Gül, Roots in East, face turned to West (biography)

For years his family and close friends called him by the nickname Cumhur (republic).

Gül, Roots in East, face turned to West (biography)

President Abdullah Gül was born in Kayseri on Oct. 29, 1950, the 27th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. For years his family and close friends called him by the nickname Cumhur (republic). He attended Kayseri Gazipaşa Primary School and Nazmi Toker Middle School.

He was expected to take up a business, like most other residents of Kayseri. He was given a bucket filled with soft drinks to sell at the bazaar. He was told to walk about advertising by shouting "Cold soft drinks, great for your thirst!" but he was too shy. Then he was put up against the "lettuce test." He was supposed to sell lettuce, saying, "Lettuce, the beauty of the garden, lettuce like a beautiful bride!" Years later he would tell his friend that he couldn't sell either the drinks or the lettuce because he was "as nervous as a bride."

After his failed experiences as a salesman he continued his education. While studying at the Kayseri High School he met Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, the man who would shape his perspectives and inspire him to focus on world issues and Turkey's future.

His classmate, Justice and Development Party (AK party) Izmir deputy Mehmet Sayım Tekelioğlu, describes Gül back then as a "young man who never failed and could speak eloquently and persuasively." Years later Tekelioğlu frequently uses the phrase, "Gül can welcome an irate man, speak with him and then send him off happy," to describe his friend.

Dostoyevsky follows Kısakürek

His family, environment and the Büyük Doğu Fikir Club (great east thought club) were major factors in the development of Gül's views. His friend Tekelioğlu was with Gül during his first contact with the club. They were both curious about history. Noting that they studied both the history of Islam and the Ottoman Empire, Tekelioğlu said: "We read Dostoyevsky, Balzac and James Joyce at the club. We completed classics from both the East and West."

"Kısakürek would come to Kayseri for conferences that we had organized together. Then we moved to İstanbul where Kısakürek set up the company Great East Publications. I worked directly with the printing and distribution of the books. The first book we printed was 'Çile' (Suffering). Kısakürek took us to dinner after 'Çile' was published. From there we went to a fabric store and he bought us wonderful plaid fabric for suits," Gül said in an interview.

Banned from university for activism

Abdullah Gül enrolled in the İstanbul University Economics Department in 1968. At that time universities were an epicenter of political tension and violence. Political polarization, boycotts and fights originated in universities and then spread to the public. Many current politicians were active members of student movements back then.

While studying at university Gül joined the National Turkish Student Association (MTTB) seeking a forum in which to express his opinions. In addition to Kısakürek he was inspired by Nurettin Topçu, Sezai Karakoç, Cemil Meriç and İdris Küçükömer. The views represented by these great minds transformed his political identity during the chaotic milieu of the time. Pictures of Gül and his friends were posted on university walls by leftist groups and Gül was banned from the university for several months.

As a member of the MTTB he organized field trips to Çanakkale on the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli and gave speeches at various venues. One speech, which he delivered to thousands of people in Beyazıt in the early 1970s, made the headlines of Cumhuriyet newspaper the following morning.

First political party speech to Demirel's crowd

Gül delivered his first speech as a political party member in the Yeşilhisar district of Kayseri when he was 25 years old. His father Ahmed Hamdi Gül was a parliamentary candidate for the National Salvation Party (MSP) in 1973 but was unable to win a seat. In the 1975 parliamentary elections Recai Kutan was the candidate for the MSP. During Kutan's election campaign, Gül and a few friends, among them Şükrü Karatepe, went to Yeşilhisar when it was time for the MSP to deliver its speech. Moments after Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel finished his speech, Gül took to the podium and delivered a speech of his own to the crowd. Years later Demirel would welcome that same young man into the True Path Party (DYP).

After Gül completed his studies in the İstanbul University Economics Department and became an academic, he continued his education in the form of a doctorate. He later taught economics for Sakarya University's industrial engineering department, having earlier been instrumental in its foundation. He moved to Britain to improve his English. While he lived there he spent much of his free time spectating at Speakers Corner in London's Hyde Park and discussing the developments and future of Turkey with his roommates.

Mistakenly arrested twice

Gül was among the victims of the military coup of Sept. 12, 1980. He was taken into custody within days of marrying his wife, Hayrünnisa, just after the coup, but was released a few days later. He had been mistakenly taken into custody once before, in 1975 when police raided the MTTB center and took everyone into custody. He was released and the police apologized to him.

He completed his military service in 1981. Two years later he moved to Saudi Arabia and resided there for eight years. His university professor, Nevzat Yalçıntaş, was the head of the Research Department of the Islamic Development Bank. Gül wrote his doctoral thesis on the economics of Islamic countries. He traveled to Jeddah at the invitation of Yalçıntaş.

Opposed because not from the National View

Abdullah Gül first entered the Turkish political scene in 1991. The leader of the Welfare Party (RP), Necmettin Erbakan, who made an electoral alliance with the Nationalist Work Party (MÇP), was looking for a dynamic figure. He went to Kayseri in June 1991 to celebrate his son Ahmet's circumcision. With less then three months before the elections, Şaban Bayrak was determined to have Gül become a parliamentary candidate for the RP. But the Kayseri RP group opposed his nomination saying, "No one knows him, he is not from the National View," referring to the conservative movement in which the RP had its roots. Bayrak decided to resolve the impasse by organizing a meeting with Gül. After listening to Gül in the two-hour-long gathering, the regional RP group approved his candidacy. When the RP headquarters was informed of Gül's approval, Erbakan said: "Kayseri has chosen their first parliamentarian. Does anyone know Abdullah Gül? Who can convince him to join us?" Azmi Ateş raised his hand and said, "He is my friend." Ateş and Bayrak then spoke with Gül and convinced him to join their party.

Gül attracted attention with his speeches and efforts on the parliamentary Planning and Budgetary Commission. During his trips abroad as a deputy, including those to the European Commission, he made many important contacts and paved his way to the Foreign Ministry. In 1993 he became his party's vice president in charge of foreign affairs.

While working in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Gül continued to visit Turkish nongovernmental organizations as well as hospitals and prisons.

When his friend İrfan Ayyıldız, a businessman from Kayseri, became ill in Strasbourg, Gül visited him at the hospital with a bouquet of flowers. He asked if there were other Turkish patients in the hospital and visited each of them also. Among the patients he visited was Nasır Demir, who was Alevi and a Republican People's Party (CHP) supporter. Noting that no one from Turkey had ever visited him, Demir said, "I will remember this visit as the happiest moment of my life."

Gül asks for prayer room in PACE

When Gül was unable to find a prayer room during his first days at PACE, he laid out his jacket on the floor in front of the chapel and performed the daily prayer. The next day a room was reserved for Muslim prayers. Gül met with French and Turkish members of PACE and other EU citizens during his mission in Strasbourg. Thomas Milsan was among the French citizens Gül spoke with. "When Thomas decided to convert to Islam, he changed his name to Abdullah because he liked Abdullah Gül so much," İrfan Ayyıldız said.

Baykal: Abdullah and I will win these seats via struggle

Gül had become a prominent figure in the RP serving as both a minister and spokesman for the RP-True Path Party (DYP) coalition government led by Erbakan. His stance on the Feb. 28 process marked him as one of the pioneers of the reformist movement. At the congress of the Virtue Party (FP) held on May 14, 2000, he ran for president as the candidate of the reformist wing of the party. He lost to Kutan, despite political observers proclaiming the reformists the real winners of the congress.

In 2001 he made an unforgettable visit to CHP leader Deniz Baykal, accompanied by Abdüllatif Şener, Salih Kapusuz and Azmi Ateş. The meeting was friendly with Gül recognizing the influences of İdris Küçükömer on Baykal that day. "I am Deniz the son of retired Hüseyin Hilmi. I am not the pasha's or governor's child. Both Abdullah Gül and I will win these seats via a struggle," Baykal told his friends when assessing Gül and his friends' struggle. Gül continued to work with his closest friends at the Political Research Center. Together this group founded the new Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in August 2001.


Understands both West and East

Gül took historical steps while prime minister and during his tenure as foreign minister. For example, he enabled Turkey to begin full membership negotiations with the European Union. He also played important roles in resolving international problems. He placed his main focus on the US invasion in Iraq, counterterrorism and EU relations. The Cypriot policy Turkey had followed for years underwent a complete revamping during his time in the Foreign Ministry. The international community began to closely monitor Turkey's foreign policy during his time at the ministry's helm and his appeal for democracy and transparency was echoed through much of the Muslim world.

A man of his word

On April 24, 2007, Gül was nominated as a presidential candidate, however Turkey was forced to hold early elections because Parliament failed to meet the Constitutional Court's quorum. On July 25, Gül, "the candidate of the streets," hinted that he would again run for president. Naturally, he could not overlook the will of the nation. On Tuesday Gül became the 11th president of the Republic of Turkey. Gül's philosophy can be summarized with his own words, "I will never say things in the public arena that I wouldn't say to just a few people, and I will say everything that I say to only a few people in the public arena."

The candidate of the streets

AK Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was banned from Turkey's elections on Nov. 3, 2002. He led the party but he could not become a parliamentary candidate. After the AK Party won in a landslide defeat and set up government, Kayseri Parliamentarian Gül became prime minister. After the political ban was removed and the election in Siirt was cancelled, Erdoğan replaced Gül as prime minister. The public applauded Gül's action when he transferred the post to Erdoğan.

Today's Zaman

Last Mod: 30 Ağustos 2007, 15:36
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