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Early Life and Education
She graduated from the School of Economics at Robert College after finishing the American College for Girls in Istanbul. She received her M.S. from the University of New Hampshire and Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. She completed later on her postdoctoral studies at Yale University. In 1978, she became a lecturer at Bosphorus University in Istanbul and in 1983 she was appointed as professor by the same institution. She also worked in the now-defunct Istanbul Bank as president of the company.
After teaching at several universities as a professor, she entered politics in November 1990, joining the conservative True Path Party (DYP). She was first elected to parliament in 1991 as deputy of Istanbul and served as Minister of State in charge of economics in the coalition government of Süleyman Demirel. On June 13, 1993, she became the party’s leader and later the Prime Minister of a coalition government. After the withdrawal of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) from the coalition in 1995 she attempted to form a minority government, which failed.
Çiller also served as Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister and the vice prime minister between 1996 and 1997. In 1997, before she could form her forth cabinet as the prime minister, she was removed from power with a post-modern military coup.
The EU-Turkey Customs Union agreement was signed in 1995 and came into effect in 1996, during Çiller’s government. Çiller was also Turkey’s PM during the Imia/Kardak crisis with neighbouring Greece in 1996. She is pro-European and her election as Prime Minister was heralded by the media and political commentators as a sign of Turkey’s credentials for European Union membership.
She is credited with modernising the Turkish Army and for playing an important role in the US and the European Union recognising the PKK as a terrorist organization.
She was investigated for serious corruption allegations after her time in power but was later cleared, mainly due to technicalities. She lost power in 2002 and retired from political life.
Tansu Çiller is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders , an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development.
Turkish media called her a “lady with a smile of steel” in reference to her strong will. One example often cited was that in 1963, when she married Ozer Ucuran, a businessman, she refused to take his name and persuaded him to take hers, an unusual feat in a Muslim society.