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Turkey's Moment

A Conversation With Abdullah Gul

Abdullah Gul

  • Country: Turkey
  • Title: President
  • Education: Istanbul University, Istanbul University, University of Exeter
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Abdullah Gul has been president of Turkey since 2007. Somewhat overshadowed, at least abroad, by his longtime political partner Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- Turkey's prime minister and leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) -- Gul has recently started to carve out a more independent political identity. While Erdogan has become increasingly strident and authoritarian since taking office in 2003, especially as the AKP's parliamentary majorities have grown, Gul -- although personally pious and traditional (he married his wife when she was 15 and he was 30) -- has quietly pursued a more moderate and progressive path. A former foreign minister and prime minister himself, Turkey's head of state and commander in chief has raised his stature (and popularity) by embracing seemingly contradictory principles: defending both Turkey's Muslim identity and its pluralistic values, challenging his own government's antidemocratic excesses, championing the rule of law, and helping reorient his country's foreign policy eastward while remaining a forceful advocate of integration with Europe. We spoke in his Ankara office in October.

How do you think Americans and the West are getting Turkey wrong? Turkey is a bridge between Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caucasus. Each of our neighboring countries has a different government and administrative style. In Turkey, we have a vast majority-Muslim population along with democracy, human rights, and a free-market economy, and this makes us unique in the region. From a geographic and geopolitical point of view, Turkey belongs to this region, and we have historical relations with all our

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