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Childhood years and youth

Recep Tayyip Erdoan was born in Kasmpaa, a poor neighborhood of Istanbul. His family was originally from Rize,[1] a conservative town on the northeastern coast of the Black Sea, and
returned there when Erdoan was still an infant, coming back to Istanbul again when he was 13. He spent those years attending Istanbul mam Hatip school and selling lemonade and simit
(sesame rings) on the city's streets to make extra money.[2]
While studying business administration at what is today Marmara University's Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences and playing semi-professional football,[3] Erdoan also
engaged in politics by joining the National Turkish Student Union, an anti-communist action group. In 1976, he became the head of a local youth branch of the Islamist National Salvation
Party (MSP), led by Necmettin Erbakan, who would later go on to found the Felicity Party. This was the beginning of Erdoan's long career in politics.[4]

Mayor of Istanbul
After the 1980 coup, Erbakan's movement regrouped under the Welfare Party (RP), and Erdoan gradually became one of its stars. In 1991, Erdoan became a candidate for Parliament on the
party's ticket and won a seat, only to be kept from taking it on a technicality.
In 1994, Erdoan was elected Mayor of Istanbul to the shock of the city's more secular citizens, who thought he would ban alcohol and impose Islamic law. Instead, he emerged over the next
four years as a pragmatic mayor who tackled many chronic problems in the city, including pollution, water shortages and traffic.[5]
Meanwhile, the political environment was growing tense in Turkey, as the Welfare Party came to power in June 1996 in a coalition government with the center-right True Path Party (DYP). RP
head Necmettin Erbakan, who became Turkey's first openly Islamist prime minister, conflicted with the principle of the separation of religion and state in Turkey with his radical rhetoric. Six
months later, in February 1997, the military initiated what was later dubbed the "post-modern coup".[6] Soon, Erbakan was ousted from power and many Islamist groups were the subject of a
crackdown as part of a series of court cases opened by prosecutors.[7]
Erdoan was caught up in this crackdown in 1997, when he made a public speech in the southeastern province of Siirt denouncing the closure of his party and recited these lines of a poem
from the Turkish War of Liberation: "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers."
A court held that this speech was an attack on the government and Islamist rhetoric, and sentenced Erdoan in September 1998 to a 10-month prison term, of which he served four months. He
was also banned from holding political office for life. "Erdoan's political career is over," some mainstream newspapers wrote at the time. "From now on, he can't even be a local governor." [8]

Between 1999 and 2001

Abdullah Gl, 2011

In the aftermath of the post-modern coup, Erdoan came to believe that a new political line, different from Erbakan's anti-Western demagoguery, was needed. This was something he hinted at
in the Siirt speech that netted him a prison term. As part of that speech, Erdoan also said: "The Western man has freedom of belief; in Europe, there is respect for worship, for the headscarf.
Why is there not in Turkey?"
This Western-oriented line would be the new vision of Erdoan and the more open-minded members of the Erbakan movement, such as Abdullah Gl. In their vision, authoritarian secularism
in Turkey should not be considered an extension of the West, as religious conservatives had done for decades. The West should rather be seen as a way to create a more liberal Turkey that
would respect religious liberty as well. Erdoan had personal reasons to make that choice: He could thus send his veiled daughters, Esra and Smeyye, not to Turkish universities, where there
is a headscarf ban, but to American ones, where the coverings can be worn.[9]
Erdoan and his colleagues thus put European Union membership, and EU-promoted political reforms, at the top of their agenda at the expense of being accused of "treason" by their old
comrades who stayed loyal to Erbakan.

The birth of the AK Party

In 2001, Erdoan and Gl established the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). The party chose as its emblem a modern light bulb, and Erdoan asserted that the AK Party was "not a
political party with a religious axis", but rather one that could be defined as a mainstream conservative party. Its message concentrated on political liberalization and economic growth gave the
party a sweeping victory in the general elections of November 2002.
Even though his party won the elections, Erdoan could not become prime minister right away, as he was still banned from politics by the judiciary for his speech in Siirt, and Gl thus became
the prime minister instead. In December 2002 the Supreme Election Board canceled the general election results from Siirt due to voting irregularities and scheduled a new election for
February 9, 2003. By this time, party leader Erdoan was able to run for Parliament thanks to a legal change made possible by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and its leader,
Deniz Baykal. The AK Party listed Erdoan as a candidate for the rescheduled Siirt election, and he won, becoming prime minister after Gl subsequently handed over the post. [10]

"BABAKAN ERDOAN "GRC" ASILLI MI!". Retrieved 2010-10-31.
"Turkey's charismatic pro-Islamic leader". BBC News. 2004-11-08. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
"Erdoan'n futbol oynad yllar". Haber3 (in Turkish). 2011-01-01. Retrieved 2011-01-16.


"The making of Turkey's prime minister". Hrriyet Daily News. 2010-10-31. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
"Recep Tayyip Erdoan - World Leaders Forum". Columbia University. 2008-11-13. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
"Turkey and the art of the coup". Reuters. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
"In Defense Of Secularism, Turkish Army Warns Rulers". The New York Times. 1997-03-02. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
"Muhtar bile olamaz". Radikal (in Turkish). 1998-09-24. Retrieved 1998-09-24. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
"The Erdogan Experiment". The New York Times. 2003-05-11. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
"Turkey: AKP leader Erdogan wins by-election in Siirt". 2003-03-15. Retrieved 2010-12-12.

External links

Lifestory of Recep Tayyip Erdoan (English)

Official biography of Recep Tayyip Erdoan (Turkish)