Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
(1954 - )
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the Prime Minister of Turkey.
Born on February 26, 1954 in the Kasimpasa neighborhood of Istanbul, Turkey, Erdogan spent the bulk of his youth in the Rize Province, where his father was part of the Turkish Coast Guard. He grew up in an observant Muslim family. Erdogan studied at the Istambul Religious Vocational High School until graduation in 1973. He studied business at what is now known as Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences.
In 1978, Erdogan married Emine Gulbaran and the couple has two sons and two daughters.
After the 1980 military coup in Turkey, Erdogan joined the Welfare Party. He became the chair of the political party's Beyoglu district in 1984, and the following year chaired the Istanbul branch. In 1991 he was elected to parliament but was barred from taking a seat.
From 1994 until 1998 Erdogan served as Mayor of Istanbul. Among the intitiatives he began during his tenure as mayor was the first roundtable of mayors during the Istanbul conference. This led to an international movement of mayors. He later earned the United Nations HABITAT award.
In 1998 the Turkish constitutional court declared Erdogan's Welfare Party unconstitutional because it threatened laicistic order in the country. After reciting a poem in Siirt that was considered, according to Turkish penal code, incitement to commit an offense of religious/racial hatred, he was sentenced to ten months in prison but served only four of them. As a result, he was forced to forfeit his mayoral position.
Erdogan started the Justice and Development Party in 2001, which won in the 2002 national election but he did not assume prime minister until 2003 due to the restriction from the poem he read in the 1990s.
Erdogan's decade-long tenure is characterized by a plan to help end the 25 year-long conflict between the Kurds in Turkey that has caused the deaths of over 40,000 people. Part of this effort was his public apology in November 2011 on behalf of his country for the Mersim Massacre, during which many Alevis and Zazas (both ethnic groups in Turkey) were killed. In his second and most recent terms in office, the Turkish government under Erdogan has largely shifted toward a more authoritarian country in terms of decreasing press freedoms, Kurdish minority rights and those of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people, as well as other freedoms such as of the internet and speech.
In terms of the Turkish economy, the World Bank has lauded Erdogan for the reforms he instituted that helped bring Turkey back to a more economically stable status. In education, Erdogan increased funding for schools across the country and made strides to reduce gender gaps in educational parity. During his prime ministership, the number of universities in the country came close to doubling.
In October 2005, the European Union began the process of negotiating Turkey's accession to the continental union, which to date have not been resolved one way or the other.
In foreign policy, relations between Greece and Turkey were normalized; Iraq signed nearly 50 trade agreements with Turkey; and relations with Israel thawed after a Gaza flotilla in May 2010. Erdogan made several inflammatory comments in the years since, such as when he called Zionism a "crime against humanity" in February 2013. In spite of the several-year hiatus of warm relations between Israel and Turkey, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized formally in March 2013 on behalf of Israel for the deaths of the Turkish people on the flotilla.