Turkey

Last updated 20 January 2021

Coronavirus Response

New measures were announced by the government through circulars issued on November 18, 2020 and December 1, 2020. Although they were not published in the Official Gazette, the circulars were announced on the Ministry of Interior’s website as ‘notices’. Further, according to the Constitution, fundamental rights and freedoms can only be restricted by law.

These two circulars’ measures provided for different time restrictions to be applied for different ages. For example, individuals over 65-years old were allowed to go out between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm, while individuals below 20-years old were allowed to go out between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm. In addition, starting from November 21, 2020, a general lockdown was announced from 9:00 pm until 5:00 am. Restaurants, cafes and patisseries were also allowed to operate for take-away services only between 10:00 am and 8:00 pm. There was further a nationwide lockdown during the New Year’s holiday from December 31, 2020 to January 4, 2021. People employed in manufacturing, supply chains, and health were exempt from the lockdown, however. Smoking was prohibited in open spaces in all provinces by the Ministry of Interior. As of December 30, 2020, all international passengers over six-years old traveling to Turkey are required to obtain a COVID-19 PCR test with a negative result within 72 hours prior to their flight.

The Ministry of Health changed the method of disclosure of COVID-19 data from all positive cases to patients with symptoms in September 2020. This approach was criticized by many parties, including Turkish Medical Association, which claimed that society needs to be informed fully and transparently. The approach was changed again to full disclosure of all positive cases with and without symptoms in October 2020.

Effective from June 6, 2020, all travelers have had to obtain a QR code via an application called HES for domestic flights and train and ferry travel. Since September 2020, having the code is mandatory in public institutions. Tracking and sharing data via the HES code may lead to violations of privacy and personal data protection, as well as discrimination based on ethnicity, age and gender.

For more details, see the ECNL-ICNL COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker’s entry for Turkey.

Update

In July and August 2020, the government held several discussions to evaluate a possible withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention (Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence). This occurred at a time when COVID-19 measures, such as lockdowns, were leading to a spike in reports of violence against women and girls with many of them trapped at home with their abusers or unable to access safety and support services. There have been substantial protests against such a withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention from CSOs, companies and individuals. The debate has also sparked criticism from a number of women within Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) circles. Withdrawal discussions are currently on hold.

Introduction

Civil society organizations (CSOs) are at the heart of Turkey’s democratization process. Over the past years, the not-for-profit sector in Turkey has grown in size and played a significant role in providing services and contributing to the democratization of the country. There are around 126,753 CSOs as of September 2020 and 5,352 new foundations (established after the foundation of the Republic in 1923) as of August 2020 operating alongside many informal organizations, such as platforms, initiatives, and groups. Their areas of work are mostly concentrated in social solidarity, social services, education, health and various rights-based issues.

While foundations in Turkey are predominantly working in the fields of education and social assistance, associations are carrying out activities to enhance vocational training, social solidarity, sports and religious services. Despite the increase in their numbers and visibility, rights-based organizations constitute a very small segment of CSOs in Turkey. According to the data provided by the Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society, as of September 2020, out of all the associations registered, only 1.23% (1,494 associations) are active in the fields of human rights and advocacy. According to the data provided by the General Directorate of Foundations, out of 10,371 activities organized by foundations in 2019, only 264 are in the fields of law, human rights and democracy.

Since officially becoming a European Union (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. Until 2004, when a new Associations Law was enacted in Turkey, the autonomy of Turkish CSOs was restricted. The new Law on Associations was viewed positively by both civil society and the EU. It lifted some of the limitations on civil society. Subsequently, in 2008, Turkey adopted a Law on Foundations, 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 comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the legal framework still contains numerous incompatibilities with international standards. In addition, despite the improved legislation concerning associations and foundations in 2004 and 2008, respectively, challenges and constraints continue, especially regarding the secondary legislation and its implementation. In fact, no extensive reforms have been made since the major reform packages accepted in 2004 and 2008 improved the enabling environment for civil society.

Shrinking civic space has been a concern since 2013. The enabling environment for civil society activity deteriorated after the Gezi Park protests of 2013, which challenged the government’s urban development plans. Civil society has also been affected by many destabilizing pressures, including the renewed tensions over the Kurdish conflict, instability spilling over from neighboring Syria, the uncertain situation regarding refugees, political deadlocks, economic decline, and a failed coup attempt. The coup attempt on July 15, 2016 was coordinated 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. This unforeseen incident caused a severe interruption in policy making. The context of political instability and post-coup measures have paved the 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 National Parliament approved a three-month state of emergency on July 21, 2016 to enable authorities to investigate and punish those responsible for the attempted coup. On April 18, 2018, the government extended the state of emergency for a seventh and final time. During this period, the government carried out mass arrests and firings of civil servants, academics, journalists, and opposition figures relating to the coup attempt. As of October 2020, the mandate and priorities of this Directorate, including the drafting of an overarching strategy for civil society or the improvement of the legal framework, remain unclear.

Turkey officially transitioned to a presidential government system when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was inaugurated to a new term on July 9, 2018. The new presidential system has been highly criticized for its lack of separation of powers and the concentration of powers in the president. Under new presidential decrees, several changes have been made to the organizational structure and functions of state councils, bodies, and ministries. Presidential Decree No. 17 established a Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society under the Ministry of Interior and abolished the Department of Associations. The regulation on the organization and duties of the Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society came into force on October 10, 2018 and put forward targets to improve the civil society environment. As of October 2020, the mandate and priorities of this Directorate, including the drafting of an overarching strategy for civil society or the improvement of the legal framework, remain unclear.

Following the amendment of the Regulation on Associations, the obligation of notifying the registered members of associations to the Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society via an online system (DERBIS) was included to a law proposal in order to be added to the Law on Associations. As of March 2020, the law proposal has been accepted and entered into force. The law mandates the notification of the first name, surname, date of birth and ID number of the members. The Expert Council of the European Council released an opinion and evaluated the amendment and its process. It indicated that lack of an impact assessment and proper public discussion undercut the legitimacy and ran afoul of the requirement for inclusive, participatory and evidence-based policy development that underpins European best practices in public administration. The legal requirement may bring along bureaucratic obstacles for many associations, and it may also negatively impact individuals’ right to association, freedom of expression and protection of personal data.

Public institutions do not attach strategic importance to cooperation with civil society. While national documents, including the National Development Plan and the Annual Presidential Program, underline the importance of cooperation with CSOs and their participation in decision-making processes, there is no policy or strategy that defines and encourages cooperation and participation modalities. Within the Presidential Government System, there is no overarching policy, national strategy or legal framework that governs civil society and government relations and there is no institution or mechanism that is mandated to facilitate, monitor and report on civil society and government relations. Furthermore, with a few exceptions, there are no specially-designated units or subject-experts within the ministries for governing relations with civil society. The Regulation on the Procedures and Principles of Drafting Legislation includes provisions about CSO participation in decision-making processes in consultative capacity, but these provisions do not make consultation mandatory. In the Presidential Government System, while the President as well as its affiliated organizations and councils are the primary policy-makers, ministries are now functioning as implementing agencies and supervising bodies at a lower level. However, as of 2020, there has not been any regulation with provisions defining such a decision-making process and ensuring a participatory policy-making process.

The 11th National Development Plan emphasizes that special importance will be attached to the participation of CSOs and all other relevant stakeholders while building a social contract and ensuring effective CSO participation in decision-making processes. However, the steps envisaged for achieving this goal remain limited to strengthening the institutional, human resources and financial capacity of CSOs; there are no steps foreseen when it comes to the development of necessary mechanisms or legal frameworks by the public sector.

The 2020 Annual Presidential Program was prepared by the Presidency of Strategy and Budget and published on November 4, 2019 in the Official Gazette. The Program includes the following main goals: strengthening institutional capacity of CSOs; developing the necessary legal framework and administrative structures; fostering relationship between civil society-public sector-private sector; ensuring a climate of social dialogue. However, the Program does not mention mechanisms public institutions need to devise to ensure CSO participation in decision-making processes. The measures listed are limited to training and workshop activities geared towards enhancing cooperation with CSOs. Furthermore, there is no reference to the role and contribution of CSOs in decision-making processes in the Program sections on fundamental rights and freedoms, justice, family and women, children and youth. The measures for CSO participation are only specified under the sections relating to combating poverty and elderly care.

In sum, as of 2020, the legal-political environment is not conducive for civil society in Turkey. Restrictions limiting freedom of association, assembly, and speech/advocacy remain. A concrete definition of civil society is still lacking in legislation, policy documents, or a singular, overarching, and binding legislative framework to govern the relationship between CSOs and public institutions. In addition, freedom of expression has been steadily eroding in Turkey since 2013 through arbitrary and restrictive interpretations of legislation, pressure, dismissals, and frequent court cases against activists, journalists, academics, and social media users. Not-for-profit entities can be inspected on the grounds of their political affiliations, advocacy on rights-based issues, proximity to government or opposition, and personal complaints. Therefore, they remain prone to arbitrary implementation and interpretations of the law.

Organizational FormsAssociationsFoundations
Registration BodyMinistry of Interior, General Directorate for Relations with Civil SocietyThe courts, with possible review made by the General Directorate of Foundations
Barriers to EntryAt least 7 founders required to establish an association.

Executive board of at least 5 people required. Majority of the board must reside in Turkey. Foreigners can be members of board provided they reside in Turkey.

The minimum endowment amount for foundations is 80,000 TL (approx. $10,459).
Barriers to ActivitiesDespite the improvements in the Regulation on Associations, standard annual reporting forms and numerous mandatory books are still 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 AdvocacyDifferent provisions set forth in the Constitution protect speech, regardless of its content, when expressed by a natural person or a legal entity, or expressed individually or collectively.

However, the constitutional protection providing for freedom of expression is diminished at a legal level. Many articles in the laws are sustained despite their apparent conflict with the Constitution.

The new internet regulation No. 5651 may potentially increase censorship and pave the way for removing content without a court order.

Different provisions set forth in the Constitution protect speech, regardless of its content, when expressed by a natural person or a legal entity, or expressed individually or collectively.

However, the constitutional protection providing for freedom of expression is diminished at a legal level. Many articles in the laws are sustained despite their apparent conflict with the Constitution.

The new internet regulation No. 5651 may potentially increase censorship and pave the way for removing content without a court order.

 

Barriers to International ContactRequirement to notify the government when receiving grants from international organizations.Requirement to notify the government when receiving grants from international organizations.
Barriers to ResourcesRequirement to notify the government before using foreign funding.

A foreign association is required to notify the authorities about foreign funds even if the funds are received from the headquarters of the foreign association.

Requirement to notify the government within one month of receiving foreign funding.

A foreign foundation is required to notify the authorities about foreign funds even if the funds are received from the headquarters of the foreign foundation.

Barriers to AssemblyVague 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.
Population82,017,514 (July 2020 est.)
CapitalAnkara
Type of GovernmentPresidential Government System
Life Expectancy at BirthMale: 73.3 years
Female: 78.2 years (2020 est.)
Literacy RateMale: 98.8%
Female: 93.5% (2017)
Religious GroupsMuslim (mostly Sunni): 99.8%; other (mostly Christians and Jews): 0.2%
Ethnic GroupsTurkish: 70-75%; Kurdish: 19%; other minorities: 7-12% (2016 est.)
GDP per capita$9,140 (2019, The World Bank data)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2017.

Ranking BodyRankRanking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index59 (2019)1 – 178
World Bank Rule of Law Index45 (2018)100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index25.12 (2018)100 – 0
Transparency International91 (2019)1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the WorldPolitical Rights: 16
Civil Liberties: 16
Total: 32 (2020)
1 – 100
1 – 100
Foreign Policy: Fragile States IndexRank: 59 (2020)178 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International AgreementsRatification*Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)Yes2003
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)Yes2006
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)Yes2003
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)No
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)Yes2002
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)Yes1985
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against WomenYes2002
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)Yes1995
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)Yes2004
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)Yes2009
Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention)Yes2012
European Convention on Human Rights
Yes1954
The Convention for The Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal DataYes2016

 

* 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 56: Everyone has the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment

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

On April 16, 2017, Turkey held a referendum that adopted an 18-article law proposal to switch from a parliamentary to a presidential system:

  • 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 office of prime minister is eliminated. The new post of vice president is created.
  • 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 can announce a State of Emergency and dismiss the parliament.
  • Article 98 of the Constitution is abolished, equipping Parliament with five mechanisms to hold the government to account.
  • 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, and the presidential government system will be enacted.

General elections and a presidential election were held throughout Turkey on June 24, 2018. Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the country’s key presidential election and became Turkey’s first executive president with increased powers. The first decree for the harmonization of current laws for the new executive presidential system was issued on July 4, 2018. The 74-article decree dissolved the office of Prime Minister and stipulated the transfer of some powers of the cabinet to the president. The first three Presidential Decrees were issued on July 10, 2018 to restructure the Turkish administrative system. The first Presidential Decree introduced the vice-presidency as well as presidential offices, policy councils, and directorates, which will work directly under the president. The other two decrees change the structure of regulatory institutions and define terms, duties, and appointment procedures for high-level bureaucrats and presidents. The president will be able to directly appoint and remove the vice president, ministers, and high-level officials. In the former parliamentary system, the president had the power to appoint and remove the prime minister and ministers only upon the prime minister’s proposal. These high-level bureaucrats and presidents of key institutions, who were formerly recommended by different posts, such as ministries, will now be appointed directly by the President.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

The state of emergency was regulated under Articles 119, 120, and 121 of the Constitution and State of Emergency Law No. 2935. It allowed the Council of Ministers, chaired by the President, to issue statutory decrees that carry the force of law. While the state of emergency was in effect from July 21, 2016 until July 18, 2018, the government issued thirty-seven emergency degrees, seven of which had a direct effect on CSO operations. Article 120 and 121 abolished in 2017. Since the presidential system is in place, the president is authorized to declare the state of emergency. Once the state of emergency is declared, it is obliged to publish the state of emergency in the Official Gazette. Parliament gathers after the publishing. Parliament is authorized to extend, shorten or abolish the state of emergency.

On January 25, 2017, the president and cabinet set up a Commission of Inquiry for State of Emergency Practices to review sanctions under the state of emergency and provided new judicial avenues for appeals. However, the means of selecting the members of this Commission raised concerns about its independence. The rulings of the Commission have not been announced. Given the number of applications, there are concerns that it will become virtually impossible for the Commission to observe due process and deliver timely justice. In May 2018, the Commission gave its initial decisions on six associations that had been closed by the statutory decrees. The Commission ruled that the associations should be reopened because no linkages to terrorist associations were identified. As of October 2, 2020, the Commission has delivered 110,250 decisions (12,680 accepted and 97,570 rejected).60 of the acceptance decisions have been related to the re-opening of the organizations that had been shut down (associations, foundations, television channels). The Commission, therefore, remains active.

On July 24, 2018, Parliament passed the new Anti-terror Law No. 7145, which amended existing laws to effectively deal with the fight against terror after the state of emergency ended by strengthening the authorities’ powers to detain suspects and impose public order.

Presidential Decree No. 17, published on September 13, 2018, amended the previous Presidential Decree No. 1, which was passed on July 10, 2018, by abolishing the Department of Associations and establishing a Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society under the Ministry of Interior.

In 2019, Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK), a department under the Ministry of Treasury and Finance, published a guide named Avoiding the Abuse of the Nonprofit Organizations by the Plots of Terrorist Financing.” The guide details suspicious financial transaction types that may link CSOs to terror financing. The guide supposedly aims to distinguish between civil society activities and terrorist financing, however it is criticized as another move to discredit the CSOs.

In March 2020, the Ministry of Health started to implement precautions to avoid spreading of Pandemic, Covid-19. The Ministry of Interior published a decree postponing the general assemblies, activities, trainings and other meetings of CSOs to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Law on Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction adopted entered into force on December 31, 2020. The draft was submitted to the Presidency of Turkish Grand National Assembly on December 16, 2020 and approved by the Parliament on December 27, 2020.

As stated in the draft law, the main reasoning of the law is “to catch up with international standards in the fight against the financing of terrorism and laundering offenses in light of the 2019 report of the FATF and the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.”

Articles 7-10 amend the Law on Collection of Aid No. 2860, and provide for the following:.

  • Article 7 of the lawprovides that online aid campaigns are included within the scope of Law No. 2860. This means that receiving permission to launch online aid campaigns have become obligatory. According to this new amendment, when an unauthorized online aid campaign is detected, the relevant governorship and Ministry of Interior will be authorized to request removal of the content within 24 hours or to apply to the magistrate of peace for a blocking order if the campaign provider cannot be reached or notification cannot be delivered due to technical reasons.
  • Article 10provides for an administrative fine on violations of the Law on Collection of Aid from 5,000 TL to 100,000 TL. In case of an unauthorized collection of aid on the internet, the prescribed lower and upper limits of fines are doubled. Those who aid and abet in any unauthorized aid collection will be also sanctioned with an administrative fine of 5,000 TL if they do not end this activity despite a notice.
  • Article 8 provides that procedures and principles regarding the aidprovided domestically and abroad shall be regulated with a by-law.
  • Article 9provides that those assigned to conduct the audit for the collection of aid activities are authorized to request relevant information and documents from natural persons and legal entities, including banks as well as public institutions and organizations. According to this article, those who are requested cannot avoid giving information and documents by relying the provisions in relevant laws.

Seven articles, from Articles 11 to 17, amend the Law on Associations No. 5253.

  • Article 11provides that associations and foundations which have headquarters abroad become subject to the provisions of Law No. 5253 on Associations.
  • Article 12provides that those convicted of crimes within the scope of the Law on the Prevention of Financing of Terrorism No. 6415 or of crimes of drug trafficking and money laundering are prohibited from sitting on any body of associations other than the general assembly, even if the sentences of those persons were pardoned. In the event that a prosecution is initiated against the board members or staff of associations with regards to the aforementioned crimes, Article 15 allows the Minister of Interior to suspend the individuals or the bodies that the relevant individuals hold as a temporary measure. According to this amendment, the Minister of Interior can immediately apply to the civil courts of first instance to request a temporary suspension of activities of the association when the aforementioned ‘temporary measure’ is deemed as inefficient.
  • Article 13provides that the scope of the audit for associations is expanded, and the audits of associations are to be carried out by public servants annually, according to the risk assessments to be performed.
  • Article 14provides for notification of the relevant administrative authority prior to receiving aid remitted abroad to Turkey becomes
  • Article 16provides for penalties to be imposed for failure to show various kinds of information, documents, and records and allow a visit to the administrative places, establishments, and their annexes upon the request of the supervisory board members of the association (internal audit) or relevant government officials (external audit);
  • Article32(k) provides penalties if mandatory documents kept by the associations are unreadable or lost for any reason, and this is not notified to the competent court of a place where a headquarters of the association is operating, and for breaching the obligation to notify about aid sent abroad and aid received from abroad.
  • Article 17 provides for the law to become applicable to branches of associations, governing organizations of associations and foundations, and branches of associations and foundations which have headquarters abroad and permission to operate and develop cooperation in Turkey.

There are a number of national laws affecting the civil society sector:

  • Law 5253: Associations Law on Associations
  • Law 5737: Law on Foundations
  • Law 4721: Civil Code
    • Associations: Articles 56-100
    • Foundations: Article 101-117
  • Law 8965: Penal Code
  • Law 5326: Law on Misdemeanor
  • Law 2860: Law on Collection of Aid
  • Law 2911: Law on Meetings and Demonstrations
  • Law 4982: Law on Right to Information
  • Law 4962: Law on the Amendment to Certain Laws and Tax Exemption for Law on Foundations
  • Law 6102: Commercial Law
  • Law 193: Income Tax Law
  • Law 5520: Corporate Tax Law
  • Law 213: Tax Procedure 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
  • Law 6698: Law on Protection of Personal Data
  • Law 7262: Law on Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

The 2020 Annual Residential Program was prepared by the Presidency of Strategy and Budget and published on November 4, 2019 in the Official Gazette. The Program includes a section on CSOs and lists the policies and actions to be carried out by the end of December 2020. The purpose is to develop the civil society capacity, strengthen legal and managerial infrastructure, increase collaboration between public administration-civil society-business and improve social dialogue. However, the Program does not outline the necessary mechanisms the public administration must employ in order to achieve CSO participation in decision-making processes. The listed precautions are limited to training and workshop activities to increase collaboration. Moreover, the sections detailing basic rights and freedoms, justice, family and women, children and youth do not include the role and contribution of CSO participation to public decision-making processes. CSO participation is emphasized for poverty alleviation and care of elderly only. However, the Program prioritizes managerial and financial regulation on volunteering, which will include a stronger role for civil society.

New legislation (by-law) will enter into force regarding aid provided domestically and abroad as indicated in the Law on Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Another upcoming by-law, which is referenced in the same Law, will regulate the procedures and principles regarding audits of the associations.

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

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.

The registration process and the timeline for registration of associations and foundations are regulated by the Law on Associations and the Law on Foundations. To register an association, seven citizens and/or foreigners holding residency permits must apply to the provincial office of the Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society with the necessary list of documents. No registration fee is required. As soon as the association starts official procedures, it is assumed that the association is already founded and thereby it can start its activities. The Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society has up to 60 days to review the application. If the administration decides there are missing documents, or the application of association violates the existing rules and regulations, the association is given 30 days to rectify the problem. According to Articles 84 and 86 of the Civil Code, at least 16 members are required to form the mandatory board of directors and the auditors’ board. In addition to Article 62, which requires the general assembly to be held within the first six months, newly founded associations are expected to have 16 members and form their mandatory organs (executive board, internal auditing committee, and general assembly) within six months.

Registration of foundations is much more complicated. To establish a foundation, there should be assets (all types of immovable and movable property, including cash, securities and bonds, and rights that have an economic value) allocated for the specified purpose of the foundation. The Council of Foundations, highest decision-making body of the General Directorate of Foundations, determines the minimum asset value applicable on the establishment of a foundation on annual basis. As of 2020, the minimum value is set at approximately 80,000 TL ($12,500). Foundations are founded by a charter verified by a court. This charter contains information on the title, purpose, assets, and rights to attain its goals, as well as organs and applicable administrative procedures. The foundation is granted legal personality when it is approved by the court and registered by the General Directorate of Foundations. The timeline for founding a foundation varies depending on the work load of the courts.

Public Benefit Status

“Public benefit” (for associations) and “tax exemption” (for foundations) statuses are vaguely defined, the decision-making process is highly political, and the privileges the statuses provide are very limited.

Article 19 of the Presidential Decree Law No. 703 of July 2, 2018, which amended Article 27 of the Associations Law and Article 57 of the Decree Law No. 698 of July 2, 2018, authorized the President to grant public benefit status to associations and foundations. Prior to this amendment, the Council of Ministers had the authority to grant public benefit status to eligible CSOs based on the opinion of the Ministry of Finance and the proposal of the Ministry of the Interior. Under the previous system, the selection process was highly bureaucratic and political at times and was not guided by an autonomous, transparent, and easily accessible institution. Furthermore, the procedures for these statuses were not clearly defined with a list of the selection criteria, and the conditions for gaining public benefit and tax exemption statuses differed.

Presidential decrees did not bring substantial changes in the decision-making process for determining public benefit status for CSOs. 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 2020, there are 290 tax-exempt foundations out of 5,352 foundations in Turkey. The ratio of the number of tax-exempt foundations to the total number remained similar (5.4%) to previous years. As of May 2020, 358 associations with public benefit status constituted only 0.3% of the total number of 121,746 active associations.

Barriers to Entry

Article 33 of the Constitution on associations and foundations protects freedom of association. It states that everyone is free to establish associations without permission, that anyone may become a member of associations or give up membership, and that no one can be forced to become or stay as a member of any association. Individuals and legal persons with legal capacity have the right to establish CSOs. There are certain restrictions in special laws applicable to the members of the Turkish Armed Forces, the police force, and civil servants.

The number of minimum founding members required to register an association is quite high (seven) compared with international and European standards (2-3 people). In addition, to continue operating six months after its registration, an association must have at least 16 members. The executive board must have at least five people on it and must have a Turkish majority. Foreigners can be members of the board if they reside in Turkey.According to Article 5 of the Law on Foundations, “Foreigners shall be able to establish new foundations in Turkey in accordance with the principle of de jure and de facto reciprocity.” A foundation is granted legal personality when it is approved by the court and registered by the General Directorate of Foundations. The timeline for founding a foundation varies depending on the workload of the courts. In 2019, the minimum endowment amount for foundations was increased to 80,000 TRY (approx. $10,753). The law contains vague limitations (e.g. general morality, public order) that can lead to subjective registration processes that grant broad discretion to public officials responsible for registering foundations and associations.

To form a federation or a confederation, the Law on Associations 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. Foreign organizations are subjected to serious bureaucratic hurdles when opening a branch office in Turkey. Foreign organizations or representative offices require permission, provided by the Ministry of Interior upon the opinion of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to operate or open a branch office in Turkey. The legislation does not provide a time limit for the Ministry of Interior to respond to foreign CSOs’ applications to operate in Turkey. According to the guidelines published by the Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society, the conclusion period of foreign CSOs’ applications varies depending on the field of activity of the CSO, the region where the activities will be carried out, the origin country, and their international recognition, among other things.

The registration processes of foreign CSOs are subject to a different authorization process than that of national associations. Foreign CSOs are subject to different liabilities and restrictions regarding matters such as the manner of application and notification of activities. Under Article 22 of the Regulation on Associations, the establishment of branches and representative offices by foreign foundations in Turkey is subject to the reciprocity condition and is restricted to situations deemed beneficial for cooperation on international level. As of December 2020, 142 foreign CSOs were listed as permitted to work in Turkey. The number of foreign CSOs with permits to operate in Turkey was 143 in September 2020, 147 in May 2020, 150 in February 2020, 132 in July 2019, 131 in January 2019.

There has been a sharp decline in the number of association members, declining from 11,239,693 in 2017 to 8,146,674 in June 2020. This decline can be partially attributed to the CSO closures during the period following the 2016 coup attempt, the passing away or leaving by the existing members of CSOs, and deletion of double-recordings by the headquarters and branches of CSOs. The statistics of association members is not available currently in the official website of General Directorate of Relations with Civil Society. Moreover, the new regulations requiring the disclosure of personal data upon joining associations discourage potential new members.

The Law on Associations contains vague limitations (e.g. general morality, public order) 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.

According to implementing regulations for the Law on Associations, 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. Additionally, associations are not allowed to utilize shared offices with another legal entity or a natural person. The restriction on shared offices does not have a statutory basis, but it has arisen from an opinion of law department of Ministry of Interior.

Barriers to Operational Activity

Legislation does not explicitly limit the purposes of associations and foundations. However, Law No. 4721 of the Turkish Civil Code states associations and foundations “cannot adopt a purpose or aim that is contradictory with law or morality” and permits government interference based on interpretation.

Law No. 7145 on the Amendment of Certain Laws and Emergency Decrees, which was adopted on 25 July, 2018, contains regulations restricting assemblies, demonstrations, and marches. The broad and vague definition of “terrorism” in Article 1 may undermine the objectivity of the state regarding freedom of expression and freedom of association. The legislation also permits the state’s intervention in CSOs’ internal affairs. The legal framework explicitly defines the ways in which the decision-making system (i.e. governance) should work. For example, the law details decisions that can only be made by the general assembly and the decision-making authority of the executive and internal auditing committee. Therefore, CSOs cannot choose how they want their decision-making system to work. Even where CSOs are not required to seek permission in the decision-making process, they can face fines for not following the decision-making process set forth in secondary legislation such as bylaws. Legislation also over-regulates the formation of CSOs’ management bodies.

The legal framework does not protect against the state’s interference with internal matters of associations, foundations, and other types of nonprofit entities. While the legislation does not openly limit the permissible purposes for associations and foundation, it states associations and foundations “cannot adopt a purpose or aim that is contradictory with law or morality” and permits government interference based on interpretation. The same is true for CSOs’ activities. The Law on Foundations No. 5737 and the Law on Associations No. 5253 allow authorities to inspect CSOs’ activities and assess if they are in line with the organizations’ statute. Associations and foundations are not prohibited from directly engaging in political activities, but the opposition and rights-based CSOs reportedly face more government interference in practice than others.

Inspections of businesses and for-profit entities are applied on the grounds of more established procedures, such as with tax related and social security contributions cases. Not-for-profit entities are also subject to similar inspections, and they can be further inspected over their political affiliations, right-based issues, proximity to government and opposition, and personal complaints. Therefore, they are more prone to facing the arbitrary implementation and interpretations of the law and legislation. Furthermore, penalties constitute an important barrier for fully exercising the freedom of association, particularly given the laws’ comprehensive bureaucratic requirements. Reductions in administrative fines, guidance, and warning mechanisms are not effective, if they are even available.

The minimum number of mandatory books kept by associations is four. Associations are mostly sanctioned for failing to “duly” keep these books and to fulfill notification requirements on time. Excessive bureaucratic regulations with regards to the books and records of associations is still present both in the applicable legislation and in practice. Additionally, CSOs must complete standard forms before receiving or utilizing foreign funding and opening new branches or offices. An Amendment to the Regulation on Associations entered into force on July 9, 2020. Additional reporting and notification requirements were added to the regulation for foreign foundations and associations. For example, if a foreign foundation or association receives donations in cash or in kind from abroad, even if the donation comes from its headquarters, the association or foundation is required to notify the authorities. Previously, the funds originating from the headquarters were not subject to a prior notification.

With Article 16 on Law No. 7262, there is an increased penalty of a 3-month prison sentence or 1-years judicial fine if mandatory documents kept by associations are unreadable or lost for any reason, and this is not notified to the competent court of a place where a headquarters of the association is operating within 15 days or during the auditing process. In addition, increased penalties foreseen in the Law bring more barriers to the operations of CSOs.

As the government took precautions against the spread of COVID-19, restrictions on civic freedoms were observed across the country. Law No. 7526 on the Restructuring of Certain Receivables and Amendments to Certain Laws published on the Official Gazette on November 17, 2020 amended the Law on Mitigation of The Impacts of Covid-19 Outbreak on Economic and Social Life. It authorized the Minister of Interior to postpone general assemblies and annual declarations of associations for three times, with each time valid for three months. Following an extension, the general assemblies and annual declarations of associations were postponed until February 28, 2021. The postponement of general assemblies was later applied to foundations by the notification from the General Directorate of Foundations. There is no regulation which allows associations and foundations to conduct virtual/online general assemblies. Since physical meetings were postponed, some foundations could not convene their general assembly in 2020.

The Law on Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction No. 7262 entered into force on December 31, 2020. As stated in the draft law, the main reasoning of the law is to catch up with international standards in the fight against financing of terrorism and laundering offenses in light of the 2019 report of the FATF and the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. The Law mandates changes in various laws, including Law on Collection of Aid and Law on Associations and brings several new applications, which will significantly damage freedom of association and operation of CSOs. In the event that a prosecution is initiated against the board members or staff of associations with regards to terrorism financing, money laundering, and drug trafficking crimes, the Law allows the Minister of Interior to suspend the individuals or the organs that the relevant individuals hold as a temporary measure. The Minister of Interior also can immediately apply to the civil courts of first instance to ask for a temporary suspension of activities of the association when the aforementioned ‘temporary measure’ is deemed as inefficient. There has been a huge reaction and protest from CSOs, some of which published their own statements against the Law. Moreover, a joint statement named #siviltoplumsusturulamaz (#civilsocietycannotbesilenced) was announced to explain CSOs’ objections and concerns and the possible impact on civil society. It was signed by over 600 CSOs.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

There are numerous provisions on freedom of expression in the Constitution. These include provisions regarding both the means employed for exercising freedom of expression and the form of exercising freedom of expression. Article 25 states that “Everyone has the freedom of thought and opinion. No one shall be compelled to reveal his/her thoughts and opinions for any reason or purpose; nor shall anyone be blamed or accused because of his/her thoughts and opinions.” According to Article 26, freedom of expression may be restricted for the purposes of “national security, public order, public safety, safeguarding the basic characteristics of the Republic and the indivisible integrity of the State with its territory and nation, preventing crime, punishing offenders, withholding information duly classified as a state secret, protecting the reputation or rights and private and family life of others, or protecting professional secrets as prescribed by law, or ensuring the proper functioning of the judiciary.”

However, since 2013 freedom of expression has been steadily eroding in Turkey through arbitrary and restrictive legislative interpretation, pressure, dismissals, and frequent court cases against journalists, writers, and social media users. The number of people in Turkey prosecuted and convicted for “insulting the president” has risen sharply since then. From 2016-2021, CSOs, human rights defenders, journalists, and citizens that publicly oppose government policies and are critical of the President have often faced legal and financial obstacles in exercising their freedom of expression and activities. The situation on freedom of expression, both on and offline, is widely restricted, and court cases launched about expression on social media and website bans continue to be held with administrative and civil court orders. Monitoring reports and statements of international CSOs and international institutions such as the Council of Europe, European Union, United Nations, and Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe have highlighted the concerning de facto restrictions and limitations that were instituted during state of emergency.

According to the ECHR, Turkey was ranked as the top violator, with 356 rulings out of 845 total Court decisions related to Article 10, freedom of speech, of the European Convention of Human Rights. Repression and intimidation against human rights defenders has significantly increased and the space for freedom of speech and advocacy has significantly deteriorated in Turkey. Human rights defenders, journalists, academics, and LGBTI+ rights advocates undergo various forms of reprisals, discrimination, and attacks, including threats, stigmatization, judicial harassment, prolonged arbitrary detention, and travel bans. All these restrictions have led to self-censorship by activists and discourage others from participating and actively playing a role in CSOs and advocacy for guaranteeing human rights. Recent and on-going legal cases against human rights defenders, journalists, and politicians create fear and hostility in the civic space.

An Istanbul court also ordered the arrest of a Turkish businessman and human rights advocate Osman Kavala on October 18, 2017 for alleged links to the July 15, 2016 coup attempt and anti-government Gezi Park protests. On November 16, 2018, the prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 20 people, including renowned academics and civil society activists deemed to have links to Osman Kavala. All but one of the 20 people who were arrested were released after giving testimony to police. The law of indictment was accepted by the court on March 4, 2019. 16 defendants, including Kavala, were alleged to be the “head executives” of the anti-government Gezi Park protests and were charged with “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey or preventing it from performing its duties,” under Turkish Penal Code Article 312/2. While the court ruled that one of the defendants, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, be released, the other defendant, Kavala, remained detained in June 2019. Kavala’s attorney applied to the constitutional court to oppose the violation of pre-trial detention though the court rejected the application. The attorney applied to ECHR after the rejection of constitutional court. ECHR identified violations on the pre-trial detention of Kavala. All the defendants were acquitted of Gezi Case. However, Kavala was detained again based on “attempting to change constitutional order via using force and violence” immediately after his release on February 18, 2020. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s rapporteurs called for the immediate release of Kavala following the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in April 2020. On September 4, 2020, the Committee of Ministers supervising the implementation of ECHR judgments urged Turkey to release Kavala immediately. Turkey must submit an action plan including measures to be taken to prevent similar violations of the Human Rights Convention by November 11, 2020.

On September 28, 2020, a second bill of indictment was prepared, apart from the previous indictment, regarding Kavala’s alleged involvement in the attempted coup of July 2016. The court approved the second indictment on October 8, 2020 and demanded his trial on charges of “obtaining government information which is confidential”, “abolishing the constitutional order,” and “attempting to overthrow the government”. Although Kavala had been acquitted from abolishing the constitutional order charges, the court decided the second time for the continuation of his detention for the same crime. Upon objection from Kavala’s attorneys, the court removed the decision for a continuation of his detention. Kavala’s attorneys stated that the most important deficiency of the indictment is the absence of “adequate suspicion that the crime has been committed”. Any recordings of communications or physical surveillance are not included in the indictment on which the allegations are based. Human rights defenders declared and underscored in a statement that the indictment contains no concrete evidence, is based on assumptions made with political prejudices, and makes hypothetical inferences by mentioning disconnected events one after another.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe had urged Turkey to ensure the immediate release of Osman Kavala and decided to prepare a draft interim resolution for consideration in case Kavala had still not been released by December 1, 2020. Yet, Istanbul’s 36th High Criminal Court ruled for the continuation of Kavala’s detention on November 6, 2020. Kavala’s attorneys applied to the Constitutional Court claiming that Kavala’s right to personal liberty and security was violated as the imprisonment was not lawful. On December 3, 2020, the Committee of Ministers adopted an interim resolution regarding Kavala’s case, which urged the authorities to take all steps at their disposal to ensure that the Constitutional Court completes its examination of the applicant’s complaint without further delay, and assure the applicant’s immediate release. Yet, on December 15, 2020, the Constitutional Court forwarded the application to the General Assembly, which concluded that Kavala’s right to personal liberty and security had not been violated. The next hearing will be on February 5, 2021.

Two professors, İbrahim Kaboglu and Baskın Oran, had been prosecuted under the provisions of the Criminal Code on charges of “inciting hatred” and “denigrating State judicial bodies” for publishing a report on the country’s minorities in 2004. Prosecutors charged Kaboglu and Oran in 2005 and they were acquitted of the charges by the court in 2008. The European Court of Human Rights concluded its ruling on October 20, 2020 that freedom of expression was violated. The Court underscored that the proceedings had remained “pending” for a considerable period. During that period, the fear of a conviction had inevitably resulted in self-censorship for the professors.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights gave its ruling on December 22, 2020 related to former Peoples’ Democratic Party co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, an opposition politician who had been arrested for over four years for terrorism charges. The Grand Chamber indicated that Demirtas should be released and identified violations under five categories, including freedom of expression and liberty. Following the decision, Ministry of Interior announced that “the ECHR ruling, whatever the reason, is meaningless”.

Enis Berberoglu, a former member of parliament in the opposition party, had been sentenced to 25 years in prison by the Istanbul 14th High Penal Court in 2017 related to a report on “National Intelligence Service Trucks” published on Cumhuriyet newspaper and was charge with disclosing information that had to remain confidential for the security of the state. Berberoglu was elected as a member of the parliament through General Elections in 2018 while his case was being examined by penal department number 16 of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that Berberoglu should be sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison for disclosing confidential information. His parliamentary membership was rescinded based on the conviction. As a result of Berberoglu’s appeal to the Constitutional Court, the Court concluded on September 17, 2020 that Berberoglu’s right to be elected and engage in political activities, right to personal liberty, and security were violated. However, the Istanbul 14th Court of First Instance rejected to implement the Constitutional Court Ruling. Similarly, Can Dundar, who is currently in exile in Germany and is the former editor-in-chief of the Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, was sentenced to 27 years and 6 months in prison by the Istanbul 14th High Penal Court on December 23, 2020 for “espionage” and “terrorism”.

Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, a human rights defender and President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, was elected as chair of Turkish Medical Association on October 2, 2020. The Foundation is involved in the documentation of torture, rehabilitation of victims, and provision of legal assistance. Şebnem Korur Fincancı is one of the founding members of the Forensic Doctors’ Association and has played a major role in the development of the United Nations reference standards on the investigation and documentation of cases of torture called the Istanbul Protocol. The President made a statement saying that the election of Ms Fincancı as chair of Turkish Medical Association is a sign of terrorist organizations taking control of CSOs. Following this statement, however, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey published an announcement criticizing President’s comment.

Tahir Elçi, the former chair of Diyarbakır Bar Association and a human rights lawyer, was shot to death after a press statement on November 28, 2015 in the name of Diyarbakır Bar Association in which he was calling for an end to the persistent violence in the region. After nearly five years since his killing, criminal charges were brought against the three suspect police officers and the indictment as finally submitted to the Diyarbakır 10th High Penal Court in March 2020. Netherlands Helsinki Committee and 42 human rights organizations published a joint statement and explained their concerns on the prosecution and the right to a fair trial by stating that the case should be heard by an independent, impartial, and competent court that is capable of establishing the facts and truth surrounding the killing. During the first hearing, all requests of the Elçi family were rejected by the Court as to procedure. As a response, the attorneys of the family requested a recusal, which was forwarded to the upper court to be examined by the Court. The next hearing of the case will be held on March 3, 2021.

In the 112th hearing of Hrant Dink, Chief Editor of Agos Newspaper, who was shot to dead in 2007, the attorneys demanded two months to present their arguments against the legal opinion of the prosecutor, which is 68 pages on December 15, 2020. Yet, the court only granted two days for their arguments and postponed the next hearing to December 17, 2020. The hearing was postponed again to December 23-24, 2020. In the 117th hearing of this lawsuit, arrest warrants were issued against two gendarmerie intelligence officers based on the evidence that they knew about the murder beforehand.

Overall, the detention and prosecution of human rights activists, journalists and even members of parliament had severe consequences upon silencing the advocacy and monitoring work of rights-based CSOs in Turkey. The 2020 Survey of Freedom of Expression revealed striking results about censorship, shifting media consumption habits, and weakening trust in media—69% of the 2,000 participants were concerned about the effects of censorship in Turkey. Similarly, 64% of all respondents were concerned about their online activities being monitored by the government. Turkey was downgraded in its internet freedom status as well. According to Freedom House’s 2020 ratings, internet freedom in Turkey is “not free.” According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Turkey ranks 154 out of 180 countries. The report noted that “censorship of websites and social media in the country has reached unprecedented levels.”

In the wake of the failed coup attempt, which took place in 2016, executive decrees brought the closure of 169 media organizations, including news agencies, TV stations, newspapers, radio stations, magazines, publishing organizations, and the detainment of more than 100 journalists and media workers over the course of a month According to the data of the Union of Journalists of Turkey, 103 journalists have been detained 108 times and 28 journalists were jailed mostly for allegations related to the Turkish Penal Code and Anti-Terrorism Law between April 1, 2019 and April 1 2020. As of October 2020, 70 journalists were still imprisoned. Moreover, seven reporters, who reported on positive coronavirus test results of health workers in Izmir, have were taken into custody.

Authorities continued to detain and prosecute large numbers of people from 2018-2020 over social media posts on charges of propagandizing terrorism. The Ministry of Interior announced the ongoing operations targeted terrorist propaganda on social media. 14,186 social media accounts were accused of propagandizing or promoting terror organizations, inciting persons to enmity and hostility, or insulting state institutions from January to August 2020. In addition, legal actions commenced against 2,658 people in October and 1,774 people in August 2020. On August 1, 2019, the “Regulation on Radio, Television and On-Demand Broadcasts on the Internet” was published in the Official Gazette, requiring all online content providers, including online streaming services to obtain a license from the government-controlled state television and radio regulator, Radio and Television Supreme Council. This regulation makes Radio and Television Higher Council, which is a governmental institution responsible for monitoring their online content. The Constitution guarantees freedom and privacy of communication for all. However, the Law on the Internet and legal framework grant public institutions the authority to block access to the content available online without a court order and based on wide discretionary grounds.

The Law amending Internet Law No. 5651 entered into force on July 31, 2020. It requires foreign social media sites that have daily traffic of more than 1,000,000 visitors to appoint Turkey-based representatives for addressing authorities’ concerns over content and includes deadlines for the removal of inconvenient content. Previously, administrative fines were between 10,000 – 100,000 TL (approx. $1,344 –$13,442), but the amount would now be between 1 million – 10 million TL (approx. $134,423 – $1,344,231). In cases where foreign social media sites do not appoint a representative after 30 days beginning from the notification of the first administrative fine, a 30 million TL (approx. $4,032,693) money fine shall be applied. In addition to the administrative fine, an advertising ban can be applied. This amendment may potentially increase censorship and paves the way for removing content without court order. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok were imposed a fine of 10 million TL ($1,3 million) each on November 3, 2020 for failing to appoint a local representative required by the law. After the first administrative fine, the social media sites did not appoint a representative and a 30 million TL (approx. $4,032,693) fine was imposed on each company on December 3, 2020. Following the imposed fines, Youtube and TikTok announced that they will set up a legal entity in Turkey to serve as a local representative to comply with the requirements of the Law No. 5651. The Constitutional Court concluded its ruling, which was promulgated in the Official Gazette on November 4, 2020, on the access ban against sendika.org (union.org), and stated that freedom of expression and press freedom had been violated. The website had been censored 61 times since 2015.

The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into the Free Women’s Movement activists and Rosa Women’s Association on terrorism charges on May 22, 2020. 18 people were detained, including the executives and members of Rosa Women’s Association. 71 women’s organizations issued a joint statement for solidarity. At the end of three waves of operations, eight women affiliated with Rosa Women’s Association were arrested while eight others were released on probation. The alleged accusation brought against them was being a “member of an armed terrorist group” and conducting “terrorist propaganda.” In the indictment prepared by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, membership in the Rosa Women’s Association and social media posts were cited as the main reasons for the accusations. After the hearings, four women were sentenced to prison by 9th High Penal Court of Diyarbakır.

On September 25, 2020, 82 people were detained including members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over violent protests in 2014 against an attack on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. The co-mayors of the northeastern city Kars were taken into custody. 17 of the detained including a former parliamentarian who was an academician and an ecology activist were arrested. Attorneys objected to the detentions, yet the detentions continued in the investigation.

Barriers to International Contact

There are no restrictions for Turkish CSOs to operate in other countries. However, when receiving/sending a grant from/to 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 activities.

Barriers to Resources

Foreign Funding

An amendment to the Regulation on Associations entered into force on July 9, 2020. There were six mandatory accounting books to be kept based on the Regulation of Associations. Two of these books were removed from the list of mandatory records by the amendment. Some books can now be kept in electronic format. Furthermore, additional reporting and notification requirements were added to the regulation for foreign foundations and associations. For example, if a foreign foundation or association receives donation in cash or in kind from abroad, even if the donation comes from its headquarters, the association or foundation is required to notify the authorities. Previously, funds originating from the headquarters were not subject to a prior notification.

There are no limitations on foreign funding, but there is a notification requirement for foreign funding. Foundations must notify public authorities within one month after receiving the funding, while associations must notify the government before using the funding and before sending the funds.

Domestic Funding

CSOs face serious problems in their fundraising activities mainly due to the highly restrictive, bureaucratic and limiting Law on Collection of Aid (No 1983, 23/6/1983). The Law requires receipt of permission for each fundraising activity by a CSO though an application procedure in which the CSO is requested to provide a set of comprehensive information (e.g. amount of money to be raised, how it will be used, the timeframe of the activity, and where it will be conducted). The decision to evaluate the application and approval or disapproval lies with the local state authority. Associations and foundations must obtain permission to collect donations in open public spaces and via internet (e.g. activities on the street, public campaigning, internet fundraising, etc.).

Law No. 7262 on Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, adopted on December 31, 2020, amends several articles of the Law on Collection of Aid, No. 2860 (see the “National Laws” section above in this report for more details). This law does not apply when individuals or corporations donate to CSOs voluntarily. CSOs do not have to ask for an official permit when they only publish their bank account number on their website. However, other online forms of collection of donations are regulated. For example, associations cannot start up a SMS donation campaign or a fundraising campaign on their websites or social media accounts without getting permission. The collection of donations under this Law is regulated with highly bureaucratic rules and procedures. This results in a repressive environment for donation collection and income generating activities of CSOs. Few CSOs among organizations with public benefit/tax exempt status have been granted a special status that provides them an exemption from the Law on Collection of Aid. This means that these CSOs can collect donations, as they wish, without prior permission from the relevant authority. As of December 2020, only 29 CSOs had this status, which is strikingly low.

There is a general lack of strategy and coordination among ministries, which impacts public funding. There is no regular and continuous public funding mechanism that supports the institutional infrastructure and activities of CSOs. There is also a lack of data of the total amount of annual public funding: the total budgets, modality, and forms of funding for CSOs are determined at the discretion of ministries, and they are not predictable since the total budget may vary from year to year. There is no standardized approach, code of conduct, or legislation on public funding mechanisms to support the capacities and activities of CSOs.

Economic activities of CSOs are permitted only if they set up a separate economic entity under their legal entity. In case setting up an economic entity, the CSO is obliged to register to trade registry. The commercial enterprises of associations and foundations are treated as business corporations, and the corporate tax is levied on profits. This burdens CSOs that undertake economic activities to create social benefit.

Barriers to Assembly

In addition to the 1982 Turkish Constitution, the primary legislation that regulates freedom of assembly is Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations, adopted on October 6, 1983. Secondary legislation regulating the implementation of Law No. 2911 includes the Regulation on the Implementation of Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, 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.

Article 34 of the Constitution recognizes the right of citizens to organize an assembly and demonstration without having to obtain any prior authorization. However, Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations significantly limits the right to peaceful assembly with vague grounds for limitations and does not comply with international standards. In accordance with Article 34 of the Constitution, rights to assembly and demonstrations may be restricted with a wide range of reasons such as “preservation of national security,” “public order,” “prevention of crime,” and protection of “public moral” and “public health.” Although these restrictive measures are in compliance with Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, since the legal framework does not define these concepts, at times, they continue to be interpreted restrictively and in an arbitrary fashion. Furthermore, under Article 10 of Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, all members of the organizing committee must sign a declaration 48 hour prior to the assembly and submit it to the district governor’s office during working hours. If they fail to do so, the administration considers it an illegal assembly and has the right to take all measures to disperse it, which may include police intervention. The Law Amending the Law on Powers and Duties of the Police, Other Laws and Decrees, which Parliament passed in March 2015 and is widely referred to as the “Internal Security Reform Package,” strengthened police powers during demonstrations by extending police authority to detain anyone without consulting the prosecutor’s office.

There were instances of excessive force by the police, including beating, during peaceful demonstrations between 2017-2020. In addition to prohibiting a large number of peaceful gatherings organized by dissident groups, all kinds of publicly open events were totally banned for weeks or months. Various cases of restrictions and limitations were reported under the state of emergency both country-wide and in specific provinces based on decisions by governors’ offices. Cases of restriction include the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride parade, feminist march, and others. A corpse of a woman was found on July 21, 2020 in Mugla, a southern province of Turkey, after which hundreds of women protested against male violence all across Turkey to the call of the “Women are Strong Together” platform. The police attacked a women’s march in İzmir, detaining 12 women, who were released later on.

In its judgment of September 28, 2017, the Constitutional Court found the major opposition party’s application regarding Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations to be correct and canceled the Law’s articles that require “ending assemblies and demonstrations before sunset, and a ban on them from being carried out on public roads and not making daily lives of citizens difficult.” Law No. 7145 on the Amendment of Some Laws and Emergency Decrees, which was adopted on 25 July, 2018, contains regulations concerning articles on assemblies, demonstrations, and marches and is in accordance with the ruling of the Constitutional Court that “everyday life should not be overdone and unbearably difficult” by removing the requirement of “making the daily life difficult.” The expression “meeting and walking must be dispersed before the sunset” was replaced in this law by the expression “to be ended one hour after the sunset of the sun, at the beginning of night time.” This amendment has been interpreted as a forward-looking change in accordance with the Constitutional Court’s decision. The Women’s Day march on March 8, 2019 and 2020, for example, was banned by the Istanbul Governorate. Riot police prevented women from advancing along the district’s main pedestrian avenue and fired tear gas to break up a crowd.

On September 11, 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of a group of miners whose protest march had been blocked by the authorities in October 2019. The Constitutional Court annulled an article in the Law No. 2911, which prohibits marches between cities. The decision of the court was criticized by the Ministry of Interior.

On January 2, 2021, the President appointed Melih Bulu, who stood as Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary candidate in 2015, as rector of Bosphorus University, one of the leading universities in the country. Students and faculty members evaluated this appointment as an attempt at curtailing academic freedoms and protested against it, which led to clashes with police. About 1,000 people took part in the demonstrations, and at least 24 students were detained.

According to the report of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, 89 activities were banned by governors in the first eight months of 2020 in 33 cities. The situation was defined in the report as an “unofficial” state of emergency. On November 26, 2020 the Constitutional Court gave its ruling on the violation of the right to assembly related to a peaceful protest during a lockdown in the state of emergency period in 2016.

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.

Key Events

1. Law No. 7526 on Restructuring of Certain Receivables and Amendments to Certain Laws was published on the Official Gazette on November 17, 2020. It amended the Law on Mitigation of The Impacts of Covid-19 Outbreak on Economic and Social Life. Based on this amendment, the authorization of the Minister of Interior to postpone general assemblies and annual declarations of associations was extended for three times, with each time valid for three months. Following the extension, the general assemblies and annual declarations of associations were postponed until February 28, 2021. The postponement of general assemblies was later applied to foundations by the notification from the General Directorate of Foundations. Since online general assemblies are not allowed by law, some foundations could not convene their general assembly physically in 2020.

2. According to the 2020 Reporton Turkey published by the European Commission in October 2020, Turkey maintains an early stage of applying European standards for the rule of law and fundamental rights. In the introduction of the report, the European Commission indicated that despite the lifting of the state of emergency in July 2018, the adverse impacts of the two-year long emergency continued to significantly impact democracy and fundamental rights. Many of the measures introduced during the state of emergency remain in force and continue to have a profound and devastating impact on people in Turkey. The report also emphasized the deterioration of human rights and systemic lack of independence of the judiciary. It stated that the Judicial Reform Strategy for 2019-2023 was subject to a weak consultation process because it did not take into account all stakeholders. The legal framework includes general guarantees of respect for human and fundamental rights, but the legislation and practice still are not in line with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) case-law. The detentions and arrests of civil society representatives, journalists, lawyers, academics and others have led to a further shrinking of space for civil society. Administrative difficulties for national and international CSOs continued to hamper civil society activities, and CSOs remained excluded from legislative consultation processes.

3. On October 24, 2020, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE)’sStanding Committee condemned the crackdown on the political and civil opposition in prior months in Turkey. The Parliamentary Assembly had already held an urgent debate on “The worsening situation of opposition politicians in Turkey: what can be done to protect their fundamental rights in a Council of Europe member State?” in January 2019. The Assembly underlined that the overall situation has not improved since 2019 and noted concerns about the functioning of democratic institutions, the rule of law, respect of human rights, compliance of Turkey’s external actions, including military operations.

4. A province in Turkey, Izmir, was hit by an earthquake of 6.6–7.0 magnitude on October 30, 2020. According to the statement of Ministry of Interior Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, 12 buildings collapsed, 115 people have lost their lives, and 1,034 people were injured. The Metropolitan Municipality of Izmir led the collection of aid to people in need. The Disaster Platform Members rapidly coordinated after Izmir’s Earthquake, and they have been actively working in the field with the help of volunteers and donors. The Platform was established just after the Elazig Earthquake in January 2020 by a group of CSOs and initiatives which joined forces and expertise for rescue and relief. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) gave its ruling on December 22, 2020 related to former Peoples’ Democratic Party co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, an opposition politician who had been arrested for over four years for terrorism charges.

The Grand Chamber indicated that Demirtas should be released and his rights were violated under five categories, including freedom of expression and liberty. Following the decision, the Ministry of Interior stated that “the ECHR ruling, whatever the reason, is meaningless”.

This is the second time an ECHR ruling has not been implemented. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe had urged Turkey to ensure the immediate release of Osman Kavala and decided to prepare a draft interim resolution for consideration in case Kavala had still not been released by December 1, 2020. Yet, Istanbul’s 36th High Criminal Court ruled for the continuation of Osman Kavala’s detention on November 6, 2020. Kavala’s attorneys applied to the Constitutional Court claiming that the right to personal liberty and security was violated as the imprisonment was not lawful. On December 3, 2020, the Committee of Ministers adopted the interim resolution regarding Kavala’s case, which urged the authorities to take all steps at their disposal to ensure that the Constitutional Court completes its examination of the applicant’s complaint without further delay, and strongly urged again the authorities, in the meantime, to assure the applicant’s immediate release. Yet, on December 15, 2020, the Constitutional Court forwarded the application to the General Assembly. The General Assembly of the Constitutional Court concluded that Kavala’s right to personal liberty and security had not been violated.

Turkey’s decision to not implement ECHR rulings regarding Demirtas and Kavala’s case contradicts ECHR and other international conventions, as well as the Turkish Constitution. Since Turkey is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, which means that it accepts the authority of the Council of Europe and the Human Rights Court and promises to comply with their decisions, ECtHR decisions are binding and not open for discussion. According to paragraph 4 of Article 46 of the ECHR, if a state insists on not fulfilling final and binding decisions given by the ECHR, the Committee of Ministers starts the procedure of complaint with a two-thirds majority vote. At the end of the procedure, Turkey might face some serious sanctions, including blocking licenses to not being able to be a candidate in Council of Europe elections and being removed from the Council of Europe.

General News

Turkey sentences journalist to 27 years in jail (December 2020)
Turkish journalist Can Dundar has been sentenced to more than 27 years in prison for allegedly supporting terrorism and “military or political espionage.” Currently in exile in Germany, the former editor-in-chief of the Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet was tried in absentia.

Constitutional Court forwards Kavala’s application to General Assembly (December 2020)
Ahead of his first hearing on December 18, the First Section of the Constitutional Court has reviewed the individual application of arrested businessperson and rights defender Kavala and ruled that it shall be forwarded to the General Assembly.

Torture in Turkish prisons under scrutiny again following inmate’s death (October 2020)
The death of Serkan Tumay in a prison raised concerns on the prison conditions in Turkey once again. While Tumay’s family says that he was tortured by prison guards repeatedly and died as a result in Kırıkkale F-Type Prison, opposition deputies Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu and Gülizar Biçer Karaca asked Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül to explain how he died.

New Turkish indictment prolongs ‘torture’ for philanthropist Kavala (October 2020)
Ayse Bugra, the wife of jailed Turkish civil society leader Osman Kavala, said a new indictment accusing him of involvement in a failed military coup has shaken her belief that he can receive a fair trial and his years-long incarceration has been “torture” for their family. Kavala, who worked on cultural heritage projects and efforts to reconcile Turks with Kurds and Armenians, has spent almost three years in prison without a conviction.

PACE Rapporteurs Call for Release of Kavala (June 2020)
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) rapporteurs have called for the immediate release of Osman Kavala following a judgment by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on May 12, 2020. Kavala, a businessperson and a rights defender, has been behind bars since October 18, 2017.

Six HDP co-mayors removed from duty (May 2020)
Six co-mayors from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were removed from their posts by the Interior Ministry. While all six were replaced by trustees of the Interior Ministry, three of the southeastern co-mayors were later detained. Meanwhile, the mayor of an eastern province was detained on charges related to an ongoing investigation.

Turkey Amends Criminal Procedure And Execution Provisions (May 2020)
The Law Amending the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures and Certain Laws No. 7242, which was published on the Official Gazette on April 15, 2020, amends a total of 11 laws, including the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures, the Turkish Criminal Law No. 5237 and the Criminal Procedure Law No. 5271. As per the Law, which was issued in scope of the various governmental measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Turkey, prisoners are granted leaves of absence until May 20, 2020.

Coronavirus stokes tensions between Erdogan and mayor (April 2020)
The coronavirus pandemic has rekindled rivalry in Turkey between President Tayyip Erdogan and Istanbul’s opposition mayor, with disputes over fundraising and a potential lockdown possibly endangering a coordinated effort to combat the outbreak. The central government in Ankara has said a money-raising campaign launched by the mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, is illegal and it has threatened to prosecute those involved.

Turkish activist re-arrested hours after his Gezi Park acquittal (April 2020)
Turkish businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala was re-arrested, just hours after a court acquitted him and eight other defendants over the 2013 protests in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. The high-profile trial was closely watched by rights groups, who had accused the Turkish government of using the judicial system to crack down on dissenting voices. Kavala’s re-arrest was criticized by activists. Kavala had spent more than two years in pre-trial detention over the Gezi Park protests, which began over a plan to turn a small park in central Istanbul into a shopping mall.

Turkish Law on Social Media Delayed by Pandemic (April 2020)
The draft law on social media was dropped from the parliamentary schedule to make way for more urgent bills on the economy and health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But civil society groups and opposition parties fear it will be back before long. The draft law obliges foreign social media companies with high internet traffic to appoint an official representative in Turkey to answer authorities’ demands concerning the content on their platforms.

Yiğit Aksakoğlu to be Released on Probation, Arrest of Osman Kavala to Continue (June 2019)
Announcing its interlocutory judgement, the court has ruled that Yiğit Aksakoğlu shall be released on probation with an international travel ban and the arrest of Osman Kavala shall continue. The next hearing will be held on July 18, 2019.

Civil Society Organizations from Germany: ‘Kavala and Aksakoğlu Should be Released’ (June 2019)
Seven organizations have released a joint statement on the Gezi Park trial which began today, demanding the case should be dropped.

CHP members say ruling party fears losing billions in grants to charities tied to government (May 2019)
Ekrem Imamoğlu of the Republican People’s party (CHP), who won the March vote, said a ‘beneficial relationship’ existed between the AKP government and the charities.

Turkish police use tear gas to break up Women’s Day march (March 2019)
Turkish police fired tear gas to break up a crowd of several thousand women who gathered in the evening in at the edge of Taksim Square in central Istanbul for a march to celebrate International Women’s Day. Hundreds of riot police blocked their path to prevent them from advancing along the district’s main pedestrian avenue. Police fired pepper spray and pellets containing tear gas to disperse the crowd, and scuffles broke out as police pursued the women into side streets off the avenue.

Minister Kasapoğlu launched 2019 Year of Volunteering (March 2019)
Ministry of Youth and Sports announced the 2019 Year of Volunteering. Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoğlu announced the 2019 National Volunteering Strategy and steps to be taken in following months.

Turkish police use tear gas to break up Women’s Day march (March 2019)
Turkish police fired tear gas to break up a crowd of several thousand women who gathered in central Istanbul evening for a march to celebrate International Women’s Day. The crowd gathered at the edge of the city’s Taksim Square planning to hold a march. Hundreds of riot police blocked their path to prevent them advancing along the district’s main pedestrian avenue. Police fired pepper spray and pellets containing tear gas to disperse the crowd and scuffles broke out as they pursued the women into side streets off the avenue.

Minister Kasapoğlu launched 2019 Year of Volunteering (March 2019)
The “2019 Year of Volunteering” was announced by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoğlu announced the 2019 National Volunteering Strategy and steps to be taken in following months.

Turkey academic jailed after raids on professors and activists (November 2018)
A court in Turkey has jailed an Istanbul academic pending trial following raids on professors and activists deemed to have links to an imprisoned prominent financier of civil society activities.

Ministry of Interior to collect information of association members (October 2018)
The new amendment to the Regulation on Associations has required that all associations operating in Turkey inform the Ministry of Interior about the personal identifying information of their members, including their occupations and educational backgrounds.

Turkey issues first decree for new executive presidential system(July 2018)
Turkey issued the first decree for the harmonization of current laws for the new executive presidential system on July 4.The 74-article decree, published in Turkey’s official gazette, stipulates the transfer of some powers of the cabinet to the president in line with the change, abolishing the office of Prime Minister.

The Start of a New Era in Turkey: Presidential System of Government(July 2018)
Following the general elections on Jun 24, 2018, Turkey prepares to adopt the “Turkish Model” Presidential System, the patent of which Mr. Erdoğan claims. It is explained that the new system aspires to speed up administrative proceedings by eliminating bureaucracy and enabling quick responses to the most pressing matters.

Understanding The “Turkish Model” Of Presidential System (July 2018)
Following the general elections on Jun 24, 2018, Turkey prepares to adopt the “Turkish Model” Presidential System, the patent of which Mr. Erdoğan claims. It is explained that the new system aspires to speed up administrative proceedings by eliminating bureaucracy and enabling quick responses to the most pressing matters.

Turkey ends state of emergency after two years (July 2018)
The Turkish government has ended the nationwide state of emergency that was imposed two years ago after a failed coup attempt, state media say.

Turkey election: Erdogan win ushers in new presidential era (July 2018)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking on extensive new executive powers following his outright election victory in Sunday’s poll. Parliament has been weakened and the post of prime minister abolished, as measures approved in a controversial referendum last year take effect.

Turkey ends state of emergency, but eyes tough terror bill (July 2018)
After prolonging the state of emergency seven times, Ankara finally ended the measure introduced after the 2016 coup attempt. However, the state now aims to keep many emergency powers in place with a new anti-terror law.

Turkey’s Erdogan says state of emergency may be lifted after June 24 elections(June 2018)
Turkey may lift a state of emergency, imposed shortly after a failed coup attempt in 2016, after the June 24 elections, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.

Ministry of Interior: 624 Social Media Accounts Investigated in One Week(June 2018)
The Ministry of Interior has announced that 624 social media accounts have been investigated and legal action has been taken against 306 social media users over last week.

Q & A: Turkey’s Elections(June 2018)
Turkey will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, 2018, with a second-round run-off election for the presidency on July 8 if no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round

Turkey’s Data Protection Board Announces Exemptions from Registering with the Data Controller Registry(May 2018)
Turkey’s Data Protection Board (“Board”) has announced exemptions for certain data controllers, meaning they will not be required to register with the Data Controllers Registry (“Registry”). The exemption applies to associations, foundations, notaries, lawyers, public accountants, unions, political parties, as well as data controllers which process personal data through non-automatic means.

The Commission of Inquiry for State of Emergency Practices(May 2018)
Commission of Inquiry for State of Emergency Practices gave its initial decisions on the institutions which were closed with the statuary decrees. 6 Associations will be reopened because no terrorist linkigaes of associations have been identified.

Turkish government to extend state emergency for seventh time (April 2018)
Turkish government plans once more to extend the state of emergency for another three months after ratifying a Prime Ministry motion.

Ban on access to website violates freedom of expression: Constitutional Court (December 2017)
Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled to reverse a local court’s decision to ban access to a news website, which had posted a story criticizing the Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK), on the grounds that “the ban is a violation of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”

Turkey worst in world for jailed journalists for second year (December 2017)
Turkey was ranked as the country where the most journalists are imprisoned in the world for a second consecutive year, followed by China and Egypt, according to the latest annual report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Court arrests Turkish activist Osman Kavala over failed coup attempt(November 2017)
An Istanbul court has ruled for the arrest of a Turkish businessman and activist over alleged links to the July 15, 2016 coup attempt and the December 2013 corruption probes targeting senior government figures.

Turkish LGBTI activists condemn ‘illegal’ ban on events in Ankara (November 2017)
The Ankara governor’s office said on Sunday night (19 November 2017) it was imposing a ban on all LGBTI cultural events until further notice, citing threats to “public order” and the fear of “provoking reactions within certain segments of society,” days after it banned a festival on German-language gay films in the capital city.

News Archive

EU cuts Turkey funding after ‘democratic deterioration (November 2017)

‘Massive anxiety’ as Turkey cracks down on international NGOs (October 2017)

Arrest of rights activists ‘chills’ Turkey’s civil society (July 2017)

Turkey arrests two opposition journalists over alleged coup links (May 2017)

Turkey Blocks Wikipedia (May 2017)

As Turkey’s Democracy Takes a Hit, Civil Society Must Take Center Stage (April 2017)

State of emergency review body paves way for justice (January 2017)

Turkish PM cools down demands to reinstate death penalty (August 2016)

Turkey arrests novelist Aslı Erdoğan over ‘terror’ charges (August 2016)

Tayyip Erdogan hints at return of death penalty in Turkey (August 2016)

Turkey shuts down telecommunication body amid post-coup attempt measures (August 2016)

Europe and US urge Turkey to respect rule of law after failed coup (July 2016)

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 42 journalists after failed coup (July 2016)

In latest escalation, 102 media outlets closed by decree(July 2016)

Turkey’s Erdogan shuts schools, charities in first state of emergency decree (July 2016)

Turkey dismisses military, shuts media outlets in crackdown(July 2016)

President Erdogan texts 68 million people in fresh call for protests(July 2016)

Turkey coup attempt: State of emergency announced(July 2016)

Turkey to temporarily suspend European Convention on Human Rights after coup attempt (July 2016)

Turkey: Istanbul gay pride march banned over ‘security’ concern(June 2016)

Turkey jails Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul (May 2016)

Turkish LGBT group releases annual monitoring report on hate crimes (May 2016)

Erdoğan’s latest target is CSOs (April 2016) (Turkish)

How Turkey uses terrorism to justify its crackdown on the press (March 2016)

Turkey Seizes Newspaper, Zaman, as Press Crackdown Continuing (March 2016)

Ruling AKP creating its own NGOs (March 2016)

Two journalists arrested for story on trucks bound for Syria(November 2015)

Pro-Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elci shot dead in Turkey (November 2015)

Turkey Dominates Global Twitter Censorship(October 2015)

Political parties suspend election rallies over Ankara bombing (October 2015)

Journalists, legal experts decry Turkey’s media blackout (October 2015)

Water cannon used to disperse Istanbul gay pride parade (June 2015)

Turkey Lifts Ban on Access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (March 2015)

Turkey Passes Tough New Security Law (March 2015)

Security Bill Undermines Rights (October 2014)

Turkish Parliament to Consider New Protest Laws (October 2014)

Withdrawal of the Bill on the Right to Collect Aid by the Cabinet(September 2014) (Turkish)

Circular Issued after the Mining Incident (July 2014) (Turkish)

Action Plan of Right to Peaceful Freedom of Assembly(June 2014)

Turkish Parliament Approves Internet Crackdown (February 2014)

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)

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)

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

Activists prosecuted for criticising the judges (February 2011)

Human Rights Watch slams journalists’ arrests in Turkey (March 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)

The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL Civic Freedom Monitor partner in Turkey, TUSEV.