (13.01%), and the Independents received 35 seats (6.58%).
On 14 April 2007, an estimated 300,000 people marched in Ankara to protest against the possible candidacy of Erdoğan in the 2007 presidential election, afraid that if elected as President, he would alter the secular nature of the Turkish state. Erdoğan announced on 24 April 2007 that the party had nominated Abdullah Gül as the AK Party candidate in the presidential election. The protests continued over the next several weeks, with over one million people reported to have turned out at a 29 April rally in Istanbul, tens of thousands reported at separate protests on 4 May in Manisa and Çanakkale, and one million in İzmir on 13 May.
Early parliamentary elections were called after the failure of the parties in parliament to agree on the next Turkish president. The opposition parties boycotted the parliamentary vote and deadlocked the election process. At the same time, Erdoğan claimed the failure to elect a president was a failure of the Turkish political system and proposed to modify the constitution. Gül was later elected President after the general elections on 22 July 2007 that saw AK Party and Erdoğan brought back to power with 46.7% of the vote. Later in 2007, a Turkish constitutional referendum was approved with the support of 69% of voters to modify the constitution to allow the people to elect the President.
In 1994 Erdoğan was elected Mayor of Istanbul, one of the biggest metropolitan areas of the world. He received 25.19% of the popular vote. After the AK Party won the 2002 general elections under the leadership of Erdoğan, it has received more votes in the 2004 local elections. The AK party was the biggest party in 12 out of 16 metropolitan municipality.
The Turkish local elections of 2009 took place during the financial crisis of 2007–2010. In these elections the AK Party received 39% of the vote, 3% less than in the local elections of 2004. The second party CHP received 23% of the vote and the third party MHP received 16% of the vote. The AK Party won in Turkey's two largest cities: Ankara and Istanbul.
After the opposition parties deadlocked the 2007 presidential election by boycotting the parliament, the ruling AK party proposed a constitutional reform package. The reform package was first vetoed by president Sezer. Then he applied to the Turkish constitutional court about the reform package, because the president is unable to veto amendments for the second time. The Turkish constituonal court did not find any problems in the packet and 68.95% of the voters supported the constitutional changes. The reforms consisted of:
- Electing the president by popular vote instead of by parliament;
- Reducing the presidential term from seven years to five;
- Allowing the president to stand for re-election for a second term;
- Holding general elections every four years instead of five;
- Reducing the quorum of lawmakers needed for parliamentary decisions from 367 to 184.
Reforming the Constitution was one of the main pledges of the AK Party during the 2007 election campaign. The main opposition party CHP was not interested in altering the Constitution on a big scale, making it impossible to form a Constitutional Commission (Anayasa Uzlaşma Komisyonu). The amendments lacked the two-thirds majority needed to instantly become law, but secured 336 votes in the 550 seat parliament – enough to put the proposals to a referendum. The reform package included a number of issues such as the right of individuals to appeal to the highest court, the creation of the ombudsman’s office, the possibility to negotiate a nation-wide labour contract, gender equality, the ability of civilian courts to convict members of the military, the right of civil servants to go on strike, a privacy law, and the structure of the Constitutional Court. The referendum was agreed by a majority of 58%.
Honors and accolades
- 29 January 2004: Profiles of Courage Award from the American Jewish Committee, for promoting peace between cultures.
- 18 April 2004: listed in Time magazine's "100 most influential people in the world" and was called a builder of bridges by the magazine.
- 13 June 2004: Golden Plate award from the Academy of Achievement during the conference in Chicago.
- 3 October 2004: German Quadriga prize for improving relationships between different cultures.
- 1 December 2004: named European of the Year by the weekly European Voice, for having put Turkey on the path to reform.
- 2 September 2005: Mediterranean Award for Institutions (Italian: Premio Mediterraneo Istituzioni). This was awarded by the Fondazione Mediterraneo.
- 1 June 2006: Russian state medal from the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
- 8 August 2006: Caspian Energy Integration Award from the Caspian Integration Business Club.
- 1 November 2006: Outstanding Service award from the Turkish humanitarian organization Red Crescent.
- 2 February 2007: Dialogue Between Cultures Award from the President of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev.
- 12 March 2007: together with Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, the 2007 RUMI Peace and Dialogue award.
- 15 April 2007: Crystal Hermes Award from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the opening of the Hannover Industrial Fair.
- 14 June 2007: Turkish Leader of the Year Award from the mediagroup Imedya.
- 11 July 2007: highest award of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the Agricola Medal, in recognition of his contribution to agricultural and social development in Turkey.
- 15 January 2008: together with Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, the Building Bridges Award from the AMSS(UK), for their efforts to unify communities separated by race, culture and religion, for promoting a climate of respect, and peaceful co-existence through launching the Alliance of Civilizations project.
- 11 May 2009: Avicenna award from the Avicenna Foundation in Frankfurt, Germany.
- 9 June 2009: guest of honor at the 20th Crans Montana Forum in Brussels and received the Prix de la Fondation, for democracy and freedom.
- 25 June 2009: Key to the City of Tirana on the occasion of his state visit to Albania.
- 26 October 2009: Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civilian award in Pakistan.
- 29 December 2009: Award for Contribution to World Peace from the Turgut Özal Thought and Move Association.
- 12 January 2010: King Faisal International Prize for "service to Islam" from the King Faisal Foundation.
- 23 February 2010: Nodo Culture Award from the mayor of Seville for his efforts to launch the Alliance of Civilizations initiative.
- 1 March 2010: United Nations–HABITAT award in memorial of Rafik Hariri. A seven member international jury unanimously found Erdoğan deserving the award because of his "excellent achievement and commendable conduct in the area of leadership, statesmanship and good governance. Erdoğan also initiated the first roundtable of mayors during the Istanbul conference, which led to a global, organized movement of mayors."
- 29 April 2010: listed for the second time in Time magazine's "100 most influential people in the world".
- 17 May 2010: Georgia's Order of Golden Fleece for his contribution to development of bilateral relations.
- 27 May 2010: medal of honor from the Brazilian Federation of Industry for the State of São Paulo (FIESP) for his contributions to industry
- 31 May 2010: World Health Organization 2010 World No Tobacco Award for "his dedicated leadership on tobacco control in Turkey."
- 29 June 2010: 2010 World Family Award from the World Family Organization which operates under the umbrella of the United Nations.
- 4 November 2010: Golden Medal of Independence, an award conferred upon Kosovo citizens and foreigners that have contributed to the independence of Kosovo.
- 25 November 2010: "Leader of the Year" award presented by the Union of Arab Banks in Lebanon.
- 29 November 2010: guest of honor at the 3rd EU-Africa Summit in Libya and Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.
- 11 January 2011: "Outstanding Personality in the Islamic World Award" of the Sheikh Fahad al-Ahmad International Award for Charity in Kuwait.
- 2 February 2011: Kyrgyzstan's Danaker Order in Bishkek.
- 25 October 2011: Palestinian International Award for Excellence and Creativity (PIA) 2011 for his support to the Palestinian people and cause.
- 21 January 2012: ’Gold Statue 2012 Special Award’ by the Polish Business Center Club (BCC). Erdoğan was awarded for his systematic effort to clear barriers on the way to economic growth, striving to build democracy and free market relations.
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- Fatih University, 15 October 2008.
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- University of Aleppo, 22 August 2009. (Revoked on 15 July 2013)
- Islamic University of Gaza, 16 April 2010.
- European University of Madrid, 18 May 2010.
- Black Sea Technical University, 12 June 2010.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan|
- Official Website of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey (Turkish)
- Official Website of the Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan (English)
- Erdoğan's personal website (Turkish)
- Profile[dead link] at Justice and Development Party
- Column archive at Newsweek
- Column archive at Project Syndicate
- Media coverage
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Works by or about Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan official news website
- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan collected news and commentary at Al Jazeera English
- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan collected news and commentary at The Wall Street Journal
- Profile: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, BBC News, 18 July 2007
- Profile at the Notable Names Database
|Mayor of Istanbul
27 March 1994 – 6 November 1998
Ali Müfit Gürtuna
|Prime Minister of Turkey
14 March 2003 – present
|Party political offices|
|New political party||Leader of the Justice and Development Party
14 August 2001 – present
|Order of precedence|
as Speaker of Parliament
|Order of Precedence of Turkey
as Prime Minister
as Chief of the General Staff