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Halil Turgut Özal (October 13, 1927 April 17, 1993) was a Turkishmarker political leader, prime minister and the 8th president of Turkey. As prime minister, he transformed the economy of Turkey by paving the way for the privatization of many state enterprises. This improved relations with the western world, especially the United Statesmarker. Özal described his dream as transforming Turkey into a "little America" , and showed as evidence the preponderance of goods that became available during his leadership, albeit most of them being imported.

Özal has been criticized by some , who have asserted that this shift from state-dominated to privatized economy came at the expense of the old Turkish middle class. This criticism has been answered by others who emphasize that Özal had tried to expand the middle class so as to integrate the more traditional popular rural base previously excluded from the markets. His presidential tenure is often perceived as having "brought capitalism to the country".

Özal supported the coalition against Iraqmarker during the 1991 Gulf War.

Background

He was born in Malatyamarker and was of partial Kurdish descent. He completed elementary school in Silifke (Mersinmarker), middle school in Mardinmarker, and high school in Kayserimarker. Özal studied electrical engineering at Istanbul Technical Universitymarker, graduating in 1950.

Career

Early

Between 1950-1952, he worked in the State Electrical Power Planning Administration and continued his studies in the United Statesmarker on electrical energy and engineering management between 1952-1953. After his return to Turkey, he worked in the same organization again on electrification projects until 1958. Özal was in the State Planning Department in 1959, and in the Planning Coordination Department in 1960. After his military service in 1961, he worked at several state organizations in leading positions and lectured at ODTÜ (Middle East Technical Universitymarker). The World Bank employed him between 1971-1973 . Then, he was chairman of some private Turkish companies until 1979. Back to the state service, he was undersecretary to the Prime minister Süleyman Demirel until the military coup on September 12, 1980. The military rulers under Kenan Evren appointed him state minister and deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs until July 1982.

Motherland Party era

On May 20, 1983 he founded the Motherland Party ( ) and became its leader. His party won the elections and he formed the government to become the 19th Prime minister on December 13, 1983. In 1987 he was reelected.

On June 18, 1988 he survived an assassination attempt during the party congress. One bullet wounded his finger while another bullet missed his head. The assassin, Kartal Demirağ, was captured and sentenced to life in prison but pardoned by Özal in 1992.Demirağ was allegedly a Counter-Guerrilla, contracted by its hawkish leader, general Sabri Yirmibeşoğlu. Two months later, Yirmibeşoğlu became the secretary general of the National Security Council. During Yirmibeşoğlu's tenure as secretary general, Özal heard about the allegations of Yirmibeşoğlu's role in the affair and forced him into retirement.

In late 2008, Demirağ was retried by the Ankara 11th Heavy Penal Court and sentenced to twenty years in prison.

Presidency era

On 9 November 1989, Özal became the eighth president of Turkey elected by the Grand National Assembly of Turkeymarker.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Özal made an effort to create alliances with the Turkic countries of Central Asia as well as Azerbaijanmarker in the South Caucasus. He provided moral, economic, and military support to the latter during the Nagorno-Karabakh War threatening to invade Armeniamarker.

In February 1991, he was made an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), Australia's highest civilian honour, "for eminent service to Turkish/Australian relations".

Death

On 17 April 1993, Özal died of a suspicious heart attack in office, leading some to suspect an assassination. His wife Semra Ozal claimed he was poisoned by lemonade and she questioned the lack of an autopsy; allegedly a requirement in such circumstances. The blood samples taken to determine his cause of death were lost or disposed of.Özal sought to create a Turkic union, and had obtained the commitment of several presidents. His wife Semra alleged that the perpetrator might have wanted to foil the plan.

Hundreds of thousands of people attended his burial ceremonies in Istanbul, whereby he was buried with a state ceremony next to the mausoleum of Adnan Menderes, whom he had revered.

On the fourteenth anniversary of his death, thousands of commemorators gathered in Ankara.

Family

With his wife Semra, Özal had two sons, and a daughter. One of their sons, Ahmet Özal, was elected to parliament after the elections of 1999, but stayed out after the elections of 2002.

References




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