Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
|“||Every instigator or madman, who will dare to raise his hand against the government, let him be sure that the government will chop it off.||„|
|~ Erdoğan in a speech in 2015.|
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (February 26th, 1954 - ) is a Turkish politician who has been the President of Turkey since 2014. He previously served as the Prime Minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014 and as the Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. He founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001 and led it to three general election victories in 2002, 2007 and 2011 before standing down as leader upon his election as President in 2014. Originating from an Islamist political background and as a self-described conservative democrat, his administration has overseen social conservative and liberal economic policies. His political agenda and ideals are often referred to as Erdoğanism.
Erdoğan was born in the Kasımpaşa, a poor neighborhood of Istanbul, to which his family had moved from Rize Province in the 1930s. His parents were Ahmet Erdoğan (1905–88) and Tenzile Erdoğan (née Mutlu; 1924–2011).
Erdoğan spent his early childhood in Rize, where his father was a captain in the Turkish Coast Guard. His summer holidays were mostly spent in Güneysu, Rize, where his family originates. Throughout his life he often returned to this spiritual home, and in 2015 he opened a vast mosque on a mountaintop near this village. The family returned to Istanbul when Erdoğan was 13 years old.
As a teenager, Erdoğan's father provided him with a weekly allowance of 2.5 Turkish lira, less than a dollar. With it, Erdoğan bought postcards and resold them on the street. He sold bottles of water to drivers stuck in traffic. Erdoğan also worked as a street vendor selling simit (sesame bread rings), wearing a white gown and selling the simit from a red three-wheel cart with the rolls stacked behind glass.
Erdoğan was a semi-professional footballer playing for Kasımpaşa before being elected as the Mayor of Istanbul from the Islamist Welfare Party in 1994. He was stripped and banned from office and imprisoned for 4 months for the recitation of a poem in a political speech in 1998 after which he abandoned openly Islamist politics and established the moderate conservative AKP in 2001. The AKP won a landslide victory in the 2002 general election, with the party's co-founder Abdullah Gül becoming Prime Minister until his government annulled Erdoğan's ban from political office. Erdoğan subsequently became Prime Minister in March 2003 after winning a seat in a by-election held in Siirt.
As part of his 2023 vision for the centenary of the Turkish Republic, Erdoğan's government oversaw accession negotiations for Turkey's membership of the European Union, an economic recovery following a financial crash in 2001, two successful constitutional referendums in 2007 and 2010, a Solution process with Kurdish militants, an allegedly Neo-Ottoman foreign policy and investments in infrastructure that included new roads, airports and a high-speed train network. With the help of Fethullah Gülen's Cemaat Movement, Erdoğan was able to curb the political power of the military through the controversial Sledgehammer and Ergenekon court cases. In late 2012, his government began peace negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to end the ongoing PKK insurgency that began in 1978. The ceasefire broke down in 2015, leading to a renewed escalation in conflict. In 2016, a coup d'état was unsuccessfully attempted against Erdoğan and Turkish state institutions. This was followed by purges.
Nationwide protests against the perceived authoritarianism of Erdoğan's government began in May 2013, with the internationally criticized police crackdown resulting in 22 deaths and the stalling of EU membership negotiations. Following a split with long-time ally Fethullah Gülen, Erdoğan brought about large-scale judicial reforms that were criticized for threatening judicial independence, but which Erdoğan insisted were necessary to purge sympathizers of the preacher Fethullah Gülen. A US$100 billion government corruption scandal in 2013 led to the arrests of Erdoğan's close allies, with Erdoğan himself incriminated after a recording was released on social media. Erdoğan's government has since come under fire for alleged human rights violations and crackdown on press and social media, having blocked access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube on numerous occasions. Erdoğan's government lifted the bans upon court orders. Opposition journalists and politicians have criticized authoritarian tendencies. Analysts suggest that Turkey is a majoritarian democracy. Erdoğan's proponents suggest that since the attempted coup, press restrictions are changing, Erdoğan's government dropped charges against the secular Doğan Group, including Hurriyet paper after it was alleged that the $4.5 billion tax fraud charge was initially perpetrated by Gülenist officers. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Erdoğan issued a Presidential pardon against those who 'insulted' him. Erdoğan aims to bring the executive Presidency to a referendum in 2017, with a bill likely to pass parliament due to agreement between Erdoğan's conservative AKP and the nationalist MHP.
Erdoğan has also perpetrated war crimes as his government has allegedly provided financial support and weapons to The Islamic State as well as militant groups in Syria (though he has declared opposition to Bashar al-Assad and has called for him to be removed from power.) Erdoğan has also supported Saudi Arabia's intervention in the conflict in Yemen. In January 2018, Turkey invaded northern Syria to remove Kurdish influence.
Erdoğan has shown mixed opinions on Israel and Jews in general. He has made multiple anti-semitic remarks and frequently condemns Israel, showing himself as an ally of Palestine and declaring himself in favor of the establishment of a Palestinian state. He has accused Israel of manipulating the media and has denounced Jews as "insidious", "treacherous", and "evil". There have also been rumors of Erdoğan providing aid to Hamas, but this has never been proven. However, Erdoğan has also condemned anti-semitism and has repeatedly described the Holocaust as a "crime against humanity" and the Nazi Party's regime as "horrific". He also received the Profile of Courage Award from the American Jewish Congress in 2004 for promoting peace between cultures.
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