ANKARA: Premier’s Political Career

by Baris Erdogan

Sabah, Turkey
July 31 2007

His Close Friend Died in Bombing of MTTB

The bomb that exploded at the central offices of the National
Turkish Scholars Union on 21 September 1969 caused Erdogan’s close
friend Mustafa Bilgin to burn to death. This horrific death greatly
saddened Erdogan.

The foundations for the events that took Turkey blindly into the
military coup of 12 September 1980 were laid in the 1970s. The parties
of the centre right and left where ramping up their rhetoric with
each passing day. With Suleyman Demirel’s Justice Party and Bulent
Ecevit’s Republican People’s Party playing to the left and right
poles for that extra handful of votes, violence began rearing its
ugly head in the streets. Hardly a day went by especially in the
latter half of the 1970s that did not see an incident erupt between
leftist organizations and the ultranationalists, and blood spilt. The
existence of a third youth group on the political spectrum within
this climate of political fighting and violence was struggling to
seize power. This organization was the Akincilar [Raiders], which
was working like the MSP’s [National Salvation Party] second youth
wing with the permission of Necmettin Erbakan.

Islamic Youth Figure

During that time the MSP’s Youth Wing and the Raiders, of which Tayyip
Erdogan was a member, did not engage in armed conflict. They were
working on plans to take over the state not through force of arms
but internally through politics. The MSP youth, the majority of whom
came from families who had once voted for the Democrat Party, were
not armed but they pressed on with their political activities in the
streets. They put up posters and held meetings. A number of them died
in the street fighting that they strayed into. During these chaotic
times the figure who emerged prominently from the Islamic Youth was
the son of Democrat Party member Ahmet Erdogan: Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Painful Loss Of One More Friend

The first political body that Erdogan joined was the National Turkish
Scholars Union, when he was still a pupil at an Imam Hatip school.

While under the roof of this organization, which was a self-appointed
fighter of communism, Tayyip Erdogan tasted for the first time the
bitter pill of losing a colleague. Before the military coup of 12
March a bomb exploded at the Istanbul HQ of the MTTB on 21 September
1969. One of Erdogan’s closest friends Mustafa Bilgin burned to death
in that incident. This horrific death shook up Erdogan and drowned him
in grief. The loss of another friend on 5 July 1980 also demolished
Erdogan. Sedat Yenigun, a teacher of literature at the Zeytinburnu
Ihsan Mermerci High School was shot and killed in a barber’s shop on
Fatih-Aksemseddin Road. Several academicians such as Hamit Bozarslan,
a sociologist at the French Social Sciences High School, attribute the
increase in street violence to the besieging of cities’ environs by
rural youth who had failed to integrate into the cities. Tayyip Erdogan
is one of the few leaders on the right of the political spectrum who
grew up in Istanbul and who is familiar with the cosmopolitan Beyoglu
culture. The fact that he grew up in the Kasimpasa neighbourhood
of Beyoglu district, which is where Romanians, Armenians, Greeks,
Jews and Turks all lived together, is said to be why he gained the
ability to look with tolerance at those who were not in the majority.

Restaurant’s Regular Customer

Even though he never joined in the fun side of Beyoglu he would go to
the Tepebasi Club with his soccer friends. Here he got the chance to
hear the famous singers of the time. Apart from the Tepebasi Club,
which has now been torn down and turned into a parking lot, he also
went to Maksim. He used to like dining at the restaurant there, then
called Haci [Hajji or pilgrim, specifically meaning a restaurant
where alcohol is not served] Salih but now called Haci Abdullah,
After soccer practice he would go there and sample the best that
Turkish cuisine had to offer whenever he got the chance.

Chose A Modern Sect

The political struggle, meetings and demonstrations took up all of
Erdogan’s time. He was known by his friends as Mucahit [Holy Warrior]
Erdogan. He felt the need to tame his spirit in order to fully deserve
the right to be leader and so as not to succumb to passions.

As with the other Islamic youths of the time he felt the need to
knock on the door of a religious sect. At that time there were two
influential Naksibendi congregations that had emerged in Istanbul:
the Ismail Aga and Iskender Pasa sects. The Ismail Aga sect appealed
to its followers to live under the conditions that existed during
the Reign of the Prophet. They did not allow TV into their homes,
the men wore baggy pants and robes while the women wore burqas. It
was considered unacceptable for a man not to have a beard. These
restrictions were not acceptable to the likes of Erdogan, who had
grown up in an urban environment in the Beyoglu district, who had
been educated in the modern educational establishments of the republic
and whose interests ranged from soccer to literature.

Erdogan found it more appropriate to attend the meetings of the
Iskender Pasa lodge, which was relatively more tolerant and modern, and
which attracted many Islamic intellectuals and politicians of the time.

He Would Stand Before The Mirror At Home And Rehearse Being A Leader

It was very important for Tayyip Erdogan to develop oratory skills and
use body language well in order to be able to form the warm relations
he has with the masses today. To this end Erdogan would, in his youth,
stand before a mirror and recite speeches alone. Sports photographer
for the Tercuman newspaper Kemal Adar speaking to journalist Savas
Ay spoke of Erdogan saying, "We could sometimes hear him. He would
stand before the mirror and mimic the leaders."

Journalists Rusen Cakir and Fehmi Calmuk explained one interesting
method used by Erdogan in their book "Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Tale
of Transformation." "Whenever he left school he would go to the
Golden Horn docks, climb to the bridge of a ship, face out to sea
and rehearse his speeches."

His Mother’s Dread

At a time when the streets were compartmentalized and when liberated
neighbourhoods were springing up Erdogan’s parents Ahmet and Tenzile
did not object to their son engaging in politics. Tayyip Erdogan
always told his family that he was not involved in the fighting but
his mother Tenzile would never be able to sleep until her son had
returned home. She would wait on the balcony at night with sadness
in her eyes and worry in her heart. She explained: "We had a balcony
on both sides of the house. Whichever side I was on I would hear
gunfire. I would wait for my Tayyip with my heart in my hands as if
I thought I would hear bad news about him. But, no matter how much
I told him not to go he would not listen. He went ahead fighting for
the cause he believed in."

His Drive And Charisma Rapidly Opened Up The Way Ahead

Tayyip Erdogan continued his political adventure, which had begun at
the MTTB, as one of Istanbul’s most active leaders. On 11 November
1973 he joined the youth wing of Necmettin Erbakan’s MSP. Young people
with Islamic sentiments but who stayed away from guns were joining
this organization at that time. In 1975 he became the chairman of
the MSP’s youth wing in Beyoglu. Within two years thanks to his work,
endless drive and charisma he managed to become the chairman of the
Istanbul Youth Wing. This duty continued until the military coup of
12 September.

He Prevented Division

With his clear and decisive attitude in response to incidents he
rapidly came to the attention of the MSP leadership. In 1976 he used
his influence over the youth to end the squabble within the Raiders
between Radical Islamists and the Moderate Islamists, and secured
his place in the eyes of the party leadership.

Villager Gets Water, Prays For Erdogan

[By Murat Karaman in Kahramanmaras]

The people of the seven-home hamlet of Korelinusagi in Boztoprakli
Village in the Andirin District of Kahramanmaras, who secured water
for their hamlet by telephoning Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in
the middle of the night, are celebrating. Standing at the fountain,
praying and offering thanks to the prime minister, the villagers said:
"We used to bring the water here from the springs my mule. Now we
can turn on the tap at home and get running water. God bless our
prime minister." The villagers said they expected p, Erdogan, who
provided them with water, to come to their hamlet. Mehmet Kose, who
is responsible for water coming to the village, recalled that after
he had notified the problem Prime Minister Erdogan telephoned him
personally at 0130 in the morning: "We spoke for about half an hour.

I also explained the problem over the phone. Immediately after
speaking with me our prime minister called the Kaymakam and issued
instructions. Our village has been without water for centuries. Now
thanks to our prime minister we have water."

AKP Gets 300 Votes

The Kaymakam of Andirin Oktay Cagatay said that Prime Minister
Erdogan called him on the night of 6 March: "He instructed us to
provide the village of Korelinusagi with water. We got water to our
hamlet within 45 days. We are going to get our roads finished as
soon as possible." It was noted that of the 500 people in Boztoprakli
Village who voted, 300 voted for the Justice and Development Party,
79 for the Nationalist Action Party, 34 for the Republican People’s
Party with the remainder going to other parties.

Same Path As Ozal

As Erdogan’s charisma within the MSP and the youth wing grew so
Turgut Ozal ran as the MSP candidate for Izmir in the 1977 elections,
narrowly losing. Later severing his ties with the MSP, Turgut Ozal
founded the centre right Motherland Party in 1983 at the age of 56.

Many personalities who had spent their youth in Islamist politics in
the 1970s joined the Motherland Party after 12 September along with
Ozal. A large Islamist body that followed Necmettin Erbakan until
the end of the 1990s put aside their Islamist agendas and religious
references under Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership. Tayyip Erdogan founded
the Justice and Development Party, a centre-right conservative democrat
party, in 2001 at the age of 47.