With family origins in Turkey’s Rize, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was born in Istanbul on February 26, 1954. He graduated from Kasımpaşa Piyale Elementary School in 1965 and from Istanbul Religious Vocational High School in 1973 (İmam Hatip Lisesi). Erdoğan received his high school diploma from Eyüp High School. Erdoğan graduated in 1981 from Marmara University’s Faculty of Economics and Commercial Sciences.
Preferring to blend his social life with politics from his early days, Erdoğan embraced the disciplined teamwork and team spirit that football taught him, which he took up in his youth. He engaged in the sport as an amateur from 1969 to 1982. It was also during that time that, as a young idealist, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began to feel a concern for national issues and the problems of society, inciting his participation in politics.
An active member of various branches of the Turkish National Students’ Union in his high school and university, in 1976, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected chairman of the Beyoğlu Youth Branch of the National Salvation Party (MSP), later to be elected chairman of the Istanbul Youth Branches of the party in that same year. Erdoğan continued to occupy these posts until 1980. Following the September 12th, 1980, military intervention which closed down all political parties, Erdoğan worked in the private sector as a consultant and a senior executive.
Following the establishment of the Welfare Party in 1983, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan returned to politics and in 1984, became Beyoğlu District Chairman of the party. In 1985, he was appointed the party’s provincial chairman for Istanbul as well as a member of its central decision-making and executive board. While acting as provincial chairman for Istanbul, Erdoğan initiated a reorganization which served as a model for other political parties. During this period, Erdoğan worked to increase the participation of women and young people in politics and took important steps in creating a grassroots movement by encouraging larger sections of the society to take an interest in politics. This reorganization earned the Welfare Party huge success in the Beyoğlu district in the local elections of 1989 and it became a model for political efforts all around the country.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected ma Istanbul Mayor in the local elections of March 27, 1994. With his political skills, the importance he placed on teamwork, and his successful management of human resources and financial matters, Erdoğan was able to make correct diagnoses and create solutions for the many chronic problems of Istanbul, one of the most important metropolitan areas of the world. The water shortage problem was solved with the laying of hundreds of kilometers of new pipelines. The garbage problem was solved with the establishment of state-of-the-art recycling facilities. While Erdoğan was in office, air pollution was eliminated through a plan developed to switch to natural gas. The city’s traffic and transportation jams were tackled with more than fifty bridges, viaducts, and highways. Many projects were developed that would shed light on the problems of later years. While taking precautions to prevent corruption, Erdoğan took measures to ensure that municipal funds were used prudently. Erdoğan paid back a major portion of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s two billion dollar debt when he took office and meanwhile invested four billion dollars in the city. Opening an entirely new era in municipality affairs in Turkey, Erdoğan became a model for other municipalities, while also earning a high level of public trust.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was sentenced to a prison term because of a poem he recited during a public address in the province of Siirt on December 12, 1997. The poem was quoted from a book published by a state enterprise and one that had been recommended to teachers by the Ministry of Education. He was removed from the office of Istanbul Mayor due to this.
After four months in prison, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded to the insistent demands of the public in an environment of improved democratic conditions, and established the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) with a group of friends on August 14, 2001. He was subsequently elected Founding Chairman of AK Party by the Founding Board. From its first year, the confidence and trust of the people in AK Party resulted in its becoming the largest publicly-supported political movement in Turkey. In 2002, the general elections resulted with the AK Party winning two-thirds of the seats in parliament, forming a single-party government.
Because of the court order against him, Erdoğan was not permitted to become a candidate deputy in the elections of November 3, 2002. He participated in the renewal elections for the province of Siirt on March 9, 2003, upon the lifting of the legal obstacles to his candidacy for parliamentary membership. Receiving 85 percent of the votes in this election, Erdoğan became a deputy for the province of Siirt for the 22nd Term of Parliament.
Appointed Prime Minister on March 15, 2003, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continued to harbor his ideal of a bright and rapidly developing Turkey. He implemented numerous reforms of vital importance within a short period of time. A great deal was achieved in democratization, attaining transparency, and preventing corruption. Parallel to this, inflation, which had for decades adversely affected the country’s economy and the people’s psychological state, was finally taken under control and the Turkish Lira retrieved its former prestige through the elimination of six zeros. Interest rates for public borrowings were pulled down; per capita income grew significantly. A host of new dams, housing projects, schools, hospitals, and power plants were inaugurated at a pace never before witnessed in the history of the country. All of these positive developments were named “the Silent Revolution” by some foreign observers and Western leaders.
In addition to the major initiatives that have been characterized as turning points in the country’s journey toward European Union membership, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s sensible foreign policy and intensive diplomatic visits have paved the path for a lasting solution in the Cyprus issue and the development of productive relations with several countries around the world. With the stability that has been achieved, Turkey’s internal dynamics have been revived, causing it to be a central point of interest. Turkey’s foreign trade volume and political power have increased not only in its own geographical region, but on an international scale as well.
As the chairman of Justice and Development Party, which won general elections with an overwhelming majority on July 22, 2007, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan formed the 60th government of the Republic of Turkey.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is married and the father of four.