Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

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By SABRINA TAVERNISE In a major cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, Ahmet Davutoglu, the official who has shifted Turkish foreign policy toward a greater focus on the Middle East, was made foreign minister....

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (pronounced ) (b. February 26, 1954 in Istanbul, Turkey) is a Turkish politician, a former mayor of Istanbul and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey since 14 March 2003. He is also the chairman of the Justice and Development Party (Turkish: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi - "AK Parti"), which holds a majority of the seats in the Turkish Parliament.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was born, and mostly grew up, in the Kasımpaşa district of Istanbul, a less than affluent neighborhood, famous for its macho honor code. Kasımpaşa men are known to be quick to anger, painfully proud and blunt in word, and he has always been proud of being one. Erdoğan descends from a family of Adjara Georgian immigrants who had emigrated from Batumi, Georgia, to Rize, in the Black Sea Region of Turkey.

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 on the streets of Istanbul's rougher districts to earn extra money. After graduating from a religious high school (İmam Hatip school) he studied management at Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences. In his youth, Erdoğan played semi-professional football in a local club. The stadium of the local football club of the district he grew up in, Kasımpaşa S.K., a team which played in the Turkish Süper Lig before being relegated in June 2008, is named after him.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan married Emine Erdoğan (née Gülbaran) (b. 1955 in Siirt), whom he met during a conference, on 4 July 1978. The couple has two sons (Ahmet Burak, Necmeddin Bilâl) and two daughters (Esra, Sümeyye). 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, who is of Arab ancestry and originally from a different Muslim denomination (Shāfi‘ī/Ash'ari).

During his tenure, he delivered a controversial speech on the subject of secularism in Turkey, stating at the opening ceremony of the now-defunct Welfare Party's İstanbul Ümraniye District Bureau that "It is not possible to be secular and Muslim at the same time. They are continuously saying, "Secularism is in danger". It will be, if this nation demands it. You can not prevent it. The Islamic nation is waiting for the rise of the Muslim Turkish nation. We will. This rebellion will start".

This led Ankara state prosecutor of the time, Nuh Mete Yüksel, to open an investigation against him. However, since the AKP era his position has dramatically shifted and he has repeatedly reiterated his support of secularism.

Erdoğan's Islamist sympathies earned him a conviction in 1998. As Mayor of Istanbul, Erdoğan was the most prominent mayor in the country. Because he was a national figure and hero to millions of Islamic-oriented voters, his case drew considerable attention. He was sentenced to ten months imprisonment, of which he served only four between March and July 1999. Before the national elections in 2002, he was barred by the Turkish Electoral Board from running for elections because of this past conviction. After his party's win at the polls, the constitution was modified to enable him to run in a by-election from the Siirt circonscription, his wife's home town, thus allowing him to enter parliament and take over the post of Prime Minister from Abdullah Gül, the actual President of Turkey.

Almighty our journey is our destiny, the end is martyrdom. .... ....

Almighty our journey is our victory, the end is martyrdom. .... ....

On 17 October 2006, Prime Minister Erdoğan suffered a mild shock in public attributed 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 locked 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.

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. When this appeal was rejected, Erdoğan said: "The court has no right to speak on this issue. That right belongs to the Ulema".

Erdoğan's government instituted several reforms such as giving the European 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.

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.

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".

Erdoğan's success story is keeping the economy on the track designed 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.

Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer stated at a speech to the War Academy 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.

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. These amendments were later overturned by the Constitutional Court of Turkey.

Erdoğan was investigated by Turkish prosecutors for using the word Sayın (which is commonly used in Turkish as a polite alternative for 'Mr.', 'Mrs.' or 'Ms.', but literally means 'Honourable' or 'Respectable') when referring to the convicted former PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in a 2000 interview with SBS Radio. In this interview, Erdoğan also referred to the Turkish soldiers killed by the PKK as kelle (a slang word that literally means 'head'), stating that "Sayın (Honourable) Öcalan is paying the price not for his opinions, but for the kelles (heads) that he took." The expression Sayın was deemed "inconsiderate" while kelle was deemed "degrading" by many people in Turkey, especially causing outrage among the families of the dead soldiers, who filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Erdoğan and asked him to pay "3 Turkish kuruş" (the equivalent of 2 U.S. cents) to each family, as a form of protest. On December 12, 2007, the Turkish court (Kartal 2. Sulh Hukuk Mahkemesi) presided by judge Sevgi Övüç found Prime Minister Erdoğan guilty of insulting the memory of the dead soldiers and ordered him to pay 3 Turkish kuruş (2 U.S. cents) to each of the 20 families of the dead soldiers who filed the lawsuit against him, which was the amount that the families had requested, as an expression of how much they valued Erdoğan. The PKK is a militant group proscribed 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 Islamist militants. Radical Muslim groups are considered a threat to the secular political establishment.

Erdoğan returned to Istanbul the next day, and was greeted by thousands of AKP supporters at the Istanbul Airport with a 'hero's welcome', the crowd present shouting, "Turkey is with you." The allegations Erdoğan had expressed in Davos against Israel, of targeting civilians in Gaza rather than militant targets, were also backed by the main opposition leader Deniz Baykal. Baykal, however, criticized Erdoğan's behaviour as a political ploy aimed at influencing the upcoming municipal elections in Turkey. He also criticized the AKP government's past close relations with Israel; Turkey and Israel have signed two agreements in 1996 and 2001 (prior to the AKP government) which allows both countries to use each other's air space and Air Force bases for joint training purposes.

Following the incident in Davos, many Turkish diplomats and journalists expressed concerns over Erdoğan's tempered character, sudden bursts of anger, frequent use of undiplomatic and quasi-plebeian words and gestures, and the negative effects of these on Turkey's decades-old foreign policy doctrine and international reputation. In response, Erdoğan ridiculed the Turkish diplomats, calling them "monşer" (mon cher) people, i.e. excessively polite elites.

Latest research has shown that Erdogan's father is Palestinian and was one of the founders of Hamas.

On 3 October 2005, the negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU formally started during Erdoğan's tenure as Prime Minister.

On 26 April 2004, a re-unification referendum supported by the United Nations was held in Cyprus. It failed after the Greek Cypriots voted to reject the Annan plan, whereas the Turkish Cypriots voted to approve it. During the period building up to the referendum, Erdoğan and his party campaigned for the UN re-unification proposal.

Faced with domestic demands to intervene in Iraq against the PKK and in defence of the Turkmens around Kirkuk in the north of the country, 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.

During Erdoğan's Prime Ministership, Abdullah Gül became the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia, when he made the trip to Yerevan to watch a FIFA World Cup qualifying match between the countries. Erdoğan also met numerous times with the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, the latest such meeting taking place during the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009.

On December 17, 2008, after a petition launched by more than 200 Turkish academics and newspaper columnists which apologized for the "Great Catastrophe" of 1915, Erdoğan commented, "I find it unreasonable to apologize when there is no reason. I didn't commit a misdeed." Most Turks agree with this stance as 517,955 Muslim civilians were massacred in this era by Armenian irregular units and Armenian revolutionary groups comprised of the Dashnaks, the Hunchaks, and the Ramgavars, in addition to the French Armenian Legion and the British and Russian backed Armenian volunteer units. Anti-Turkish groups mostly within the Armenian Diaspora label this as Denial of the Armenian Genocide.

Since 2005 international airspace between Armenia and Turkey has been reopened.

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, he 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 elect a president was a failure of the Turkish political system and proposed to modify the constitution.

Abdullah Gül was later elected President after the general elections on 22 July 2008 that saw AKP and Erdoğan brought back to power with 46.7 percent of the vote. Later in 2007, a referendum to modify the constitution to allow the people, rather than the Parliament, to elect the President was approved.

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 that took place during the ill-fated Presidential elections a few months earlier as a part of the general election campaign of his party. In the night of 22 July 2007, it became obvious that AKP had won an important victory over the opposition, garnering 46.7 percent of the popular vote. July 22 elections were only the second time in the Turkish Republic's 74-year 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 close Erdoğan's party and ban him from politics for five years. Erdoğan and 70 other party members were accused of being involved in anti-secular activities. Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya said that he believed there was enough evidence that Erdoğan has worked against Turkey's secular constitution.

The party later narrowly escaped a ban on 30 July 2008, a year after winning 46,7 percent of the vote in national elections.

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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Stadium

Stadion Kasimpasa.JPG

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Stadium (a.k.a. Kasımpaşa Stadium) is a multi-use stadium in the Kasımpaşa neighbourhood of Istanbul, Turkey. It is currently used mostly for football matches and is the home stadium of Kasımpaşa S.K.. The stadium holds 13,500 spectators (all-seater). It is named after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is a native of Kasımpaşa.

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Mount Bolu Tunnel

Mount Bolu Tunnel (Turkish: Bolu Dağı Tüneli) is a 2.9 km long highway tunnel being constructed through the Bolu Mountain in Turkey. After several delays the Istanbul-Ankara direction (2788m) was opened to traffic on January 23rd 2007 by the Turkish and Italian PMs Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Romano Prodi. Two months following the initial opening, on May 7th, the Ankara-Istanbul direction (2954m) became operational.

The tunnel is part of the Gümüşova-Gerede Highway within the Trans European Motorway project by the Turkish Bayındır and Italian Astaldi joint venture since April 16, 1993. The total cost of the tunnel is about US$300 million. It has twin 17m bores and carries three lanes of traffic in each direction.

The tunnel crosses the North Anatolian Fault and the November 12, 1999 Düzce earthquake (MW=7.2) caused substantial damage to the tunnel and viaducts, which were under construction at the time of the earthquake.

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Privileged partnership

Privileged partnership is the term coined by the German conservative party CDU for their model of the future relation between Turkey and the European Union, which falls short of full membership. In February 2004, Angela Merkel, then opposition leader, now chancellor of Germany, visited Turkey to present the idea, which was vehemently rejected by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the turkish government.

The idea is now supported by former French president and head of the Convention on the Future of Europe Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, current French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, among others.

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Alliance of Civilizations

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the United Nations General Assembly.

The Alliance of Civilizations is an initiative proposed by the President of the Spanish Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 2005. It was co-sponsored by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The initiative seeks to galvanize international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural and interreligious dialogue and cooperation. The Alliance places a particular emphasis on defusing tensions between the Western and the Islamic world.

Mutual suspicion, fear and misunderstanding between Islamic and Western societies has been increasing since the beginning of the new millennium. The heightened instability of coexistence between these groups of people with divergent backgrounds has led to exploitation by extremists throughout the world: the severest form of this being violent acts of terrorism. It has been the opinion of many political leaders that efforts should be made to reach a common ground between diverse ethnic and religious groups based on the tolerance, understanding, and respect of the fundamental set of values and beliefs of each group. In this way, and by the attempt to quell "extremism", a comprehensive coalition can be established to work toward a peaceful coexistence between diverse groups around the world, and thereby support international stability.

The Alliance of Civilizations (AoC) initiative was proposed by the President of the Spanish Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 2005. It was co-sponsored by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The aim of the initiative was to produce actionable, time-bound recommendations by the end of 2006 for UN member states to adopt.

To fulfill the objective of the initiative, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan assembled a High-level Group (HLG) consisting of 20 eminent persons drawn from policy making, academia, civil society, religious leadership, and the media. A full range of religions and civilizations were represented. Among the members were former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who proposed the Dialogue Among Civilizations initiative, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South African Nobel laureate, Prof. Pan Guang, who obtained the Saint Petersburg-300 Medal for Contribution to China-Russia Relations, and Arthur Schneier, who is the founder and president of the “Appeal of Conscience Foundation” and who gained the "Presidential Citizens Medal”. The HLG met 5 times between November 2005 and November 2006, and produced a report prioritising relations between the Western and Muslim societies.

The first meeting of the HLG of the AoC occurred in Spain in November 2005. The second meeting was in Doha, Qatar from 25 to 27 February 2006 with the agenda of aiming to find ways to calm the cartoon crisis between West and Islamic world. The third meeting took place in Dakar, Senegal from 28 to 30 May 2006. At the final meeting in November 2006 in Istanbul, the members presented their final report to Kofi Annan and to Prime Ministers José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The report outlined recommendations and practical solutions on how the Western and Islamic societies can solve misconceptions and misunderstandings between them. According to the report, "politics, not religion, is at the heart of growing Muslim-Western divide", although a large emphasis is maintained on religion.

The final 2006 report of the HLG was structured in two parts. Part I presented an analysis of the global context and of the state of relations between Muslim and Western societies. It concluded with a set of general policy recommendations, indicating the HLG's belief that certain political steps are pre-requisites to any substantial and lasting improvement in relations between Muslim and Western societies.

Part II of the report reflected the HLG's view that tensions across cultures have spread beyond the political level into the hearts and minds of populations. To counter this trend, the Group presented recommendations in each of four thematic areas: Education, Youth, Migration, and Media. The Report concluded with outlined suggestions for the implementation of its recommendations.

A key issue regarded by the AoC is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the resolution of which is considered paramount.

The report also recommends combating "exclusivism" and extremism. It defines exclusivism as, “those who feed on exclusion and claim sole ownership of the truth". Thus, religious groups who assert one specific truth to the exclusion of other religious doctrines are considered undesirable by the AoC. Furthermore, the report identifies the primary global groups in this issue as the three monotheistic faiths.

The "High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations" is the title of the primary leadership position of the AoC, who is to function as political facilitator and lead spokesman, and to consult directly with the United Nations Secretary General. In April 2007, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed the position of High Representative to Jorge Sampaio, former president of Portugal.

The Secretariat of the Alliance of Civilizations provides support to the High Representative and implements developmental functions of the AoC. The offices are based at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

In May, 2007, the AoC released its "Implementation Plan 2007-2009", which elaborated on the notion that the AoC will not replace or reconstitute any existing plans or political channels. Rather, the AoC will facilitate its goals primarily through partnership operations among a variety of existing groups, and also through projects in youth, education, media, and migration.

The core of the 16 page document consists of two parts. The first part, drawing directly on the 2006 HLG report, describes the strategic and structural framework for the AoC. Included are plans for an AoC forum held in varying locations annually, the "Group of Friends" representatives from States and international organisations, and UN Secretary-General-appointed ambassadors to the AoC. Financing will be accomplished via the AoC Voluntary Trust Fund with support from various organisations.

The second part of the plan calls for actions to staff the office of the Secretariat by Summer 2007, and to implement the directives established in the first part of the document. A mid-term review of the plan of action is intended in 2008. The first group of ambassadors will be listed by the end of 2007, and the first annual AoC forum will be held January 15-16 in 2008 in Spain, with a focus on youth. The AoC will establish a rapid-response media-based mechanism to intervene in escalations of global tension.

The plans were discussed with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on June 14, 2007.

On June 24, BAn Ki-moon spoke at a commemoration of 13th century Muslim poet Rumi in New York, in which he embraced the teachings of the poet, expressing the resonance with the goals of the AoC.

The Alliance was presented with the "Dialogue of Civilizations" award, which was given by the Rumi Forum and the Georgetown University Center for Peace and Security Research in Washington. Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received the award..

The initiative's future remains ambiguous because Turkey and Spain, co-sponsors of the initiative, have different expectations of it. While Spain used the initiative to justify its withdrawal from Iraq in particular and combat against global terrorism in general, Turkey hopes to strengthen its prestige via the initiative in the EU accession process.

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Source : Wikipedia