- (1927-1993)As prime minister of Turkey from 1983 to 1989 and then president until his sudden death from a heart attack on 17 April 1993, Turgut Ozal was possibly the most important Turkish leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Ozal's liberal economic policies, for example, reoriented Turkey's autarkic market and changed it forever.Trained as an engineer and economist, Ozal was seen by many as primarily a technocrat when he was brought in by the military government that seized power in Turkey in September 1980 to rescue the economy. However, Ozal proved skeptical of government-run businesses and had troubling links with the Islamic right through his connections with the Naqshbandi order. In the election of November 1983, Ozal's Anavatan Partisi (ANAP), or Motherland Party, handily defeated the military's candidates and swept him into power.Although Ozal had originated the village guards system and emergency rule, two measures long considered prime examples of official state repression of the Kurds, he in time began to make some imaginative reforms in an attempt to help solve the Kurdish problem in Turkey. For one thing, he revealed that one of his grandparents had been an ethnic Kurd. In response to the 1991 Gulf War and its repercussions among the Kurds, Ozal introduced a draft bill into the Turkish parliament to repeal some of the long-standing obstacles to the legal usage of the Kurdish language in Turkey, except in broadcasts, publications, and education. He also broke Turkey's stringent policy against negotiating with any Kurdish group and invited Jalal Talabani and a representative of Massoud Barzani, the two main Iraqi Kurdish leaders, to Ankara.By the following year, Ozal was arguing not only for amnesty for the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) but also its recognition as a participant in Turkey's political system. Shortly before his death, Ozal warned his prime minister, Suleyman Demirel, that the Kurdish issue was the gravest issue ever facing Turkey. These truly were radical ideas for a Turkish leader, and they found some positive response from Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK. In March 1993, Ocalan announced a unilateral cease-fire on top of his already tone-down demands for Kurdish independence.All of these promising initiatives came to an end with Ozal's sudden death from a heart attack. Under the new president, Suleyman Demirel, Turkey returned to its more traditional policy of smashing the Kurds. The rumor arose that Ozal had actually been murdered by those in the Turkish government who opposed his Kurdish initiatives. Given his bad health, however, it is highly unlikely that this was the case.
Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. Michael M. Gunter.
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Özal, Turgut — born Oct. 13, 1927, Malatya, Tur. died April 17, 1993, Ankara Prime minister (1983–89) and president (1989–93) of Turkey. After studying electrical engineering, he oversaw Turkey s electrification program in the 1950s and 60s. After working as a… … Universalium
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