Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Özal, Turgut (1927–1993)

Turkish politician, premier, and the eighth president of the Turkish Republic. Born in Malatya, Turkey, on 13 October 1927, Turgut Özal received his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Istanbul Technical University and went on to study economics in the United States from 1952 to 1953. Upon his return to Turkey, he served as an advisor to the Defense Ministry, the State Planning Organization, the World Bank, and Premier Süleyman Demirel. Özal proved to be a solid, pro-Western Cold War ally.

After Turkey's 1980 military coup d'état, Özal was appointed deputy prime minister. He was forced to resign after a banking scandal in 1982. In 1983, his center-rightist Motherland Party gathered a majority of the votes in national elections, making him Turkey's forty-fifth prime minister. Although the party lost popular support as a result of its economic austerity program, it maintained its parliamentary majority in the 1987 elections, and Özal secured a second full term as prime minister. Two years later, the Turkish parliament elected him the first civilian president of the republic since 1960. As premier, Özal implemented extensive economic liberalization reforms, including the lifting of exchange controls and privatization of state economic enterprises. His liberalism did not, however, extend equally to the political sphere. He campaigned for the ban on the pre-1980 politicians' political rights, favored strict controls over the press, and turned a blind eye toward widespread human rights violations. He was at best a pragmatic democrat. He proposed greater rights for the Kurdish minorities mainly to curtail the military conflict in southeastern Anatolia. In foreign affairs, he pursued pro-Western Turkish policies, including integration with the European Union (EU), active involvement in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and political partnership with the United States. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, he began to establish cultural and economic ties with the new Central Asian republics. Özal died unexpectedly on 17 April 1993 in Ankara, Turkey.

Burcak Keskin-Kozat


Further Reading
Aral, Berdal. "Dispensing with Tradition? Turkish Politics and International Society during the Özal Decade, 1983–93." Middle Eastern Studies 37(1) (2001): 72–88.
 

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