Cablegate: Behind the Man: The Family of New Turkish Pm
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L ANKARA 008532
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/21/2012
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINS PINR TU
SUBJECT: BEHIND THE MAN: THE FAMILY OF NEW TURKISH PM
REF: ANKARA 8358
(C) Classified by Acting Political Counselor Nicholas Kass.
Reason: 1.5 (b)(d).
1. (C) Summary and comment: Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah
Gul (reftel), Number Two man in the Islam-influenced AK
(Justice and Development) Party of R. Tayyip Erdogan, is a
democrat and political reformist who nonetheless heads a
family that takes Islam seriously and reflects his own moral
proclivities. End summary.
2. (C) Gul's wife Hayrunnisa and three children share and
reflect the PM's strong Muslim faith. The 40ish Mrs. Gul
wears the Islamic headscarf (note: as do approximately half
of the wives of the AK Government ministers. End comment.)
Married young (before the age of 16), Hayrunnisa Gul could be
considered by many elite Turks as a stereotypical covered
Muslim wife. Yet she has a noticeable if demure presence of
her own, reflected in her conservative yet stylish attire,
opulent yet tasteful jewelry -- and her steely determination
to challenge Kemalist propriety. She has a case pending
against the Turkish State in the European Court of Human
Rights for denying her matriculation at Ankara University
Faculty of Letters for wearing the headscarf; she had passed
the admissions test (which, in more traditionalist fashion,
she took after her children were grown) with flying colors.
A similar case was scheduled for the ECHR Nov. 19, which
could serve as a precedent.
-- The soft-spoken Hayrunnisa presents herself as a woman
more concerned with her family than her husband's political
ambitions. Privately to poloff, Hayrunnisa has been quick to
point out that her husband is the politician in the family.
She nevertheless also staunchly defends her political
affiliation, her country, her religion, and her right --
attenuated, in her view, by the Turkish State's outmoded and
overly harsh understanding of secularism -- to practice her
-- The Gul's daughter, Kubra, 19, is herself engaged on the
headscarf front as a student at Ankara's Bilkent University,
where English is the language of instruction. Though Bilkent
is known for its more open and dynamic approach to education
-- particularly when compared to bastions of Kemalism such as
Ankara University -- Kubra Gul explained to poloff that she
adheres to Muslim tradition by covering her head with a wig
when in class -- thereby avoiding the risk of a head-on
confrontation with GOT enforcers of Kemalist principles and
being banned from classes (and we expect, embroiling her
father in controversy). According to a senior AK official,
preliminary negotiations are underway to arrange a marriage
between Kubra Gul and one of Tayyip Erdogan's sons.
3. (C) Abdullah Gul is widely regarded even by many Kemalist
secularists as an engaging, tolerant man, though one with
deep convictions. These traits, and the evident importance
of Islam to the Gul family, reflect a cardinal Ozalist virtue
that is a key to success in Turkish politics, and to Turkish
social peace: to be at once both modern and forward looking,
yet with an abiding respect for the religious and traditional