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Özal, Turgut

By:
Howard A. Reed
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The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

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Özal, Turgut

Turgut Özal (1927–1993) was the eighth president of Turkey. Born in Malatya on October 13, 1927, Özal died in office in Ankara on April 17, 1993. He was the eldest of three sons of the banker Mehmet Sıddık (Sadık) Bey and the teacher Hafize (Doğan). He received an M.S. in electrical engineering from Istanbul Technical University in 1950 and studied advanced engineering economics in the United States on an A.I.D. grant (1952–1953). He worked for the Electrical Survey Administration from 1950 to 1965, rising to deputy director general; concurrently he served as secretary of the State Planning Commission (1958–1965) and as instructor in mathematics at Middle East Technical University (1960–1962). He became technical adviser to Premier Süleyman Demirel in 1966 and undersecretary at the State Planning Organization (1967–1971). He was a consultant to the World Bank from 1971 to 1973 in the United States. After holding executive positions in various Turkish private firms from 1974 to 1979, he was appointed undersecretary in the Prime Ministry and acting undersecretary in the State Planning Organization, where he was the architect of Demirel 's January 1980 Economic Liberalization Program. He became deputy prime minister under Bülend Ulusu after the September 1980 military intervention but resigned after twenty-two months.

In May 1983 Özal founded the Motherland (Anavatan or ANAP) Party, won the November 1983 elections, resulting in his serving as premier until elected president in October 1989. Turkey 's democratic constitutional process weathered the shock of Özal 's sudden death from heart failure after an exhausting eleven-day visit to the Central Asian Turkic republics and Azerbaijan. A smooth transition of power resulted in the election of Premier Demirel as president and the appointment of the new True Path Party leader, Madame Tansu Çiller, as prime minister.

Özal 's greatest service was to transform Turkey into a free-market economy and to prepare it for the twenty-first century. His free-market economic program reversed decades-long, static import-substitution policies. Turkey enjoyed the highest growth rate among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members—between 6 and 8 percent annually from 1986 onward. Rapid industrialization, urbanization, modern banking, convertible currency, a free press and elections, quintupled exports, telecommunications development, and investments in education surpassing those for defense annually since 1991, coupled with implementation of the vast Southeast Anatolian Development Project (one of the world 's largest)—plus considerable inflation—are elements of these changes. His controversial, dynamic foreign policy involved active participation in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC); prompt closing of Iraqi pipelines to Turkish ports after Iraq 's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 (despite costing Turkey some $15 billion); the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Zone; openings to the new Turkic republics of the former Soviet Union; mediation in Azerbaijan, the Balkans, and Iran; and staunch membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other international agencies. These policies notably enhanced Turkey 's global stature and key geopolitical and intercultural role as a stable bridge between Europe and the rest of Eurasia in an era of revolutionary change.

Özal 's father was a medrese (Ar., madrasah, Islamic theological college) graduate later trained as a banker. His mother was a devout, enlightened primary school teacher and had made the ḥajj. His grandmother was partly Kurdish. Özal himself was an observant Muslim who kept the fast and prayed regularly, but he was also a strong secularist and tolerant ecumenist. He was an initiate of the Naqshbandīyah dervish order, his Ṣūfī mentor, Mehmet Zahit Kotku (d. 1980), who claimed descent from the Prophet, was buried in the grounds of Süleymaniye mosque in Istanbul, as was Özal 's mother in 1988, both beneficiaries of special permits issued by the Council of Ministers.

Özal envisioned the twenty-first century as that of the Turks. He was extremely intelligent, with an analytic mind and retentive memory, friendly, smiling, open-minded, self-assured yet modest, remarkably persuasive, focused, and hard-working. He and his second wife, Semra Yeğinmen (m. 1954), who bore him a daughter, Zeynep, and two sons, Ahmet and Efe, were close confidants who usually ate together and walked hand-in-hand in public—a rare sight in Turkey. An indulgent father, he was criticized for nepotism. He became computer adept in his sixties and used computers at home and work. He said, “I think world leaders should make more use of the technological marvels of our age in order to reach out to the masses in other countries to convey conciliatory messages and to build new understanding among peoples. … Tolerance and fraternal solidarity among peoples and faiths are the two main themes … in the planetary enterprise to build the next millennium on sound foundations of freedom, peace, progress and prosperity.” His remarkable book Turkey in Europe and Europe in Turkey (1991) argues cogently that Anatolia (now most of the Turkish peninsula) has always been a contributor to and part of European civilization, and that the roots of so-called Western or Judeo-Christian civilization include Anatolia: consequently, a more accurate designation would be “Judeo-Christian-Islamic civilization.” Unfortunately, this learned and eloquent book has received virtually no notice abroad except for a few reviews in French periodicals, notably Le Monde.

Many consider Turgut Özal Turkey 's greatest leader since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (president, 1923–1938), İsmet İnönü (president, 1938–1950), and Adnan Menderes (premier, 1950–1960). His bold, far-sighted and often successful policies appear more admired after his death than during his life. Özal dedicated himself unstintingly to improving the quality of life of all Turkish citizens and achieved remarkable results in a life whose untimely end prevented him from his hope of continuing to lead as president or possibly again as prime minister. He urged his compatriots to escape from “the tunnel of history” and to realize his dreams and plans for the next century, in which Turks would come into their true inheritance and achieve the status of an advanced society. He opened up new possibilities and challenging perspectives for every Turk that can stimulate his successors to even greater achievements. It is too early for any definitive assessment of his career, its impact on Turkey, and the world, but his legacy challenges all Turks.

See also ANAVATAN PARTISI and TURKEY.

Bibliography

The reader may consult the following works by Turgut Özal: “Türkiye’nin Kalkınmasında Görüşler” (Perspectives on Turkish Development). 1973. Thirty-five-page letter from Özal to Süleyman Demirel, written after Özal 's two-year consultancy with the World Bank. The letter sets out a blueprint for Özal 's later (1979–1980) free-market program, which introduced radical and positive changes in Turkey 's economic structure. See Değişim “Belgeleri,” cited below, for Özal 's three basic principles essential to Turkey 's future (pp. 9, 19, 161–162).

“Kalkınmada Yeni Görüşün Esasları” (The Basic Elements of the New Perspective on Development). Speech delivered at the Minor Congress of the Nationalists, Ankara, April 1979 (published in Değişim “Belgeleri”).

“Opening and Closing Speeches of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State Turgut Özal at the Second İzmir Economic Congress,” İzmir, November 2 and 7, 1981. In Turkish. The first speech presents a historical analysis of Turkey 's economic policies and growth since 1923. The second recommends basic principles to which Turkey must adhere to assure continuous socioeconomic development. Published in Değişim “Belgeleri.”

“Speeches by Prime Minister Özal, 1983–1989, and President Özal, 1989–1993,” published periodically in Turkish by the Grand National Assembly, Ankara. See, for example, Başbakan Turgut Özal’in Yurtiçi—Yurtdışı Konuşmaları (Prime Minister Turgut Özal 's Speeches in Turkey and Abroad, December 13, 1988–October 31, 1989). Ankara, n.d. La Turquie en Europe. Paris, 1988. Translated and revised as Turkey in Europe and Europe in Turkey. Nicosia, Northern Cyprus, 1991. Traces the significant contributions of Anatolians to universal civilization during the past eight thousand years, underscoring Turkey 's seminal interaction with and contributions to European/Western culture. Özal unmasks and refutes mistaken prejudices of Europeans regarding Turks and provides illuminating historical evidence to support Turkey 's 1987 request for full membership in the European Community.

Değişim “Belgeleri,” 1979–1992 (“Documents” on Change, 1979–1992). Istanbul, 1993. Posthumously published book containing four key documents from 1979, 1981, 1983, and 1992. The documents enunciate Özal 's three basic freedoms (freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom to engage in free enterprise) and his guidelines for shifting Turkey into a free-market economy, reorganizing and decentralizing government, amending the constitution, revitalizing education and health services, creating necessary infrastructures (including state-of-the-art fiber optics capability and telecommunications), sustained improvements in energy and water supplies, and environmental protection.

The Turkish weekly newsmagazine NOKTA (Istanbul) published a special supplement on Özal, NOKTA Özal Ek TURGUT ÖZAL, 1927–1993, distributed with the regular weekly issue for April 25 (Nisan)—May 1 (Mayis) 1993, which contains a series of commissioned articles by former associates and informed specialists providing useful data and perspectives on the late president 's career. The supplement is a useful addition to earlier books on various aspects of Özal 's career, written in Turkish and undocumented, hence very hard to assess, despite the fact that a few have become best sellers in Turkey.

More contemporary sources include Roger Owen. State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East. 3d ed. London: Routledge, 2004, and David E. Long, Bernard Reich and Mark Gasiorowski, eds. The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa. 5th ed. Westview Press, 2007.

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