Turgut Özal

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Reis-i Cumhur
Halil Turgut Özal
Turgut Ozal.jpg
8th President of Turkey
In office
9 November 1989 – 17 April 1993
Prime Minister Yıldırım Akbulut
Mesut Yılmaz
Süleyman Demirel
Preceded by Kenan Evren
Succeeded by Süleyman Demirel
Prime Minister of Turkey
In office
13 December 1983 – 31 October 1989
President Kenan Evren
Preceded by Bülend Ulusu
Succeeded by Yıldırım Akbulut
Personal details
Born (1927-10-13)13 October 1927
Malatya, Turkey
Died 17 April 1993(1993-04-17) (aged 65)
Ankara, Turkey
Political party ANAP
Spouse(s) Ayhan İnal (m. 1952, div. 1952)
Semra Özal (m. 1954)
Children 3
Alma mater Istanbul Technical University
Religion Sunni Islam

Halil Turgut Özal (Turkish pronunciation: [tuɾˈɡut øˈzaɫ]; 13 October 1927 – 17 April 1993) was Prime Minister of Turkey (1983–1989) and President of Turkey (1989–1993). As Prime Minister, he transformed the economy of Turkey by paving the way for the privatization of many state enterprises.[1][2]

Early life and career[edit]

Turgut Özal was born in Malatya to a Turkish family with partial Kurdish roots. He completed elementary school in Silifke, middle school in Mardin, and high school in Kayseri. Özal studied electrical engineering at Istanbul Technical University, graduating in 1950.

Between 1950 and 1952, he worked at the State Electrical Power Planning Administration and continued his studies in the United States on electrical energy and engineering management between 1952–1953. After his return to Turkey, he worked in the same organization again on electrification projects until 1958. Özal was in the State Planning Organization in 1959, and in the Planning Coordination Department in 1960. After his military service in 1961, he worked at several state organizations in leading positions and lectured at ODTÜ (Middle East Technical University). The World Bank employed him between 1971–1973[citation needed]. Then, he was chairman of some private Turkish companies[citation needed] until 1979. Back to the state service, he was undersecretary to the Prime minister Süleyman Demirel until the military coup on 12 September 1980.

Political career[edit]

The military rulers under Kenan Evren appointed him state minister and deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs until July 1982.

Motherland Party era[edit]

On 20 May 1983 he founded the Motherland Party (Turkish: Anavatan Partisi) and became its leader. His party won the elections and he formed the government to become the 19th Prime minister on 13 December 1983. In 1987 he again became prime minister after winning elections.[3]

He became the head of the transformation of the social and economic outlook of Turkey which led by the Motherland Party due to the wider global trend of neo-liberal transformation with anti-labor-union discourses.

Assassination attempt[edit]

On 18 June 1988 he survived an assassination attempt during the party congress. One bullet wounded his finger while another bullet missed his head. The assassin, Kartal Demirağ, was captured and sentenced to life imprisonment but pardoned by Özal in 1992.[4] Demirağ was allegedly a Counter-Guerrilla, contracted by the movement's hawkish leader, General Sabri Yirmibeşoğlu. Two months later, Yirmibeşoğlu became the Secretary-General of the National Security Council. During Yirmibeşoğlu's tenure as secretary general, Özal heard about the allegations of Yirmibeşoğlu's role in the affair and forced him into retirement.[5] In late 2008, Demirağ was re-tried by the Ankara 11th Heavy Penal Court and sentenced to twenty years in prison.[4] In 2013 Özal's son Ahmet Özal said that several months before the assassination attempt Özal had survived a plane incident in which his official plane lost an engine and crash-landed. The manufacturer later reported a 95% probability that the plane would have exploded under the circumstances present.[6]

Presidency era[edit]

Turgut Özal and George Bush in Istanbul.

On 9 November 1989, Özal became the eighth president of Turkey elected by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and the first president to be born in the Republic of Turkey rather than the Ottoman Empire.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Özal made an effort to create alliances with the Turkic countries of Central Asia as well as Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus.

President Turgut Özal agreed to negotiations with the Kurdish PKK. Apart from Özal, himself half-Kurdish, few Turkish politicians were interested, nor was more than a part of the PKK itself. A first round occurred in the early 90s, and led to a cease-fire declaration by the PKK on 20 March 1993. After the president’s death on 17 April 1993, in suspicious circumstances, the hope of reconciliation evaporated, and the Castle Plan, which Özal had opposed, was enacted.[7] Some journalists and politicians maintain that Özal's death was part of a covert military coup in 1993 aimed at stopping the peace plans.

Özal supported the coalition against Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.[1]

He is also called as "fatty of the Çankaya, the workers’ enemy" (Turkish: "Çankaya'nın şişmanı, işçi düşmanı") due to his statements and his role in the authoritarian populist policies against 1990 “Zonguldak Strike" of the coal miners. [8]

In February 1991, he was made an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), Australia's highest civilian honour, "for eminent service to Turkish/Australian relations".[9]

The ceremony marking of the beginning of governance for the first Kaymakam Eyüp Sabri Kartal in Kavaklıdere, with President Turgut Özal and Vali Lale Aytaman

Armenian Genocide[edit]

The issue of the Armenian Genocide was part of Özal's agenda. He wanted to reach an agreement with the Armenians and solve the problem as soon as possible by making compromises. The reason for this was his first confrontation with the topic of the genocide in the 1950s while he was still studying in the United States. Özal noticed an emerging Armenian lobby which aimed to introduce the recognition of the Armenian Genocide on the political agenda in the United States.[10]

In 1984, Özal tasked his advisers to work out different scenarios of the political and economic costs that Turkey would have to incur if it would agree to compromise with the Armenian diaspora and recognize the genocide.[10] In 1991, after a meeting with representatives of the Armenian community, Özal said in front of journalists and diplomats:

What happens if we compromise with the Armenians and end this issue? What if we officially recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide and face up to our past? Let's take the initiative and find the truth. Let's pay the political and economic price, if necessary.[10][11][12]

Özal tried to implement several projects, including the "Van project," as part of his solution to the genocide issue. The Van Project envisioned the return of some lands to Armenians in Van. However, Özal was unable to make concrete progress because his policies sparked criticism and fury among the Turkish public, the Motherland Party, and the Turkish military as they considered the idea of negotiating with the Armenian diaspora itself as unacceptable and unthinkable.

After Özal's death, his policies of compromising with the Armenians in order to solve the conflict concerning the Armenian genocide were abandoned.[10][11]

Death and exhumation[edit]

On 17 April 1993 Özal died of a suspicious heart attack while still in office,[13] leading some to suspect an assassination.[14][15] Özal had first become ill a month earlier.[16]

He died just before he had the chance to negotiate with the Kurdish organization, the PKK. His wife Semra Özal claimed he had been poisoned by lemonade and she questioned the lack of an autopsy. The blood samples taken to determine cause of death were lost or disposed of.[17] Özal had sought to create a Turkic union, and had obtained the commitment of several presidents of the newly independent Turkic states from the former Soviet Union. His wife Semra alleged that the perpetrator might have wanted to foil the plan.[18]

Tens of thousands of people[19] attended the state burial ceremony in Istanbul, in which Özal was buried next to the mausoleum of Adnan Menderes, whom he had revered.[citation needed]

On the fourteenth anniversary of his death, thousands gathered in Ankara in commemoration.[20] Investigators wanted to exhume the body to examine it for poisoning.[21] In September 2012, a court ruled that the grave be opened for another autopsy. On 3 October 2012 his body was exhumed.[22] It contained the banned insecticide DDT at ten times the normal level.[23] According to press reports, the "partially embalmed" remains were found to be well preserved, much to the experts' and public's surprise. It is reported that while the lower half of the body was subject to skeletonization, the upper half was preserved due to adipocere.

An autopsy report issued on 12 December 2012 stated his body contained poison but the cause of death was unclear.[24][25] A trial charging retired general Levent Ersöz with his murder began in September 2013.[26]


With his wife Semra, Özal had two sons, and a daughter. One of their sons, Ahmet Özal, was elected to parliament after the elections of 1999, but stayed out after the elections of 2002.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Anderson, Perry (2008-09-25). "After Kemal". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2008-12-29. 
  2. ^ Purvis, Andrew (2003-07-27). "Not Just Business As Usual". TIME. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  3. ^ http://www.basbakan.org/turgut_ozal.html
  4. ^ a b "Kartal Demirağ'a 20 yıl hapis cezası". Hürriyet (in Turkish). Anadolu Agency. 2008-12-31. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  5. ^ Dündar, Can (2002-01-08). "'Özel Harp'çinin tırmanış öyküsü". Milliyet (in Turkish). Retrieved 2006-01-28. 
  6. ^ Today's Zaman, 24 April 2013, Özal's little known near plane crash finds way into indictment
  7. ^ http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201304/7373/internationalism-only-response-kurdish-issue
  8. ^ http://www.haberturk.com/yazarlar/vedat-sertoglu/213210-cankayanin-sismani/
  9. ^ It's an Honour: AC
  10. ^ a b c d Late President Turgut Özal worked to solve ‘Armenian genocide’ dispute. Today's Zaman. 23 April 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2013
  11. ^ a b Turgut Özal´ın gizli planı ortaya çıktı. Star. 28. August 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2013
  12. ^ Who Poisoned Former Turkish President Ozal?. Al Monitor. 22. August 2013. Retrieved 4 November 2013
  13. ^ Soncan, Emre; Çelen, Nergihan (2007-04-18). "‘People’s president Özal’ commemorated at his grave [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-president-ozals-death-suspicious-state-audit-board-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=23053&NewsCatID=338.html]". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 2008-08-14. [dead link]
  14. ^ http://www.zaman.com.tr/haber.do?haberno=735236
  15. ^ http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-president-ozals-death-suspicious-state-audit-board-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=23053&NewsCatID=338.html
  16. ^ http://todayszaman.com/news-297131-ozal-was-poisoned-over-a-long-period-of-time-says-chief-aide.html
  17. ^ Düzel, Neşe (2008-11-24). "Nurettin Yılmaz: ‘Talabani federasyonu kabul etmişti’". Taraf (in Turkish). Retrieved 2009-01-06. Ölüm nedenini anlamak için Turgut Bey’den kan aldılar. Ama hemen sonra ‘şişenin hemşirenin elinden kaydığını, kırıldığını’ söylediler. Bir süre sonra bundan da vazgeçtiler. 'Şişe kayboldu' dediler. 
  18. ^ Uğur, Fatih (2007-04-16). "Büyük Türkiye Cumhuriyeti'ni kuracaktı". Aksiyon (in Turkish) (Feza Gazetecilik A.Ş.) 645. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  19. ^ Pope, Hugh (April 23, 1993). "Thousands of Turks Join Funeral March for Reformist President". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 December 2012. 
  20. ^ "Press Roundup". Today's Zaman. 2007-04-17. Retrieved 2008-08-14. [dead link]
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ (Turkey exhumes ex-President Ozal's remains)
  23. ^ Doktorlarının ve ailesinin ağır ihmalleri var in Zaman 2012-11-26
  24. ^ "Turkish ex-leader's body shows poison, death cause unclear: media". Reuters. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  25. ^ Today's Zaman, 20 June 2013, Independent expert evaluation casts doubt on Özal report
  26. ^ Today's Zaman, 11 September 2013, Trial into suspicious death of late president Özal begins

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Suleyman Demirel of Justice Party
Leader of the Motherland Party (ANAP)
20 May 1983 – 31 October 1989
Succeeded by
Yıldırım Akbulut
Political offices
Preceded by
Orhan Eyüpoğlu
Hikmet Çetin
Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey
20 September 1980 – 14 July 1982
Succeeded by
Kaya Erdem
Preceded by
Bülend Ulusu
Prime Minister of Turkey
13 December 1983 – 31 October 1989
Succeeded by
Yıldırım Akbulut
Preceded by
Kenan Evren
President of Turkey
9 November 1989 – 17 April 1993
Succeeded by
Süleyman Demirel