Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (b. 1954) is the Prime Minister of Turkey and leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). In his youth, Erdoğan (pronounced “er-do-wan”) passionately advocated on behalf of Islamist interests and in the 1990s became a member of the Welfare Party led by Neҫmettin Erbakan and was the first Islamist elected as mayor of Istanbul. He served as Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998; despite fears of an openly Islamist politician, he impressed many by overseeing improvements to the city and a rise in tourism. He was imprisoned in 1999 after publicly reciting a poem by early nationalist Ziya Gökalp, which the secular government interpreted as an incitement of religious violence but which was broadly perceived as an unfair charge. He has been Prime Minister for three terms, the legal limit, and is widely expected to run for President in 2015.
While he is pro-American and supports a Turkish bid for membership in the European Union, Erdoğan has explicitly cultivated Turkey’s relations with the Muslim world and has advocated for Islamic issues, for example, by taking an active role in multilateral discussions on the Syrian Civil War and criticizing Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. Erdoğan’s leadership has in many cases polarized members of his own party, some of whom follow him without question while others prefer the moderate style of current President Abdullah Gül. These differences are particularly salient around topics of public morality; Erdoğan has on numerous occasions forced or attempted to force a moral position as public policy, whether in discussing the number of children women should have, the AKP stance on abortion, and in November 2013 introducing possible prohibitions on co-ed dorms and off-campus housing, which has upset the same demographic that participated in the Gezi Park Protests of that same year.
Tim Arango, “After a Break, Turkey’s Prime Minister Again Courts Controversy,” The New York Times, November 8, 2013.
"Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey at Çanakkale," Randam, from Wikimedia Commons.