BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: World: Europe  
News Front Page
World
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent
-------------
Letter From America
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Education
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
CBBC News
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Monday, 4 November, 2002, 13:42 GMT
Turkey's charismatic pro-Islamic leader
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan insists that he is not hardline Islamist
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, or AK) is one of Turkey's most popular politicians.

When his party swept to power in November 2002, he was unable to become prime minister because he was banned from holding political office.

But a speedy change in the law cleared the way for him to run for parliament - and within days of his victory he had been named as prime minister.

The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers...

Poem that landed Erdogan in jail
He is a charismatic politician from a poor background.

Born in 1954, he is the son of a coastguard in the city of Rize on Turkey's Black Sea coast.

He was 13 when his father decided to move to Istanbul, hoping to give his five children a better upbringing.

As a teenager, he sold lemonade and sesame buns on the streets of Istanbul's rougher districts to earn extra cash.

He attended an Islamic school before obtaining a degree in management from Istanbul's Marmara University - and playing professional football.

Joining Islamist movement

While at university, he met Necmettin Erbakan - who went on to become the country's first Islamist prime minister - and entered Turkey's Islamist movement.

Mr Erdogan's first brush with the law came after the military coup of 1980, while he was working for Istanbul's transport authority.

Mr Erdogan's boss, a retired colonel, told him to shave off his moustache. Mr Erdogan refused and had to quit the job.

His political career in the Welfare Party, as the Islamists' party was known until it was banned in 1998, was developing fast.

In 1994, Mr Erdogan became the mayor of Istanbul.

Even his critics admit that he did a good job, making Istanbul cleaner and greener - although a decision to ban alcohol in city cafes did not please secularists.

He also won admiration from the many who felt he was not corrupt - unlike many other Turkish politicians.

His background and commitment to Islamic values also appeal to most of the devout Muslim Turks who have been alienated by the state.

Conviction

But his pro-Islamist sympathies earned him a conviction in 1998 for inciting religious hatred.

He had publicly read an Islamic poem including the lines: "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers..."

He was sentenced to 10 months in jail, but was freed after four.

However, because of his criminal record, he was barred from standing in elections or holding political office.

Parliament last year changed the constitution to allow Mr Erdogan to stand for a parliamentary seat.

New image

Mr Erdogan has disavowed the hardline Islamic views of his past and is trying to recast himself as a pro-Western conservative.

He does not insist on leaving Turkey's Nato and says the country's membership of the European Union is a necessary and useful step.

He has avoided the issue of Islamic dress for women by saying he will not bring his own wife - who wears a headscarf - to official functions.

Women are banned from entering government offices and schools wearing headscarves, to the annoyance of many religious-minded Turks.

Turkey's secular constituency and, of course, the generals, look at Mr Erdogan's new-found moderation with suspicion.

Mr Erdogan is said to speak no foreign languages and to know little about the outside world. Many feared ahead of the election that he might change his views again if his party came to power.

"If Erdogan were to become prime minister, I think the military would take an attitude of 'wait and see'," one diplomat said.

"Erdogan knows what will happen if he oversteps a line."

Turkey's election

Key stories

Background

Profiles

TALKING POINT

BBC WORLD SERVICE
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes