Recep Tayyip Erdoan

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

"Erdoğan" redirects here. For the Turkish helicopter Erdoğan, see Kamov Ka-50.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (b. February 26, 1954 in Rize, Turkey) has served as the Prime Minister of Turkey since March 14, 2003. He is the chief of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP). He married Emine Erdoğan (née Gülbaran) (b. 1955 in Siirt) on 4 July, 1978 and they have two sons (Ahmet Burak, Necmeddin Bilâl) and two daughters (Esra, Sümeyye). He is one of the major representative of the moderate Islamist movement in Turkey.

Early life

Erdoğan was born in Rize, but moved with his family in 1967 to Istanbul. His family has descended from Adjara Georgian immigrants who settled from Batumi to Rize. (He announced his origins during his visit to Georgia in 2004.) Erdoğan spent his early childhood in Rize where his family had settled, before returning to Istanbul at the age of 13. He spent most of his childhood selling simit on the streets of Istanbul before he received some education at a religious İmam Hatip school and an academic degree in management at Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences (İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi). Erdoğan played semi-professional football in a local neighbourhood club for 16 years. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from University of Sarajevo on March 25, 2008.

Joining politics

Mayor of Istanbul 1994

As mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan renamed tram cars with his initials (RTE) and bought a ferry named "Recep Tayyip Erdogan". These vheicles are still in use today.

Erdogan also allowed growing of unlicenced houses resulting in massive ghetto -favela- areas surrounding the town. These poor people were the voting machines of his later success.

1998 imprisonment

Erdoğan's Islamist sympathies earned him a conviction in 1998. As Mayor of Istanbul, Erdoğan was the most prominent of 200 mayors and other local officials in Turkey; because he was a national figure and hero to millions of Islamic-oriented voters, his case drew considerable attention.

In 1997, the Welfare Party was declared unconstitutional and was shut down on the grounds of threatening the secular nature of the state. In 1998, Erdoğan become a constant speaker at the demonstrations held by his colleagues from the banned Welfare Party. Secularism in Turkey has been taken very seriously since the establishment of the state with Kemalist ideology as its guiding principle. In line with the Atatürk's Reforms, the Constitution of Turkey states that laïcité, social equality, and equality before law are the main and unchangeable characteristics of Turkey. Kemalist ideology also adopted the position of "public reason", which claimed that activities falling outside of the private sphere should be secular and no religious group should be given permission to dominate over other belief systems. Any activity or promotion of domination over other belief systems are felt to fall under the somewhat controversial concept of "incitement to religious hatred", which has been part of the Turkish constitution since its establishment. The "religious hatred" concept has been used against the movements that promoted the reestablishment of the abolished Ottoman Caliphate and Islamic fundamentalist positions. There is no question that Erdoğan is pro-Islamic (he calls himself a religious conservative) but the extent of his position towards the fundamentally secular nature of the state was called into question on 12 December, 1997 at a public meeting in Siirt in Eastern Anatolia. In his speech, Erdoğan identified Turkish society as having "two fundamentally different camps" – those who blindly follow the Atatürk's Reforms [seculars] and the Muslims who unite Islam with Sharia. He publicly read a well-known Islamic poem including modified lines:

Erdogan's beginning Original beginning

Erdoğan was tried and convicted of inciting "religious hatred" in 1998. He was sentenced to ten months' imprisonment of which he served four between March and July 1999.

Prime Minister of Turkey, 2002-present

On 17 October, 2006, Prime Minister Erdoğan suffered a mild shock in public due to hypoglycemia, caused by a combination of intense work and Ramadan fasting. He was hospitalized but the doctors determined that he only needed a few days of rest and viewed his state of health as not being of serious concern. His transportation to the hospital became a phenomenon as well when the driver of his armoured vehicle accidentally closed the door to the vehicle leaving the keys inside. The security system of the vehicle locked all the doors with Erdoğan still inside, unconscious. A hammer was brought in from a nearby construction yard to break the bulletproof windows of the vehicle and rescue the Prime Minister.

Domestic affairs


In November 2005, a case was brought before the European Court of Human Rights by a female student who insisted on wearing a prohibited hijab (headcovering) to class. Turkish law prohibits the wearing of religious headcovering and theo-politically symbolic garments for both genders in government buildings, schools, and universities; a law upheld by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights as "legitimate" on November 10, 2005 in Leyla Şahin v. Turkey. Erdoğan said:"The court has no right to speak on this issue. That right belongs to the ulema (clerics)", when this appeal was rejected.

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. They claimed Erdoğan wanted to fill the vacant posts with its own Islamic-minded appointees which through this policy Erdoğan was accused of creating a rift with the Turkey's highest court of appeals (the Yargitay) and high administrative court (the Danıştay). Erdoğan claimed that the constitution gave the power of assigning members to his elected party. Erdoğan hold the position that there is nothing wrong with their policy-making regarding the positions in the judiciary, as himself a graduate of the İmam Hatip school said: "sees no wrong in the appointment of tens of thousands of Koranic school graduates who already became judges as higher court judges".

On May 2007, the head of the top court in Turkey has asked prosecutors to consider whether Erdoğan should be charged over critical comments regarding the 2007 Presidential elections. 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.


Erdoğan's success story is keeping the economy on the track des by World Bank economist Kemal Derviş. Erdoğan supported Ali Babacan in enforcing Derviş's macro-economic policies. Erdoğan did not cut the relations with international monetary control systems in favour of a more protectionist economy. The AK Party did quite well in almost all areas of the economy apart from the budget deficit. Erdoğan said that during this premiership the economy's average growth rate was 7.3%, that per capita annual income had almost doubled, and that all these were related to his economic reforms and the pursuit of European Union membership. On the other hand, because of the control of foreign investors on the Turkish stock market, some views express concerns about the future stability of the economy.

Education and health

Ahmet Necdet Sezer claimed at a speech in the War abc that "religious fundamentalism has reached dramatic proportions" and that Islamic fundamentalism "is trying to infiltrate politics, education and the state, it is systematically eroding values". Erdoğan responded to this by arguing, "Religious people also have a right to politics. [...] If you want to keep the faithful out of politics, the people will never forgive you".

Concerning birth control, Erdoğan had said that he personally did not practice it and was against it because the future required a dynamic young population.

Erdoğan does not drink alcohol and as the mayor of Istanbul, he had restricted use of alcohol in public restaurants. During his premiership he did not bring forward a nationwide law to restrict the use of alcohol. He did however, progressively increase the taxes imposed on tobacco and alcohol during his tenure out of line with other consumer products, under the name "special consumption tax" (özel tüketim vergisi). This move led to reduced consumption of alcohol and tobacco products in Turkey.

In relation to social policies, Erdoğan frequently paid lip service to the argument that Turkish Social Security is strong but that he wants the same social service treatment that he once had the chance to observe in Germany. On April 2006, Erdoğan unveiled a social security reform package demanded by the International Monetary Fund under a loan deal. Erdoğan claimed that the move, which was passed with fierce opposition, was the 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 below the age of 18 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 eventually increase to 65 as of 2048 for both women and men.

Turkey's president approved on February 22 2008 a pair of constitutional amendments that would allow female students to wear Islamic head scarves at universities.

Terrorism and security

Erdoğan gave a speech in New York on 19 December 2006 in which he talked mainly about the good relations between citizens of Turkey who come from different backgrounds by giving an example from his own life. Erdoğan said that he doesn't have any problems with his wife, Emine Erdoğan née Gülbaran (b. 1955 in Siirt), who is of Arab ancestry and originally of a different denomination (Shāfi‘ī/Ash'ari).

Erdoğan was investigated by Turkish prosecutors for allegedly using the word 'Mister' (Sayın) when referring to the convicted former PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in a 2000 interview with SBS Radio. However, in April 2007, the prosecutors decided not to open a case against him, saying they found "no element of criminal offence" in the interview. The PKK is a militant group listed as a terrorist organization internationally by a number of states and organizations, including the U.S., NATO, and the EU.

Erdoğan has appointed liberal Muslim theologians to the Department of Religious Affairs. He has promised to crush the country's Islamic militants. Radical Muslim groups are considered a threat to the secular political establishment. Erdoğan had passed several reforms such as: giving the EU Court of Human Rights supremacy over Turkish courts, diminishing the powers of the 1991 Anti-Terror Law which had constrained Turkey’s democratization, and passing a partial amnesty to reduce penalties faced by many members of the Kurdish terrorist organization PKK who had surrendered to the government.

Foreign policy

Erdogan used EU to prevent a possible Army coup; he never actually committed to the reforms required by the EU.


Faced with domestic demands to intervene in Iraq against the PKK and in defence of the Turkmens around Kirkuk, Erdoğan pursued a more proactive foreign policy. In January 2007 Erdoğan suggested that Turkey might intervene, but preferred for the interim to rely on diplomacy.

2007 elections

Presidential election

On April 14 2007, an estimated 300,000 people marched in Ankara to protest the possible candidacy of Erdoğan in the 2007 presidential election, afraid that if elected as President of Turkey Erdoğan would alter the secular nature of the Turkish state. Erdoğan announced on April 24 2007 that the party had decided to nominate Abdullah Gül as the AKP candidate in the presidential election. The protests continued over the next several weeks, with over one million reported at an April 29 rally in Istanbul, tens of thousands reported at separate protests on May 4 in Manisa and Çanakkale, and anywhere from one to two million in İzmir on May 13.

Early parliamentary elections were called after the failure of the parties in parliament to agree on the next Turkish president. At the same time, Erdoğan claimed the failure to select a president is a failure of the Turkish political system and proposed to change the constitution. The redesign of the position of presidency, moving away from a position that balances powers in the parliament is faced with reaction from the other parties. The final decision will be decided in the Turkish constitutional referendum, 2007.

General elections

Erdoğan called for early general elections. The stage of the elections was set for a fight for legitimacy in the eyes of voters between his government, which has its roots in political Islam, and the country’s secularist movement. Erdoğan used the events at "2007 Presidency elections" as a part of the general election campaign of his party. In the night of July 22, it became obvious that AKP had won an important victory over the opposition, garnering over 46 percent of the popular vote. July 22 elections were only the second time in Turkish Republic's 74-year history whereby an incumbent governing party won an election by increasing its share of popular support.

Prime Ministership, 2007-present

Domestic policy

On 31 August 2007 the new government announced plans to pursue the following policies:

  • The Constitution will be reformed to make it short and clear, bringing law-making, enforcement and the role of the judiciary in line with parliamentary democracy
  • The government will openly work to produce a strong civil society enjoying wider democracy and freedom.
  • Economy - by 2013 the average income will be 10,000 USD, while national income from tourism will be 40 billion dollars. in 2008 VAT for the tourism industry will be reduced from 18% to 8%. Inflation will be kept to single figures.
  • Structural reforms - priority will be given to reforming local government and the civil service, weighting towards regional support.
  • Education - 50% of children will be provided with pre-school education. Class-size will be limited to 30 children.
  • 2B class forest - land that is no longer viable forest will be sold (bringing the treasury 25 billion dollars).

Foreign policy

  • The government argues that EU reforms will proceed quickly. They say that their goal is to continue the efforts to eliminate disputes with neighbouring countries. He's been accused of trying to make Turkey more Islamic which has taken some of the biggest headlines outside Turkey in international news.

Proposed ban from politics, 2008

On 14 March 2008 Turkey's Chief Prosecutor asked the country's Constitutional Court to ban the AK party and ban Erdoğan from politics for five years. Erdoğan and 70 other party members were accused of being involved in anti-secular activities. Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya said he believed there was enough evidence that Erdoğan has worked against Turkey's secular constitution.


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