Turkish FlagCivic Freedom Monitor: Turkey

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 1 June 2017

Update: In April 2017, through a referendum, the people of Turkey narrowly voted in favor of reforming their constitution and more than 2,000 laws in a way that removes many of the checks on executive power. Among such reforms are the following:

  • The office of prime minister is eliminated. The new post of vice president (with possibly two or three of them) is created.
  • The president becomes the head of the executive, as well as the head of state, and retains ties to a political party (prior to this, presidents renounced political parties on taking office).
  • The president is given sweeping new powers to appoint ministers, prepare the budget, choose the majority of senior judges and enact certain laws by decree.
  • The president alone is able to announce a State of Emergency and dismiss parliament.
  • The parliament loses its right to scrutinize ministers or propose an enquiry. However, it is able to launch impeachment proceedings or investigate the president with a majority vote by MPs. Putting the president on trial requires a two-thirds majority.
  • Presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held on the same day every five years. The president is limited to two terms.

This referendum came less than one year after a faction within the army attempted a coup in July 2016, which led to several hundred deaths before the government thwarted the coup. Since the coup, the government has imposed a number of new restrictions on civil society and has cracked down on journalists.

Introduction

Turkey has a vibrant civil society with civil society organizations (CSOs) working in numerous areas. Since officially becoming an EU candidate country in 2003, Turkey has implemented a series of reforms that promote democratization, including reforms to its basic framework laws affecting civil society. Turkey still operates, however, under the 1982 Constitution, which was written immediately following a military coup. Although there are basic guarantees of rights and freedoms, the Constitution is not up to the standards found in developed democracies. The state still has a dominant influence over society.

Until 2004, when a new Associations Law was enacted in Turkey, the autonomy of Turkish CSOs was fairly restricted. The new Associations Law was viewed positively by both civil society and the EU. It lifted some of the limitations on civil society. Listed below are some of the key improvements contained in the Law:

  1. Associations are no longer required to obtain prior authorization for foreign funding, partnerships or activities.
  2. Associations are no longer required to inform local government officials of the day/time/location of general assembly meetings and no longer required to invite a government official/commissary to general assembly meetings.
  3. Audit officials must give 24 hour prior notice and just cause for random audits.
  4. Associations are permitted to open representative offices in other countries.
  5. Security forces no longer allowed on the premises of associations without a court order.
  6. Specific provisions and restrictions for student associations have been entirely removed.
  7. Children from the age of 15 can form children’s associations.
  8. Standards relating to internal audits have been improved to ensure accountability of members and management.
  9. Associations are able to form temporary platforms/initiatives to pursue common objectives.

Subsequently, in 2008, Turkey adopted a Foundations Law, which further improved the legal environment. Nonetheless, today, Turkish CSOs are more aware of the deficiencies in the laws that restrict their activities. Although Constitutional regulations are to a great extent in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the legal framework still contains numerous incompatibilities with international standards. Since 2008, there have been only slight improvements in the legal framework, mostly in secondary legislation. Therefore, future reform efforts are necessary.

In terms of the strategies and policies for CSO-Government partnerships, the situation also has not improved in Turkey in recent yeats. An overreaching national strategic document creating mechanisms for CSO-Government cooperation is still missing, for example. Nonetheless, on December 10, 2015 the 64th government’s Action Plan outlined a set of comprehensive measures to be taken including to enhance the civil society environment. After the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, announced his resignation in May 2016 and stepped down as the head of ruling party, Binali Yildirim, Turkey's former Minister of Transportation, was appointed as the country's new prime minister. He announced a new cabinet on May 24, 2016. A reshuffle proposed by Yıldırım featured no changes in key positions in four key ministries (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Finance), and Yildirim's new cabinet did not endorse the 64th government’s Action Plan.

Civil society has also been affected by a number of destabilizing pressures, including renewed tensions over the Kurdish conflict, instability spilling over from neighboring Syria, a series of terrorist attacks by ISIL, the increasing flow of refugees, political deadlocks, an economic decline and a failed coup attempt. All of this has happened in the context of political instability that has paved way for a state of constant readiness to curb basic freedoms, including the freedoms of association, assembly and expression, for the sake of the preserving “national security” or “public order”

The most negative development for civil society was the outcome of the coup attempt by a faction of Turkey's military allegedly loyal to the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, which deployed tanks and fighter jets to overthrow the government on July 15, 2016. Gun battles broke out in Ankara and Istanbul that left 312 dead, including 145 civilians, 60 police, three soldiers and 104 plotters. More than 2,000 citizens were also injured.

A State of Emergency was approved by the National Parliament on July 2, 2016 for three months following the failed coup to enable authorities to swiftly investigate and punish those responsible for the coup attempt and those who have linkages to the Gulen Movement. The State of Emergency allowed the president and cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend basic rights and freedoms. Under the three-month State of Emergency, decrees could not be appealed.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, Turkey took the same step that France did after ISIL attacked Paris in November 2015 when Turkey temporarily suspended the European Convention on Human Rights after the coup attempt (Article 15 of the Convention allows signatory states to derogate certain rights, including freedom of movement, expression and association, during times of war or a major public emergency). Another Deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Şimşek, declared that the State of Emergency was only to trace coup plotters and to "cleanse" all Gulen supporters from the state apparatus: the bureaucracy, judiciary and military. Over 80,000 people, including military personnel, police, judges and teachers, have been suspended from their duties or placed under investigation since the July 2016 failed coup.

The Turkish government's decision to shut down and seize the assets of organizations linked to the Gulen Movement is now in force. According to the decree published in the Official Gazette on July 23, 2016, 35 health institutions and organizations as well as 1,043 private education institutions, organizations, dormitories, and hostels were closed for having links with Gulen. A total of 1,125 associations, 104 foundations, 19 unions, federations and confederations, and 15 foundation schools were also closed. Under a decree issued in the State of Emergency, a total of 102 media outlets (3 news agencies; 16 TV channels; 23 radio stations; 45 newspapers; and 15 journals) and 29 publishing houses/distribution firms were closed down. The prosecutor also issued arrest warrants for journalists, media workers and executives. Several dozens of them were placed in police custody. The permissible duration of police custody has been extended to 30 days before a judge is required to make a decision on the detention.

The government also shut down the Department of Telecommunications and Communication (TİB) as part of new State of Emergency decrees published in the Official Gazette on August 17, 2016, due to their alleged connections to Gulen. All authority held by the TİB, including to administer the Internet Law, was transferred to the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), another state institution.

During a rally attended by over two million people on August 7, 2016, President Erdogan stated that if the parliament approves the reintroduction of the death penalty, he gives his mandate to sign it into law. However, one week after this Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım stated that a "fair trial for perpetrators of terror acts would be a greater punishment than the death penalty".

PEN America, a watchdog group for journalists, along with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Committee to Protect Journalists have issued press releases voicing their concerns on the threats to freedom of expression in the aftermath of the shutdown of news outlets and detention of journalists and academics based on their alleged links to the Gulen Movement. EU senior officials also raised their concerns about the State of Emergency in Turkey and urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to respect the rule of law. PEN International has called on Turkey to release all journalists and writers held solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression after a new wave of arrests of journalists on August 17, 2016. 149 writers from Turkey have expressed their solidarity with a renowned novelist, columnist and human rights activist, Aslı Erdogan, who was detained on August 19, 2016.

On January 25, 2017, the Judiciary of Turkey set up a Commission to review sanctions under the State of Emergency and provide new judicial avenues for appeals. However, the means of selecting the members of this Commission raises concerns about the independence of its decision-making. Three months later, through a referendum held in April 2017, the people of Turkey voted to reform the constitution and more than 2,000 laws in a way that removes many of the checks on executive power.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Associations Foundations
Registration Body Ministry of Interior, Department of Associations The courts, with possible review made by the General Directorate of Foundations
Barriers to Entry At least 7 founders required to establish an association.

Executive board of at least 5 people required. Board must have Turkish majority. Foreigners can be members of board provided they reside in Turkey.
In 2016, the minimum endowment amount for foundations was increased to 60,000 TRY (approx $20,000).
Barriers to Activities Standard annual reporting forms and numerous mandatory books considered cumbersome and time consuming.

All associations are obliged to obtain permission from the governorship of the city in which they will be conducting the fundraising activity and indicate the exact amount of money they aim to collect.

Requirement to complete standard forms before receiving or using foreign funding or opening new branch offices.
Standard annual reporting forms considered cumbersome and time consuming.

All foundations are obliged to obtain permission from the governorship of the city in which they will be conducting the fundraising activity and indicate the exact amount of money they aim to collect.

Requirement to complete standard forms before receiving or using foreign funding or opening new branch offices.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy Prohibition against directly engaging in “political” activities in practice. This is not written into any applicable laws, however. Websites with "insulting" content may also be blocked. Under a post-coup attempt decree issued in the State of Emergency, a total of 102 media outlets (3 news agencies; 16 TV channels; 23 radio stations; 45 newspapers; and 15 journals) and 29 publishing houses/distribution firms were closed down. The prosecutor also issued arrest warrants for journalists, media workers and executives. Several dozens of them were placed in police custody. Prohibition against directly engaging in “political” activities. This is not written into any applicable laws, however. Websites with "insulting" content may also be blocked.Under a post-coup attempt decree issued in the State of Emergency, a total of 102 media outlets (3 news agencies; 16 TV channels; 23 radio stations; 45 newspapers; and 15 journals) and 29 publishing houses/distribution firms were closed down. The prosecutor also issued arrest warrants for journalists, media workers and executives. Several dozens of them were placed in police custody.
Barriers to International Contact Required to notify Government when receiving grant from international organization. Required to notify Government when receiving grant from international organization.
Barriers to Resources Required to notify Government before using foreign funding. Required to notify Government within one month of receiving foreign funding.
Barriers to Assembly Vague grounds to justify restrictions, excessive force on protesters, and advance notification requirement. Vague grounds to justify restrictions, excessive force on protesters, and advance notification requirement.

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Key Indicators

Population 79,414,269 (2015)
Capital Ankara
Type of Government Republican Parliamentary Democracy
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 74.57 years
Female: 75.35 years (2014 est.)
Literacy Rate Male: 98.4%
Female: 91.8% (2011 est.)
Religious Groups Muslim (mostly Sunni): 99.8%; other (mostly Christians and Jews): 0.2%
Ethnic Groups Turkish: 70-75%; Kurdish: 18%; other minorities: 7-12% (2008 est.)
GDP per capita $10,529 (2014 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2014.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 72 (2015) 1 – 178
World Bank Rule of Law Index 59.6 (2015) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 37.9 (2015) 100 – 0
Transparency International 66 (2015) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Political Rights: 4
Civil Liberties: 5 (2017)

1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
Rank: 79 (2016)
178 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 2003
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 2006
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 2003
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) No --
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 2002
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1985
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Yes 2002
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1995
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) Yes 2004
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2009
Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) Yes 2012
European Convention on Human Rights
Yes 1954

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The Constitution was adopted in 1982, immediately following a military coup. Although the Constitution is sometimes criticized for its lack of democratic principles, it still guarantees basic rights and freedoms. Relevant articles include:

  • Article 22: Everyone has the right to freedom of communication.
  • Article 25: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and opinion.
  • Article 26: Everyone has the right to express and disseminate his thoughts and opinions by speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media, individually and collectively.
  • Article 33: Everyone has the right to form associations, or become a member of an association, or withdraw from membership without prior permission. 
    No one shall be compelled to become or remain a member of an association.
    Freedom of association may only be restricted by law on the grounds of protecting national security and public order, or prevention of crime, or protecting public morals, public health.
    The formalities, conditions, and procedures governing the exercise of freedom of association shall be prescribed by law.
    Associations may be dissolved or suspended from activity by the decision of a judge in cases prescribed by law. In cases where delay endangers national security or public order and in cases where it is necessary to prevent the perpetration or the continuation of a crime or to effect apprehension, an authority designated by law may be vested with power to suspend the association from activity. The decision of this authority shall be submitted for the approval of the judge in charge within twenty-four hours. Unless the judge declares a decision within forty-eight hours, this administrative decision shall be annulled automatically. 
    Provisions of the first paragraph shall not prevent imposition of restrictions on the rights of armed forces and security forces officials and civil servants to the extent that the duties of civil servants so require.
    The provisions of this article are also applicable to foundations.
  • Article 34: Everyone has the right to hold unarmed and peaceful meetings and demonstration marches without prior permission.
  • Article 35: Everyone has the right to property and inheritance.
  • Article 90: International agreements duly put into effect have the force of law. No appeal to the Constitutional Court shall be made with regard to these agreements, on the grounds that they are unconstitutional. In the case of a conflict between international agreements, duly put into effect, concerning fundamental rights and freedoms and the laws due to differences in provisions on the same matter, the provisions of international agreements shall prevail.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

The most relevant national laws affecting the sector include the following:

  • Law 5253: Associations Law
  • Law 5737: Foundations Law
  • Law 4721: Civil Code
  • Associations: Articles 56-100
  • Foundations: Article 101-117
  • Law 8965: Penal Code
  • Law 2860: Law on Collection of Aid
  • Law 2911: Law on Demonstrations
  • Law 4982: Law on Right to Information
  • Law 4962: Law on the Amendment to Certain Laws and Tax Exemption for Foundations Law
  • Law 193: Income Tax Law
  • Law 5520: Corporate Tax Law
  • Law 1319: Property Tax law
  • Law 488: Stamp Tax Law
  • Law 3065:VAT Law
  • Law 1606: Law on the Exemption of Certain Associations and Institutions from Certain Taxes, All Fees and Dues
  • Law 5072: Law on the Relations of Public Institutions with Associations and Foundations
  • Law 4641: Law on the Establishment and Functioning of the Economic and Social Council
  • Law 3335: Law on Establishment of International Organizations
  • Law 5018: Public Financial Administration and Control
  • Law 3713: Prevention of Terrorism Law

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

1. In December 2015, the Government of Turkey published the 2016 Action Plan for the planned reform steps to be taken during 2016. A comprehensive civil society law is among the commitments included in the plan. Further details on the content of this law are not yet available. The new government, which was announced in May 2016, has not yet affirmed its commitment to the 2016 Action Plan. Moreover, the failed coup attempt coup in July 2016 has made any real commitment to reform in this field less likely.

There are several undertakings in the 2016 Action Plan that could nonetheless enhance participation of civil society in public policy making:

  • Establishment of a unit to coordinate and monitor reform processes;
  • Promotion of implementation of regulatory impact assessments in every level of public policy making;
  • Adoption of public sector reforms for provision of just, efficient, effective, high quality public services;
  • Reformation of the Law on the Establishment and Functioning of the Economic and Social Council;
  • Further revision of basic rights and freedoms in line with international standards;
  • Adoption of regulation on ethics;
  • Adoption of regulation on protection of personal data;
  • Preparation of an e-government strategy and Action Plan;
  • Adoption of a comprehensive Income Tax Law; and
  • Adoption of an Official Secrets Act.

The 64th government’s Action Plan is available in Turkish.

2. The Ministry of Development (MoDEV) published the "Primary Transformation Program and Action Plans" on its website (in Turkish). In several areas, there are references to civil society as stakeholders and the legal environment for civil society development. For example:
Justification / Rationalization of Public Spending: CSOs are listed as stakeholders for impact assessment of social service (aid) provision. Page 11 envisions a policy to strengthen cooperation among the public administration, private sector and CSOs, listing an action to increase CSO involvement for delivery of social aid. 
Program on Local Level Capacity Development: There are several references related to the civil society legal environment:

  • Policy 2.3 refers to the capacity development of CSOs along with other stakeholders, and Articles 26 and 27 refer to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) as the responsible agency for developing capacities of CSOs and providing CSO funding.
  • Policy 2.4 refers to improving participation of CSOs along with other stakeholders in local-level development processes, and Articles 30 and 31 identify MoDEV as the responsible agency to include CSOs in local development boards and other decision-making processes, while Article 33 refers to MoI as the responsible institution to strengthen participation of CSOs in city councils.
  • Policy 2.5 refers to "Increasing Civil Associations (Citizens’ using their right to association", with Article 33 referring to the development of a policy framework for public administration and a civil society code of conduct. Article 34 refers to easing the procedures to establish associations and CSOs. Article 34 refers to “increasing accountability, transparency and good governance of CSOs” and gives the mandate to the MoI. Article 35 envisions support to CSOs working in the area of development via development agencies. Article 36 foresees regular data collection on CSOs in Turkey by related public administration bodies.

Program for Improving Development Cooperation:  This program refers to CSOs with regards to development cooperation with TIKA being the responsible agency. Article 4 refers to the development of an accreditation system for CSOs. Article 52 refers to AFAD as the main agency and outlines establishment of an accreditation system for CSOs working in the field of humanitarian aid.
The “Primary Transformation Program and Action Plans” prepared by the Ministry of Development (MoDEV) are available online in Turkish.

3. As for planned reforms regarding the legal framework regulating freedom of association, Turkey's National Action Plan for the EU Accession (Phase- I November 2014 - June 2015), published in November 2014, includes actions to amend the Law on Associations, Civil Code (related articles), Law on Collection of Aid, and Law on Foundations. In December 2012, the Department of Associations (within the MoI) published the first version of the draft Law on Collection of Aid (Fundraising) and invited input from civil society organizations and experts. The draft published in July 2013 included proposals for improving the framework for fundraising/collection of aid for associations and foundations. In addition, the draft law included several amendments in the Civil Code regarding associations and foundations, such as decreasing the obligatory number of founding members and number of minimum members in the administrative bodies. The draft also contained new articles regarding the establishment of a Civil Society General Directorate, which would replace the Department of Associations and have higher authority and legal status. Several consultation meetings with CSOs were held during the drafting period. The consultation process was concluded in July 2013. The draft law was withdrawn without any explanation and notice of the decision by the cabinet on September 22, 2014. It is unclear if it will be revived.

4. Between 2012 and 2016, Technical Assistance to Civil Society Organizations (TACSO), a group of key stakeholder representatives, provided guidance to the development of a monitoring framework and for the improvement of the process of determining country objectives for 2020 as part of the EU Guidelines for Supporting Civil Society in Enlargement Region ("EU Guidelines"). The working group of Turkey for the EU Guidelines consists of the Ministry of Interior, Department of Associations, and General Directorate of Foundations, Ministry of European Union, Ministy of Development, Third Sector Foundation of Turkey and Civil Society Develoopment Center as CSOs (for a period, the Ministry of Youth and Transparency Association also participated). As part of this initiative, after series of several meetings in different venues, the Department of Associations and General Directorate of Foundations agreed to share some of the official data on civil society with wider audiences. This official data helps to determine reliable country objectives and indicators to assess the civil society development from one year to another.

As a first step, the Department of Associations has provided some extensive data, including: the number of volunteers in associations, the number/ types of penalties imposed upon associations, and the number of associations engaging economic activities and the economic value they have created. The Department of Associations has also updated their webpage showing statistical data for 2014.

The recent development in this regard is the opening of the National Registry of Associations to public access, which provided contact information of over 100,000 Associations in Turkey based on their locations and working areas. Given the availability of a list of different types of Foundations on the Directorate of Foundations website, another official legal entity for CSOs in Turkey, it is now possible for the public to review all of the registered CSOs in Turkey. As this development continues, it is expected to open the grounds for more comprehensive research on CSOs and to enhance projects devoted to civil society development in Turkey.

Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

There are two legal forms of CSOs in Turkey: associations and foundations. Article 33 of the Constitution grants the right to form these entities. These organizations must be not-for-profit establishments. Article 56 of the Civil Code states: “An association is defined as a society formed by unity of at least seven real persons or legal entities for realization of a common object other than sharing of profit by collecting information and performing studies for such purpose.” Article 101 of the Civil Code defines foundations as “charity groups in the status of a legal entity formed by real persons or legal entities dedicating their private property and rights for public use.

Associations are registered with the Department of Associations under the Ministry of Interior. Although many associations believe that the registration process is being handled according to the law, they still claim that the process is slow and cumbersome at times. All associations have to form a general assembly, an executive board consisting of five individuals, and an auditing committee of three persons.

Foundations are established and registered through a court decree. The court may ask the General Directorate of Foundations to review each application. Foundations only need form an administrative body. Additionally, foundations must have a minimum capital of 60,000 Turkish Liras (approx. 20,000 USD).

Public Benefit Status

Article 27 of the Associations Law grants authority to the Council of Ministers to determine which CSOs can be granted public benefit status. Article 20 of Law 4962 provides the legal basis for tax exemptions for those foundations that are granted public benefit status.

Associations and foundations seeking public benefit status must secure the approval of the Council of Ministers. Upon receiving an application for public benefit status, the Council of Ministers must determine whether or not the activities of the CSO actually benefit the general public and are not intended to serve any one particular group. Since the law does not provide a clear definition of what activities constitute “public benefit”, the decision-making process is subject to discretion of the Council. Unsurprisingly, decisions are sometimes perceived as being highly political. However, there are specific minimum requirements in the law which CSOs must meet; for instance, foundations must spend more than two-thirds and associations more than half of their revenue toward their mission.

Notably, while the law in Turkey provides for public benefit status for CSOs, only a very limited number of organizations have been granted public benefit status. According to data compiled in November 2014, there were 258 tax-exempt foundations out of 4,781 foundations in Turkey. Compared to 2013 (254 foundations), this reflected a small increase, but the ratio of the number of tax-exempt foundations to the total number remained similar (5%) to previous years. As of May 2015, the 395 associations with public benefit status constituted only 0.37% of the total number of 109,695 active associations. The number of associations with public benefit status was slightly higher (403) in 2014.

Barriers to Entry

All Turkish citizens can establish or be a member of associations. Some restrictions are applicable, however, to military and security personnel, judges and attorneys working under the Ministry of Justice and some other government officials working within designated ministries. In addition, only foreigners with a residence permit are permitted to found or join an association in Turkey. A minimum of 7 founding members are required to establish an association.

The minimum endowment amount for foundations was increased in 2016 to 60,000 TRY (approx $20,000). According to Article 5 of the Foundations Law, “Foreigners shall be able to establish new foundations in Turkey in accordance with the principle of de jure and de facto reciprocity."

While associations are required to form an executive board made up of at least five people, there is no minimum number for foundations. Foreigners can be members of boards as long as they reside in Turkey. However, the executive board must still have a Turkish majority.

According to implementing regulations for the Associations Law, associations seeking office space within residential buildings must secure the permission of all residents living in the building – a requirement that is burdensome at best, and in some cases practically impossible. The failure to secure office space may be a barrier to the process of registration for associations.

In order to form a federation or a confederation, the Associations Law requires a minimum of five and three organizations, respectively, to come together. Problematically, however, the law requires that member organizations must have the “same purpose”, which is unnecessarily limiting.

Barriers to Operational Activity

In general, Turkish CSOs are free to operate and are free from government harassment such as frequent inspections, and requests for documentation. Government officials are prohibited from attending meetings and CSOs can hold internal meetings free from external pressure. CSOs are not required to inform the government about their programs and projects. There have also been some changes in the Regulation on Law on Associations No. 28537 to reduce the bureaucratic burden on associations.

There are, however, some standard forms that CSOs must complete each year which can be cumbersome and time consuming for some organizations. Specifically, associations and foundations must complete annual statements which are submitted either to the Interior Ministry, Department of Associations or to the General Directorate of Foundations. Additionally, CSOs must complete standard forms before receiving and/or utilizing foreign funding and opening new branches or offices.

In addition, CSOs frequently are fined for “improper” record keeping. More disturbingly, Article 33 of the Associations Law holds the chair of the executive board of the association responsible – i.e., personally liable – for any sanctions and/or fines assessed against the association.

Foreign organizations are subjected to serious bureaucratic rules when opening a branch office in Turkey.

If a CSO becomes involved in an illegal activity, the organization can be terminated by a court order. Organizations that violate the law can be terminated only with a court order.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

There are no restrictions on political activities by CSOs.  The provision of the Political Parties Law (No. 2820, Clause 92) prohibiting cooperation between political parties and associations, labor unions, foundations, cooperatives and professional organizations was abolished in 1999.

The financing of associations by political parties is restricted. Article 10 of Law on Associations (No. 5253) states that, “Associations may exchange financial support from employee and employer unions, political parties, professional organizations and associations with similar aims in order to realize their objectives”. However, the phrase "aid from political parties” was removed in a decision by a decree of the Constitutional Court in 2007.

There are vague limitations (e.g. general morality, public order) in the Law on Associations that invite the exercise of excessive governmental discretion into the activities of CSOs, particularly at the time of registration. According to Article 56 of the Turkish Civil Code, “No association may be formed for an object contrary to the laws and morality.” Article 101 of the Civil Code states that the “formation of a foundation contrary to the characteristics of the Republic defined by the Constitution, Constitutional rules, laws, ethics, national integrity and national interest, or with the aim of supporting a distinctive race or community, is restricted.” CSOs are required to declare the type of work/activities they intend to carry out in writing in official documents, such as the governing statutes of associations or the articles of foundations.

Many CSOs work to influence public policy in their related field, and are therefore involved in the public policy debate even though the government-CSO relationship is weak. CSOs struggle to have substantial influence in the formation of public policy. The EU Progress Report on Turkey 2014, for example, highlights the pattern of insufficient preparation and consultation before adopting key legislation and adds that apart from ad hoc consultations, there are no structured participatory mechanisms whereby CSOs are able to play an active role in the legislative and policymaking process. The report also states that the overall decision-making processes, both nationally and locally, should involve more structured and systematic consultation of civil society.

Furthermore, some human rights organizations complain about lawsuits brought against them, which they interpret as a form of harassment. The threat of inspections can be used to deter rights-based organizations with perceived anti-government stances from speaking out. At least seven associations dealing with human rights and Kurdish issues have reported facing court cases that could shut them down because of their critical positions towards the government.

Although Turkey has taken serious steps toward creating a more enabling environment for CSOs, there remains a culture of state control and domination over civil society. With regards to the above-mentioned inspection practices, inconsistencies are observed in the frequency, duration and scope of inspections. The Department of Associations and the General Directorate of Foundations have the legal authority to inspect associations and foundations. However, neither the limits on the numbers of inspections that can be carried out nor the inspection criteria are clearly defined in legislation. Inspections are not conducted periodically or within a given schedule; they are either arbitrarily decided by the administration or conducted upon a complaint. The vague clauses of legislation such as “general morality”, “Turkish family structure”, or “public order” create inconsistent and arbitrary interpretations and implementation by different state institutions and even within the same institution. Auditing of businesses/ for-profit entities is applied on the grounds of more established procedures, such as with tax-related and social security contributions cases. Not-for-profit entities, by contrast, can be inspected on the grounds of their political affiliations, rights-based issues, proximity to government/opposition and personal complaints. Therefore, they are more prone to face arbitrary implementation/ interpretation of the law and legislations.

In February 2014, the Turkish Parliament enacted a law that allows the government to block a website without court authorization if it is deemed to contain content that is "insulting". The law also requires service providers to make users' browsing histories available to the government for up to two years. CSOs such as The Committee to Protect Journalists feared this legislation represented a "slide into Internet authoritarianism" in Turkey. The authority given by the Parliament to the government was ultimately abrogated by the Constitutional Court in October 2014 right after the law was enacted, however.

In April 2015, the government also blocked access to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube via a court order until these sites removed images of a prosecutor who was held hostage before being killed in the Court of Justice in Istanbul. Access to these sites was restored after the outlets removed the images from their websites.

Under a decree issued in the State of Emergency after the failed coup attempt in July 2016, a total of 102 media outlets (3 news agencies; 16 TV channels; 23 radio stations; 45 newspapers; and 15 journals) and 29 publishing houses/distribution firms were closed down. The prosecutor also issued arrest warrants for journalists, media workers and executives. Several dozens of them were placed in police custody. PEN America, a watchdog group for journalists, along with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued press releases voicing their concerns about the threats to freedom of expression in the aftermath of the closure of news outlets and the detention of journalists and academics based on their alleged links to the Gulen Movement. EU senior officials also raised their concerns about the State of Emergency in Turkey and urged President Erdogan to respect the rule of law. PEN International called on Turkey to release all journalists and writers held solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression after a fresh wave of arrests of journalists on August 17, 2016. 149 writers from Turkey expressed their solidarity with a renowned novelist, columnist and human rights activist, Aslı Erdogan, who was detained on August 19, 2016.

The government also shut down the Department of Telecommunications and Communication (TİB) as part of new State of Emergency decrees published in the Official Gazette on August 17, 2016, due to its alleged connections to the Gulen Movement. All authority held by the TİB, including to administer the Internet Law, was transferred to the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), another state institution.

In April 2017, Turkey banned Wikipedia based on claims that it was "acting with groups conducting a smear campaign against Turkey". When Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, appealed this decision in court, the court said that while freedom of speech was a fundamental right, it can be limited in cases where there is a "necessity for regulation". The court cited a law that enables a broader access ban when a specific violation cannot be prevented. The court held, "As can be understood from the mentioned legal texts, freedom of expression is not one of absolute rights. It may be restricted when conditions are suitable and in situations where moderateness is required."

Barriers to International Contact

There are no restrictions for Turkish CSOs to operate in other countries. But when receiving a grant from an international organization, CSOs must notify the appropriate government office. International CSOs operating in Turkey must receive permission from the Government prior to starting their activity. 

Barriers to Resources

Foreign Funding

There are no limitations on foreign funding, but there is a notification requirement relating to foreign funding. Foundations must notify public authorities within one month after receiving the funding, while associations must notify the Government before using the funding.

Domestic Funding

There are no special government programs providing funding for CSOs. Local authorities and municipalities provide more funding then the central government. There are no clear laws or regulations governing public funding for CSOs.

Concerns have nonetheless been raised about government circulars, such as one issued in May 2014 after a mining accident, which caused the deaths of 301 workers in Soma on Turkey's western coast. The Prime Minister’s Office published the circular requiring that all aid collected by individuals or CSOs for recovery after the accident must be sent to a singular state body called AFAD (Directorate for Disaster and Emergency Management), which is accredited as the only institution that may collect aid for the Soma recovery efforts. Such a circular presents an arbitrary limitation on the collection and utilization of aid by Turkish civil society.

Both associations and foundations can engage directly in economic activities, establish and/or become partners in economic enterprises or companies. Although CSO income is not generally subject to corporate tax, the income from economic activities is taxable.

Donors to public benefit organizations can claim a tax deduction of up to 5% of their taxable income. 

Barriers to Assembly

In addition to the 1982 Turkish Constitution, the primary legislation that regulates the freedom of assembly is Law No. 2911 Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, which was adopted on October 6, 1983. Secondary legislation that regulates the implementation of Law No. 2911 includes The Regulation on the Implementation of Law on Meetings and Demonstrations,which was adopted on August, 8, 1985; Law No. 2559 on the Duties and Discretion of the Police; Law No. 3713 on The Prevention of Terrorism Acts; and Law No. 5326 on Misdemeanors.

Vague grounds for assembly restrictions
Article 34 of the 1982 Turkish Constitution states that the freedom assembly can be restricted on the grounds of “national security”, “public order”, “public health” and “public morals”. Articles 17 and 19 of the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations also state that meetings can be postponed or banned if they pose a threat to these four principles. Although these four principles are a recurring theme in Turkish law, their meaning has never been clearly defined. This allows for different interpretations of the articles by prosecutors at the expense of the individual and collective liberties of citizens.

Finally, while the Prevention of Terrorism Act does not directly regulate the freedom of assembly, it has been interpreted broadly to prosecute human rights activists and CSO activists who have held meetings and demonstrations that the government has deemed as linked to the activities of terrorist organizations.

Advance Notification
Advance notification is required to organize an assembly, protest or public gathering. According to Article 10 of Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations, all of the members of the organizing committee must sign a declaration 48 hours prior to the assembly and submit it to the district governor’s office during work hours. Because 48 hours notice is required, the law does not allow spontaneous demonstrations.

According to Article 4, the organizing committee must be composed of at least seven members, who are 18 years of age or older. If a foreigner is a member of the organizing committee, then permission from the Ministry of Interior is also required. The organizers must provide the following information in the notification: (a) the purpose of the meeting; (b) the date and the place of the meeting along with the starting and ending time; (c) the IDs of the members of the organizing committee, information regarding their occupation, their residence certificate and if available the address of their work; and (d) any Additional information outlined as necessary by the Regulation on the Implementation of the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations. The latter provision is written in an open-ended way that could lead to excessive governmental discretion.

Responsibilities of Organizers
Article 11 of Law No. 2911 states that all members of the organizing committee must be present at the assembly at the indicated time in the notification. With the latest amendment on May 2014, the same Article also enables security forces to record voices and images of the participants during the assembly or meeting.  In addition, according to Article 12, the organizing committee is responsible to ensure that the meeting or the demonstration is conducted in a peaceful manner and to take the necessary measures including asking security officers for help in case of violence. The committee is also responsible for ending the meeting or demonstration and to inform the security officer. Article 15 of the Regulation on the Implementation of the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations also indicates that the members of the organizing committee are responsible for restraining any provocative behavior, preventing unlawful behavior and collaborating with security forces for these purposes.

Time, Place and Manner Restrictions
According to Article 23 of the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, the use of following is prohibited: any weaponry or similar material which would be a threat to health and security, symbols which are associated with illegal organizations and communities, and uniforms decorated with such symbols or symbols resembling them. Furthermore, it is illegal for participants to partially or totally cover their faces in order to hide their identities.  According to Article 26 of the same law, using megaphones to broadcast an indoor meeting to people outdoors is illegal.

According to Article 6 of the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, outdoor assemblies can take place in any space which is previously determined and approved by the district governor's office or the governorship after consulting the provincial representatives of the political parties represented in the Parliament; mayors; representatives of the three labor unions with most number of members; and, finally, representatives of professional organizations. Article 22 of the Regulation on the Implementation of the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations states that outdoor assemblies cannot take place in widely used roads or parks, religious places, public buildings and within one kilometer away from the Turkish Grand National Assembly. In addition, the same article states that intercity highways are not allowed to be used for meetings or demonstrations.

Article 7 of the law states that assemblies cannot take place before sunrise. In addition, outdoor assemblies can take place until before the sun sets, but indoor meetings can take place until 12:00p.m.

Enforcement and Penalties
The EU Progress Report for Turkey 2014 states that “on numerous occasions, demonstrations critical of government policies were subject to excessive use of force by the police. Force was used to break up numerous Kurdish-related gatherings in the southeast of the country, protests relating to events in Gezi Park, as well demonstrations in Taksim Square in Istanbul police.

CSOs report that they are prevented from holding meetings and rallies on many occasions, and that they are issued fines. A number of human rights defenders continue to face legal proceedings on charges of breaking the law and of propaganda for terrorism as a result of their presence at demonstrations and meetings and following their attendance at press conferences.

In May 2013, protests took place across Turkey over a wide range of issues, including freedom of the press, expression, assembly, and the government's encroachment on Turkey's secularism, although the initial cause of the protests was a goverment plan to remove Gezi Park, which is one of the few remaining green spaces in the center of the European side of Istanbul. As protests, strikes and sit-ins grew, the government initiated a number of "severe police crackdowns," which led to 11 deaths and thousands of injuries. The EU Progress Report on Turkey for 2013 said, "The excessive use of force by police and the overall absence of dialogue during the protests in May/June have raised serious concerns."

Turkish law makes available criminal sanctions in Articles 29, 30, 31, 33, 34 of the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations. According to Article 31, anyone who uses propaganda materials which are not indicated by the organizational committee in the notification is subject to a prison sentence from six months to a year. In addition, if these propaganda materials are used to provoke the public to commit a crime, the person who uses the material is subject to a prison sentence from 1.5 to 3 years. If a crime takes place due to the use of propaganda materials the person responsible for the action is subject to a prison sentence from 6 months to 3 years. According to Article 33 a person who carries a weapon in the demonstration is imprisoned depending on the type or the severity of the weapon. Finally, Article 34 outlines prison sentences regarding illegal actions taking place in the event of the meeting being cancelled or dissolved. 

There are also concerns about the new security bill, which Turkey's Parliament passed in December 2014. The bill increases penalties for people involved in protests, and its introduction followed violent protests in southeastern Turkey on October 6 and 7, 2014 that left up to 50 people dead. The Council of Europe (CoE) Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muizniek said, "I think in particular that any widening of the powers of the police to use firearms, to use force during demonstrations, to stop and check, or to apprehend suspects at their own initiative without judicial authorization, would bear the risk of increasing the likelihood of human rights violations, notably with respect to the right to life, the right to freedom of assembly, and the right to respect for private life."

In addtion, the Law Amending the Law on Powers and Duties of the Police, Other Laws and Decrees", which was passed in Parliament in March 2015 and is widely referred to as the "Internal Security Reform Package, strengthened the powers of the police during demonstrations by extending the police's authority to detain anyone without consulting the prosecutor's office. In addition, protestors who cover their faces fully or partially during demonstrations can face a five-year prison sentence.

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Reports

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Not available
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Turkey
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes Not available
U.S. State Department 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Turkey
Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports, 2009: Turkey
Fragile States Index Reports Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
IMF Country Reports Turkey and the IMF
Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 (Turkey)
Amnesty International Report 2015/2016
TUSEV Civil Society Monitoring Report 2012

Active Participation in Civil Society: International Standards, Obstacles in National Legislation and Proposals
Monitoring Matrix on Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development: Turkey

International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library Turkey

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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

Turkey arrests two opposition journalists over alleged coup links (May 2017)
Turkish authorities have formally arrested two journalists from the opposition Sozcu newspaper, accusing them of supporting Fethullah Gulen. Officials recently arrested a Cumhuriyet editor on terrorism charges. After the initial detention, the pro-government daily Sabah reported that the two journalists had been wanted in connection with an online article published on the same day as the attempted coup, saying it could have facilitated "a real attack on the president." The arrests are part of Erdogan's clampdown on Turkey's independent media and civil society. Since last year's coup attempt, authorities have detained thousands of journalists, rights activists, lawyers, teachers and writers, accusing them of being involved in anti-state activities.

Turkey Blocks Wikipedia (May 2017)
Following last year's failed coup, Turkey's strongman president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has expanded his crackdown on civil liberties, consolidating his power by restricting speech, jailing accused dissidents, and creating a culture of fear in a country that once hoped to join the European Union. This weekend, Erdoğan deepened his assault on civil society by blocking access to Wikipedia, purging almost 4,000 civil servants, and closing down 45 civil society groups and health clinics, The New York Times reported, bringing the total number of people who have been purged to about 140,000 and the number of groups that have been banned to 1,500.

As Turkey's Democracy Takes a Hit, Civil Society Must Take Center Stage (April 2017)
President Erdoğan of Turkey has spent his career building up to the powerful position he now holds, and this week's vote has concentrated his power even more than was previously possible. Turks voted to reform their constitution in favor of "stability," removing many of the checks on executive power.

State of emergency review body paves way for justice (January 2017)
A new Turkish commission to review sanctions under the state of emergency will give new judicial avenues for appeals, said the nation’s prime minister. Speaking at the opening of a new judicial database in the capital Ankara, Binali Yildirim spoke on the State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission set up by decree, which will consider all appeals of dismissals, suspensions, and closures under the decree laws in the period since the July 2016 failed coup.

Turkish PM cools down demands to reinstate death penalty (August 2016)
“The death penalty is a one-time death, but there are deaths worse than death for the coup plotters. That is an objective and fair judgement,” Yıldırım said in a parliamentary group meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on August 16, adding that they would not act with the feeling of revenge.

Turkey arrests novelist Aslı Erdoğan over ‘terror’ charges (August 2016)
A Turkish court arrested prize-winning novelist Aslı Erdoğan on Aug. 19 over alleged links to the outlawed PKK, three days after she and two dozen more staff from the Özgür Gündem newspaper were detained. 

Tayyip Erdogan hints at return of death penalty in Turkey (August 2016)
If the Turkish public want the death penalty following last month's failed coup then political parties will follow their will, President Erdogan said at a rally in Istanbul.

Turkey shuts down telecommunication body amid post-coup attempt measures (August 2016)
Turkey has shut down its Department of Telecommunications and Communication (TİB) as a part of new state of emergency decrees published in the Official Gazette on Aug. 17.
The decree hands all authority held by the TİB to the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK).

Europe and US urge Turkey to respect rule of law after failed coup (July 2016)
European politicians and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, have called onTurkey to respect the rule of law amid a purge of state institutions in the aftermath of this weekend’s botched coup.

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 42 journalists after failed coup (July 2016)
Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for 42 journalists, state-run news agency Anadolu reported Monday, as a purge on the country's democratic institutions following a failed military coup intensifies.

In latest escalation, 102 media outlets closed by decree (July 2016)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is dismayed to learn that the Turkish authorities closed 102 media outlets yesterday. The closure and expropriation of 45 newspapers, 16 TV channels, 23 radio stations, three news agencies and 15 magazines were ordered yesterday evening in the second decree-law issued under the state of emergency. Twenty-nine publishing houses were also closed.

Turkey's Erdogan shuts schools, charities in first state of emergency decree (July 2016)
The first decree signed by Erdogan authorizes the closure of 1,043 private schools, 1,229 charities and foundations, 19 trade unions, 15 universities and 35 medical institutions over suspected links to the Gulen movement, the Anadolu agency said.

Turkey dismisses military, shuts media outlets in crackdown (July 2016)
Turkey ordered another 47 journalists detained on Wednesday, singling out columnists and other staff of the now defunct Zaman newspaper, the government official said. Authorities in March shut down Zaman, widely seen as the Gulen movement's flagship media organization.

President Erdogan texts 68 million people in fresh call for protests(July 2016)
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged all Turks to stay on the streets as he continues to purge state institutions following last week’s attempted coup. Mr Erdogan issued an appeal via text message to 68 million people urging them to not “give up on the resistance for your country, land and flag.

Turkey coup attempt: State of emergency announced(July 2016)
Turkey's president has declared a state of emergency for three months following Friday night's failed army coup. The emergency allows the president and cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend rights and freedoms.

Turkey to temporarily suspend European Convention on Human Rights after coup attempt(July 2016)
Turkey will temporarily suspend the implementation of its obligations emanating from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in line with the declaration of a state of emergency, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş has said, while vowing that fundamental rights and freedoms will not be affected during this period. 

Turkey: Istanbul gay pride march banned over 'security' concern (June 2016)
An annual gay pride march in Istanbul planned for later this month will not be allowed to take place, the Turkish city's authorities have said.A statement cited "safeguarding security and public order" as the reason for calling off the event.

Turkey jails Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul (May 2016)
Erdem Gul received five years and Can Dundar five years and 10 months. Mr Dundar and Mr Gul, editor and Ankara bureau chief of opposition daily Cumhuriyet, had reported that Turkey had tried to ship arms to rebels fighting the Syrian government. Shortly before the verdict, a gunman attempted to kill Mr Dundar.

Turkish LGBT group releases annual monitoring report on hate crimes (May 2016
The Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association (Kaos GL) has published an annual report monitoring human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, calling on the Turkish state to adopt anti-discriminatory measures to prevent hate crimes against LGBT individuals that remain largely unreported by media and security authorities. Noting that the findings of the report were based on crimes that were only reported in local media, Kaos GL announced that five hate murders, 32 hate attacks, two cyber-attacks and three suicide cases were reflected in the press in 2015. 

Erdoğan’s latest target is CSOs (April 2016) (Turkish)
President Erdoğan targetted CSOs that monitor and publish annual reports on on human rights violations during counter-terrorism operations in the country’s southeast since July 2015. In his speech adressing polices in the anniversary of foundation of the Police Institution, her urged that further precautions shoud be taken towards activities of CSOs in Turkey.

How Turkey uses terrorism to justify its crackdown on the press (March 2016)
The American media warned of Erdogan's growing authoritarianism, citing his attacks on critical journalists, academics and parliamentarians. Turkish media claimed that these domestic critics were terrorists engaged in a American-backed coup plot against Erdogan. The accusations are not unrelated. In recent years, the Turkish government has used widespread fears over coups and terrorism to justify ever more brazen efforts to silence legitimate opposition. To do so, it has widened the definition of both terms, to the point where government rhetoric increasingly depends on the threat of coups without soldiers and terrorists without guns.

Turkey Seizes Newspaper, Zaman, as Press Crackdown Continuing (March 2016)
Backed by a court order, the Turkish authorities moved on Friday to seize Zaman, the country’s most widely circulated newspaper, in the latest crackdown by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoganon freedom of the press.

Ruling AKP creating its own NGOs (March 2016)
In contrast to more liberal policies pursued by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in its initial years in power, the space for civil society in Turkey today is deteriorating rapidly, Third Sector Foundation of Turkey (TÜSEV) head Tevfik Başak Ersen has told the Hürriyet Daily News.  AKP rule increasingly relies on “GONGOs,” or government-oriented NGOs, with groups close to the government supported but the rest excluded and seen increasingly as a threat, according to Ersen, whose TÜSEV issues regular reports on the state of civil society in Turkey.

Two journalists arrested for story on trucks bound for Syria (November 2015)
Cumhuriyet newspaper’s editor-in-chief Can Dündar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül were arrested on November 26, 2015 as part of an investigation into the newpaper's coverage of a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) truck scandal. They have been charged of being members of a terrorist organization, espionage and revealing confidential documents related to trucks of  MİT that were allegedly transferring arms to Syria. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) launched an international appeal for the release of Cumhuriyet journalist and all other journalists unjustly detained in Turkey.

Pro-Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elci shot dead in Turkey (November 2015)
Diyarbakır Bar Association president and prominent human rights lawyer/ activist Tahir Elçi, who was shot dead in the crossfire of a gun battle between security forces and terrorists while giving press statement in Diyabakır on November 28. A criminal investigation had been opened against Elçi for saying in October on a TV show that the PKK was not a terrorist organisation.  It is not known whether that was a planned assassination or unfortunate coincidence. Later, in Istanbul, thousands of people marched at Taksim Square but they were driven back by riot police using water cannon and tear gas.

Turkey Dominates Global Twitter Censorship (October 2015)
In the first half of 2015, there were 1,003 requests from courts and government agencies to remove content from Twitter. Out of this, 72 percent came from the Turkish authorities. Twitter removal requests leads to tweets no longer being displayed in individual countries rather than being deleted altogether. In the United States, there only 25 requests in the first six months of the year. The number of content removal requests is soaring. In the second half of 2014, 13 percent of these requests were successful; between January and June, it was higher - 42 percent of requests were granted. (See also blocking of Kurdish websites).

Political parties suspend election rallies over Ankara bombing (October 2015)
There terrorist attacks not just traumatized people but also before snap elections political parties could not organize gatherings for their campaigning. As an example, pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) was forced to cancel election rallies following two deadly attacks on pro-Kurdish gatherings since July.

Journalists, legal experts decry Turkey's media blackout (October 2015)
Media blackouts on the information considered as sensitive, including reporting on the terrorist attacks in Ankara and Suruç, are new approaches towards blocking access to information.

Water cannon used to disperse Istanbul gay pride parade (June 2015)
In June 2015, the gay parade was interrupted by the police and police fired pepper sprey and used water cannons against marchers.  Organizers of the parade released a statement reporting that “The 13th Istanbul LGBTI Pride Parade has suddenly been banned by the governorate using the month of Ramadan as the reasoning without any announcement”. The government has not released an official statement addressing whether the parade had been banned.

Turkey Lifts Ban on Access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (March 2015)
Turkey unblocked access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube after social media websites followed an Istanbul court's order to remove images of a slain prosecutor that were deemed to abet terrorism. Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. said they would appeal the court ruling even though they complied with it. The court's decision requires Google to follow suit or face suspension of its services in Turkey.

Turkey Passes Tough New Security Law (March 2015)
Turkey's parliament overwhelmingly passed a security law to broaden police powers and allow the use of firearms against demonstrators, deepening fears of crackdowns on dissent ahead of parliamentary elections. The legislation comes at a sensitive time, given difficult talks to end three decades of Kurdish insurgency. The Kurds say the security law could be used to target them.

Security Bill Undermines Rights (October 2014)
The Turkish government’s proposed expansion of police powers to search and detain and for the use of firearms would undermine human rights protections. A number of the proposals in a draft security bill would circumvent the role of prosecutors and judiciary in ways that directly undercut safeguards against the arbitrary abuse of powers. On December 2, 2014, Turkey's Parliament passed a separate law that also widened police and court powers. The new security bill, published on the parliamentary website on November 25, would stiffen penalties for people involved in some protests and allow provincial governors to instruct police to focus on particular crimes and perpetrators, seemingly usurping the role of prosecutors and judges. Its introduction followed violent protests in southeastern Turkey on October 6 and 7 that left up to 50 people dead.

Turkish Parliament to Consider New Protest Laws (October 2014)
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that the Turkish government will introduce a bill in parliament which would give law enforcement greater powers over protests. The introduction of the bill follows violent clashes between pro-Kurdish protesters and police that killed more than 35 people across Turkey. Prime Minister Davutoglu said one goal of the bill is to enable law enforcement to respond to "massive acts of violence" more rapidly and efficiently. Gunal Kursun, a professor of penal law at Cukurova University, expressed concern over Turkey's increasing security restrictions. Unlike in established democracies, where rule of law and transparency are well grounded, "the rule of law has lost much of its meaning in Turkey; [Turkey] is turning more and more into a police state."

Withdrawal of the Bill on the Right to Collect Aid by the Cabinet (September 2014 (Turkish)
The draft law on the right of the cabinet to collect aid without permission that was granted to the Istanbul based association named “Kimse Yok mu?” has been withdrawn without any justification and notice by a decision of the cabinet on September 22, 2014.

Circular Issued after the Mining Incident (July 2014) (Turkish)
A mining accident which caused the death of 301 workers occurred in Soma, which is a small district on the western cost of Turkey. Right after the accident, the Prime Minister’s Office published a circular claiming that all aid collected by individuals or CSOs must be sent to a singular state body named AFAD (Directorate for Disaster and Emergency Management), which is accredited as the only institution to collect aid for the recovery efforts related to the accident. Such an arbitrary limitation on collection and utilization of aid by civil society can be articulated as an example that demonstrates the problematic nature of the Law on Collection of Aid in Turkey.

Action Plan of Right to Peaceful Freedom of Assembly (June 2014)
On June 3, 2014, Turkey submitted an Action Plan on Communication from the Government of the Republic of Turkey concerning the Oya Ataman Group of Cases to the Council of Europe. The plan incorporates important information, statistics and foreseen actions of Turkey’s government on the right to peaceful freedom of assembly and ill-treatment on account of excessive use of force to disperse the demonstrations, including the ombudsman institution’s decision and advices on the 23 applications concerning Gezi Park events.

Turkish Parliament Approves Internet Crackdown (February 2014)
The Turkish parliament has easily passed a measure that will tighten government controls on the Internet. If it gets final approval, the proposal would require service providers to make users' browsing histories available to the government for up to two years at a time. The measure was passed by the legislature, where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK party holds 319 of the 550 seats.

News Archive

Listen to, Don't Attack Protestors (June 2013)

Turkey spared from FATF Blacklist (February 2013)

Article on Turkey's Expanding Role in Development Aid (February 2013)

Reconsider appointment to key rights body (December 2012)

Police fire tear gas at Republic Day protesters (October 2012)

Journalists targeted by smear campaign (September 2012)

Government cracks down on trade union activists (July 2012)

Confirmed pre-trial detention of defender Osman Isci and 27 trade union members: Joint press release (July 2012)

NGO report slams Turkish government (May 2012)

Turkish civil society "far behind" Europe and weak in the country's eastern region (March 2012)

European Union critical of human rights in Turkey (October 2011) 

Clinton urges Turkey to uphold rights, press freedom (July 2011)

Turkey’s civil society organizations increase by 44 percent in 10 years (June 2011)

Activists prosecuted for criticising the judges (February 2011)

Human Rights Watch slams journalists' arrests in Turkey (March 2010) 

EU raises concern about press freedom, politics in Turkey (November 2010)

FIDH supports joint declaration of its member organizations in Turkey and Armenia (April 2010)

Turkey: Summary of Amnesty International’s Concerns in Turkey, July to December 2009 (March 2010) 

Amnesty International criticizes judicial harassment of LGBT association (January 2010)

Turkey Critized for Closing Pro-Kurdish Political Party (December 2009)

NGOs unite to demand say in human rights bill (November 2009)

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The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL NGO Law Monitor partner in Turkey, TUSEV.