Türkiye

Last updated 24 June 2023

Update

On May 28, 2023, President Erdoğan won the presidential election by receiving 49.5% in the first round and 52.2% in the second round. In the parliamentary elections, the AKP and MHP alliance also won the parliamentary majority again. Although no serious security breaches were observed, the joint observation mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) stated on May 15, 2023 that “continued restrictions on fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression hindered the participation of some opposition politicians and parties, as well as civil society and independent media.”

Introduction

Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a significant role in providing services in Türkiye. As per the latest data available in June 2023, there are 101,458 registered associations and 6,074 foundations 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 Türkiye 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 Türkiye. According to the data provided by the Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society, as of June 2023 out of all the associations registered, only 1.5% (1,536 associations) are active in the fields of human rights and advocacy.

Until 2004, when a new Associations Law was enacted in Türkiye, the autonomy of Turkish CSOs was restricted. The new Law on Associations was viewed positively by both civil society and the EU. Subsequently, in 2008, Türkiye 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 significant reforms have been made since 2008.

The operating environment for civil society deteriorated after the Gezi Park protests of 2013, which challenged the government’s urban development plans. However, 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 Türkiye’s military allegedly loyal to the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, which deployed tanks and fighter jets to overthrow the government. The political instability triggered by the coup and post-coup measures paved the way for government measures curbing 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.

Türkiye officially transitioned to a presidential government system when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was inaugurated for 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 (DGRCS) 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 set targets to improve the civil society environment.

DGRCS established a Civil Society Consultation Council comprised of CSO representatives, public officials and academicians. The Council held its first meeting in November 2020 on volunteerism, its second meeting in October 2021 on the Civil Society Strategy Document and Action Plan and changes in Aid Collection and Association Regulations, and its latest meetings in January and March 2022 were on migration and the general activities of the Civil Society Relations Directorate, respectively. The Council was, however, criticized due to the unbalanced composition of CSOs, which represented primarily those with close relationships with the government. DGRCS is preparing the Civil Society Strategy Document and Action Plan covering the period 2021-2025. However, this important document has not been shared for broad consultation with Turkish civil society as of August 2022.

Published on October 25, 2021, the 2022 Annual Presidential Program repeats the previous year’s plan for the most part. It highlights the increasing number and diversity of CSOs; recognizes the importance of ensuring their effective participation in decision-making processes; and stresses the necessity of developing cooperation between CSOs, public institutions, and the private sector. CSOs are mentioned as important actors for mitigating the severe negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by meeting the social and economic needs on the ground.

Despite the potentially enabling 2022 Annual Presidential Program, on the whole the legal-political environment is not conducive for civil society in Türkiye. Restrictions limiting freedom of association, assembly, and speech/advocacy remain. An overarching legal and policy framework to govern the relationship between CSOs and public institutions is lacking. In addition, freedom of expression has been steadily eroding in Türkiye since 2013 through arbitrary and restrictive interpretations of legislation, pressure, dismissals, and frequent court cases against activists, journalists, academics, and social media users. CSOs can be inspected on grounds of their political affiliations, advocacy on rights-based issues, proximity to government or opposition, and personal complaints. Therefore, CSOs remain vulnerable to the state’s arbitrary implementation and interpretation of the law.

On February 6, 2023, twin earthquakes struck 11 provinces in Türkiye, killing more than 50,000 people and injuring many others. Following the earthquakes, CSOs have worked to support survivors who have lost their homes and loved ones and who are struggling with the trauma of the disaster. CSOs working in the field of humanitarian aid organized quickly and competently, and conducted activities ranging from emergency search and rescue efforts to the provision and coordination of basic relief.

This Civic Freedom Monitor (CFM) country note was made possible through the research conducted by the Third Sector Foundation of Turkey (TUSEV).

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

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

The minimum endowment amount for foundations is 120,000 TL (approx. $5,072).
Barriers to Activities Despite 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 Advocacy 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 protections are diminished at a legal level. Many articles in the laws are sustained despite their apparent conflict with the Constitution.

The internet regulation No. 5651 may 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 protections are diminished at a legal level. Many articles in the laws are sustained despite their apparent conflict with the Constitution.

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

 

Barriers to International Contact Requirement to notify the government when receiving grants from international organizations and giving grants to organizations working abroad. Requirement to notify the government when receiving grants from international organizations and giving grants to organizations working abroad.
Barriers to Resources Requirement 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 Assembly Vague grounds to justify restrictions, excessive force on protesters, and advance notification requirement. Vague grounds to justify restrictions, excessive force on protesters, and advance notification requirement.
Population 83,593,483 (April 2023 est.)
Capital Ankara
Type of Government Presidential Government System
Life Expectancy at Birth male: 74.11 years; female: 78.94 years (2023 est.)
Literacy Rate male: 99.1%; female: 94.4% (2022 est.)
Religious Groups Muslim (mostly Sunni): 99.8%; other (mostly Christians and Jews): 0.2%
Ethnic Groups Turkish: 70-75%; Kurdish: 19%; other minorities: 7-12% (2016 est.)
GDP per capita $9,661 (2023 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency and Turkish Statistical Institute.

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 48 (2022) 1 – 191
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 116 (2022) 1 – 140
Transparency International 101 (2022) 1 – 180
Fragile States Index 52 (2023) 178 – 1
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Political Rights: 16
Civil Liberties: 16
Total: 32 (2022)
1 – 100
1 – 100
Freedom House: Freedom on the Net 32 (2022) 1 – 100

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 2003
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 2006
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 2003
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) No
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 2002
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1985
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Yes 2002
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1995
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) Yes 2004
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2009
Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention)** No
European Convention on Human Rights
Yes 1954
The Convention for The Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data Yes 2016

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
** On March 20, 2021, a Presidential Decision was published to announce Türkiye’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, which is widely known as Istanbul Convention. Türkiye subsequently reported the decision to the Council of Europe. On July 1, the decision came into effect and Türkiye officially withdrew from the Istanbul Convention.

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, Türkiye 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 Türkiye on June 24, 2018. Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the country’s key presidential election and became Türkiye’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 changed the structure of regulatory institutions and define terms, duties, and appointment procedures for high-level bureaucrats and presidents. The president is now 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, are now 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 37 emergency degrees, seven of which had a direct effect on CSO operations. 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 required to publish the state of emergency in the Official Gazette. Parliament gathers after the publishing and 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 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.

On October 1, 2018, the Regulation on Associations was amended, making it mandatory for associations to notify public institutions about their membership. Before this amendment, only the name and surname of the chairperson of the Board of the association and statistical information, such as the number of the members as real person and legal entities and their gender, was requested. In addition, on March 26, 2020, the Law on Associations was amended, and the regulation became law. With the regulation, associations were obliged to notify the local authority of the status of individuals who were accepted as members of the association or who quit or were removed from the membership, as well as their personal data, such as name, surname, identity number, profession, within 30 days. This regulation is against the fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the Constitution and the right to protection of personal data and is contrary to the principles of the ECHR and the ICCPR.

Following the entry into force of the new regulation, İnsan Hakları Derneği (Human Rights Association) and Mülkiyeliler Birliği Derneği (Association of Ankara University Political Science Graduates Alliance) applied to the Council of State for the annulment of the relevant articles, claiming that mandatory notification of members interferes with the freedom of association; that it is not clear for what purpose this information will be used; that the right to protect personal data will be violated; and that fundamental rights and freedoms can only be limited based on a law. In October 2021, the 10th Chamber of the Council of State ruled in favor of the plaintiff CSOs and canceled the relevant articles of the Regulation on Associations. Although the relevant articles of the Regulation have been canceled by a judicial decision, the obligation to notify the members of the association continues because it was added to the Associations Law on March 26, 2020.

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

In March 2020, the Ministry of Health started to implement precautions to avoid the spreading of COVID-19. The Ministry of Interior also published a decree regarding the obligation for 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 was adopted and entered into force on December 31, 2020. The law was adopted in a speedy process without consultation with civil society and other stakeholders. The main reasoning of the law is to comply 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. However, it goes beyond the FATF and severely restricts the operation of CSOs.

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

  • Article 7 of the law provides 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 10 provides 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 aid provided domestically and abroad shall be regulated with a by-law.
  • Article 9 provides 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 11 provides that associations and foundations which have headquarters abroad become subject to the provisions of Law No. 5253 on Associations.
  • Article 12 provides 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 anybody 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 13 provides 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 14 provides for notification of the relevant administrative authority prior to receiving aid remitted abroad to Türkiye becomes
  • Article 16 provides 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 Türkiye.

Türkiye was on the agenda of Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) October 19-22, 2021 plenary meeting. FATF has grey-listed Türkiye for its failure to make sufficient efforts to combat money laundering and terror financing and to ensure that supervision does not disrupt or discourage legitimate CSO activity. Since then, several actions have been taken by the Turkish authorities, including meetings with CSOs, training of public employees, and encouragement of self-regulation. Despite these actions, CSOs still suffer from shrinking civic space.

Amnesty Turkey published a briefing paper, “Turkey: Terrorism financing law has immediate ‘chilling effect’ on civil society,” which reflects the views of representatives of CSOs regarding the early impact of Law. No. 7262. Amnesty Turkey emphasized that the measures introduced by Law No. 7262 and the prevailing political climate in Türkiye, which is marked by increasing repression of civil society, have created a “chilling effect” on CSOs that inhibits them from carrying out their legitimate work due to fears of falling afoul of these measures. It also notes that the lack of consultation with CSOs ahead of the law’s passage and an accompanying lack of legal clarity and foreseeability about its implementation, which have caused deep concern among CSOs and their members. This has caused many CSOs to take pre-emptive actions that have adversely affected their fundraising activities and their willingness to cooperate and collaborate with other organizations, particularly international institutions and donors. CSOs also have difficulty in finding Board members due to fear of potential repercussions and the risk of criminal prosecution. Burdensome audits also distract CSOs from their work.

The Regulation Amending the Regulation on Associations was published in the Official Gazette numbered 31635 and dated February 21, 2021. According to the Amendment:

Associations can now hold online general assemblies and board meetings with electronic systems approved by the Ministry’s General Directorate of Information Technologies. The personal data to be processed in the systems has to be processed and stored according to the relevant provisions of the Turkish Data Protection Law.

From this point onwards, aid provided abroad (in addition to aid received from abroad) is also subject to notification to authorities prior to the money transfer. In case the cash aid to be made abroad exceeds 100,000 TL or 10,000 Euros or equivalent foreign currency, the transfer must be conducted through banks, other financial institutions, or a post and Telegraph Company. After the transaction, notification must be made to authorities within 90 days.

Public officials who will be provided certificates at the end of a training program will be able to audit, as well as those who work in the units of public officials under the supervision of the association. In emergency cases, no certificate will be required.

Audits of associations will be carried out according to a risk assessment. A risk assessment will be made within the scope of combating laundering of assets arising from crime against associations and financing of terrorism by the General Directorate of Associations. Principles regarding risk assessments and audits will be determined by the General Directorate of Associations. Risk groups will be determined as high, medium and low. Low risk associations will only be audited if a need arises; otherwise no audit is required.

This regulation has been criticized by CSOs due to lack of information regarding the recordings of online meetings, whether or not these recordings will be accessed by the authorities. Moreover, there is still insufficient information about the risk assessment process and criteria for risk categorization. Lastly, there is no reference in the Law on Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction to any regulation regarding the risk assessment.

Following this change in the Regulation on Associations, the Regulation Amending the Regulation on Principles and Procedures of Aid Collection was published in the Official Gazette and numbered 31655 and dated October 11, 2021. According to the Amendment, the difference between donation and aid was redefined. Although these terms were separately defined, there should be no difference between aid and donation because it should not matter whether the donation comes without asking or through a campaign or call. This is a superficial distinction.

On April 22, 2022, the parliament adopted the Law on Sport Clubs and Sport Federations (No: 7405) that allows sports clubs and sport federations to transform their status from an association into a corporation. While approximately 20,000 sports clubs and sports federations have changed their status into a corporation, the number of registered associations in Türkiye decreased from 121,978 to 101,823 accordingly.

On July 29, 2020, Türkiye’s Parliament passed a bill amending Law No. 5651 on Regulating Internet Publications and Combating Crimes Committed by Means of Such Publications (known as the “Social Media Law” or the “Censorship Law”). Nearly one year later, the government then began preparing a new social media regulation on May 27, 2022, when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) introduced a draft bill to amend the penal code and press and internet laws. They argued that the bill’s aim would be combating disinformation in the media and on the internet. The parliament adopted the legislative proposal on October 14, 2022. Although the legal amendment did not explicitly define what “disinformation” or “misleading information” is, it adds a new offense to the Penal Code of a prison sentence of one to three years for anyone who intentionally spreads “misleading information” (“those who publicly distribute information which is not really related with the security of the country inside or outside, public order or public health with the purpose of creating concern, fear or panic among the people in a manner that domestic peace.”). Journalists, lawyers and dissidents state that the law will lead to arbitrary investigations and intimidate and silence citizens and, therefore, it violates the freedom of expression.

In addition, internet news portals are now recognized as news publications, which are obliged to publish their contact information in an easily accessible way so that the chief public prosecutor’s office will be able to request to correct an information or news. Social network providers also are now obliged to notify Information Technologies and Communication Institution of information such as the number of their members, the number and time of voice calls and messages etc.

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

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 Türkiye: 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.”

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 Türkiye 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 June 2023, there are 318 tax-exempt foundations out of 6,074 foundations in Türkiye. The ratio of the number of tax-exempt foundations to the total number remained similar (5.096%) to previous years. As of June 2023, 360 associations with public benefit status constituted only 0.354% of the total number of 101,512 active associations.

Public Participation

While the National Development Plan and the Annual Presidential Program emphasize the importance of participation in decision-making processes, there is no policy or strategy that defines and encourages cooperation and participation modalities. The Regulation on the Procedures and Principles of Drafting Legislation includes provisions on CSO participation in decision-making processes, but these provisions do not make consultation mandatory.

Marginalized communities have also been targeted with lawsuits. For example, two lawsuits were filed in 2022 against the Association for Supporting Tarlabasi Community, which has been carrying out activities to empower the people living in Tarlabasi in the face of exclusion, poverty, and inequality, and to improve their awareness about their rights. One lawsuit demanded the termination of the association, and the other lawsuit was for the annulment of the association. The hearings of both lawsuits filed against the center continue as of May 2023 and were postponed until October 2023. “We Will Stop Femicides Platform” announced that a lawsuit was filed to shut it down for carrying out activities “against laws and morality” and for “undermining the family under the guise of defending women’s rights.” The hearing was held on April 5, 2023, but was postponed on September 13, 2023.

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 registration process for associations and foundations is 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 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. 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.

The registration of foundations is 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 an annual basis. As of 2023, the minimum value is set at approximately 120,000 TL (approximately $5,072). 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 workload of the courts.

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.”

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.

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 Türkiye. Permission must be granted by the Ministry of Interior upon the opinion of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to operate or open a branch office in Türkiye. The legislation does not provide a time limit for the Ministry of Interior to respond to foreign CSOs’ applications to operate in Türkiye. 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. Under Article 22 of the Regulation on Associations, the establishment of branches and representative offices by foreign foundations in Türkiye is subject to the reciprocity condition and is restricted to situations deemed beneficial for cooperation on an international level. As of May 2023, 132 foreign CSOs were listed as permitted to work in Türkiye.

There has been a sharp decline in the number of association members from 11,239,693 in 2017 to 8,146,674 in June 2020. This decline may partially be due to the member notification requirement which came into effect in 2018. Authorities explain the decline with the death or resignation of existing members of CSOs, and the deletion of double-recordings by the headquarters and branches of CSOs. The statistics of association members are not available any more 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. Besides this, on April 22, 2022, the parliament adopted the Law on Sport Clubs and Sport Federations (No: 7405), which allows sports clubs and sport federations to transform their status from an association into a corporation. as approximately 20,000 sports clubs and sports federations have changed their status into a corporation, the number of registered associations in Türkiye declined accordingly.

Barriers to Operational Activity

Permissible purposes. Legislation does not explicitly limit the purposes of associations and foundations. However, Law No. 4721 of the Civil Code states associations and foundations “cannot adopt a purpose or aim that is contradictory with law or morality.” Associations and foundations are not prohibited from directly engaging in political activities, but rights-based CSOs reportedly face more government interference in practice than others.

Internal Affairs. Associations are required to maintain four ‘books’ and are subject to sanctions for failing to “duly” keep these books and to fulfill notification requirements on time. Additionally, CSOs must complete standard forms before receiving or utilizing foreign funding and opening new branches or offices. (See “Barriers to Resources” for more details.)

Counter-terrorism measures. The Law on Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction No. 7262 entered into force on December 31, 2020. The main justification for the law is to conform Turkish law with international standards in the fight against terrorist financing and money laundering, in light of the 2019 report of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. The Law mandates changes in various laws, including the Law on Collection of Aid and the Law on Associations, and will significantly undermine the 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 terrorist 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 civil courts to ask for a temporary suspension of activities of the association. Many CSOs opposed the new law, including through a joint statement named #siviltoplumsusturulamaz (#civilsocietycannotbesilenced) to explain CSOs’ concerns about the law. Thus far, a large number of CSOs working in the field of human rights and other receiving funds from abroad have been subjected to inspections. Some of these inspections have been repetitive and cumbersome and have impeded overall operations. CSOs further reported minor penalties but one CSO had to undergo a court process, which could culminate in termination.

In March 2022, the local governorships sent a letter to a number of (presumably medium and high risk) associations stating that risk categories could be lowered if the associations apply self-regulatory measures to protect themselves from the risk of terrorism financing. Although the letters also referred to the guidelines prepared by the Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) and the Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society, many associations found the process confusing because they are not familiar with how self-regulation works. The Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society in collaboration with MASAK organized an online meeting on June 8, 2022 to address CSOs’ demands for more information about the risk assessment methodology, including how and according to which criteria risk analysis is applied. More than 130 CSOs from Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir participated in this meeting, although the discussions did not go into much detail. The Directorate General also announced that two in-person meetings were organized in June and July 2022 for CSOs in Trabzon, Giresun, Samsun, Ordu, Artvin, Rize, Antep, Urfa, Hatay, and Kilis. In December 2022, the Directorate General and MASAK co-organized another online meeting with the participation of a limited number of CSO representatives to evaluate the criteria used at the AML/CTF risk analysis. A subsequent meeting was held in March 2023 again with the participation of a limited number of CSO representatives, the chairperson of the Banks Association of Türkiye, and representatives of various public and private banks to identify and discuss the challenges and restrictions CSOs face within their financial operations, such as opening an account and overseas transactions.

In July 2021, nine members of the DIAYDER (Religious Scholars Social Assistance and Solidarity Association) were arrested for preaching in Kurdish. In December 2021, a lawsuit against its 23 members was filed that alleged they were “members of a terrorist organization” and “terrorist offenders.” The Civil Inspector’s Office of the Ministry of Interior also launched a “special investigation” of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality for its allegedly employing members of DIAYDER. At the interim hearing of this case against DIAYDER members, the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court on December 27, 2021 ruled that a writ should be sent to Istanbul Governor’s Office to find out whether there was an administrative investigation against DIAYDER. Accordingly, in March 2022, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office argued that DIAYDER acts for purposes other than the ones indicated in its bylaws and the local prosecutor launched a new investigation and prepared an indictment to demand that the activities of DIAYDER be halted as a precaution and it be terminated as per article 89 of the Anti-Terror Law. In the last hearing of the case on June 17, 2022, three of the four arrested members of the association were released on probation and the court imposed a ban on their leaving the country, while in the hearing of the case on June 22, 2022 regarding the closure of DIAYDER, as a precautionary measure, the court ruled to suspend the activities of the association. On July 22, 2022, law enforcement officers sealed the association’s office in Istanbul based on the court’s decision.

On June 3, 2022, 22 members and executives of the Migration Monitoring Association (Göç İzleme Derneği, also Göç-İz) were detained, and police raided its office in Istanbul within the scope of the investigation conducted by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Since 2016, the association has been working to support immigrants, particularly groups subjected to forced migration between 1986 and 2016, and to document and report human rights violations in the context of migration and forced displacement. While they are accused of “funding the organization” they were questioned on the reports and other publications on forced migration and refugees, personal financial transactions, and the association’s financial records. In the first hearing of the case brought against 23 people, 17 of whom were detained, including the directors and members of the association, it was decided to release four people and to continue the detention of 13 people. In the second hearing, the court ruled for the release of all defendants under arrest. Yet, the closure of the case against the association continues. In the second hearing of the case held on May 31, 2023, the judge rejected the prosecutor’s request to suspend the activities of the association. The hearing has been postponed to October 20, 2023.

The Constitutional Court is being asked to order the closure of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). An indictment against the party seeks to ban 451 politicians and party members from organized political activity or membership of political parties for a period of five years and forfeiture of the party’s assets. On January 5, 2023, the Constitutional Court agreed to a request by the chief prosecutor of the Court of Cassation for the interim measure of freezing the party’s bank accounts containing treasury support. The Constitutional Court on March 9, 2023 lifted its previous ruling to freeze the account. The Court also postponed the date of HDP’s defense for the case from March 14 to April 11, 2023, but refused the party’s request on postponing the case until the election will be held on May 14, 2023. After the election, in June 2023, the chief prosecutor of the Court of Cassation once again appealed to the Constitutional Court to request the blocking of the HDP’s bank account to which the Treasury had transferred 400,228,000 TL on grounds that the HDP did not run in the parliamentary elections on May 14. Rather, HDP had run in the parliamentary elections under the name and emblem of the Green Left Party to abstain from a possible last minute closure decision by the Constitutional Court during the election period. On June 19, 2023, The Constitutional Court rejected the request to block the treasury aid paid to HDP.

Before the second round of the presidential election, the former Minister of Interior targeted the Vote and Beyond Association (Oy ve Ötesi Derneği). In a TV program, by referring to the funds granted by EU Countries to Oy ve Ötesi for project support, the minister implied that the association is funded for foreign intervention in the election period. In a public meeting, the Minister also blamed Oy ve Ötesi volunteers of pressuring voters on election day. After  these statements, the chairperson of Oy ve Ötesi association stated the role of the association is to organize volunteers to the  ensure transparency of voting process.

On February 28, 2023, the third hearing of the lawsuit filed to dismiss the Turkish Medical Association (TMA) Central Council Members was held at the 31st Civil Court of First Instance in Ankara. A day before the trial, The Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), the World Medical Association (WMA), and six other European medical organizations had published a call on the Turkish authorities to immediately withdraw the proposed bill, to unconditionally safeguard the autonomy and independence of the TMA, and to drop all charges against its members. At the hearing, TMA lawyers demanded to wait for the outcome of the appeal for the rejection of the judge’s request. Accordingly, the trial was postponed to April 6, 2023.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

Article 25 of the Constitution 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.”

Since 2013, however, the freedom of expression has been under increasing threat in Türkiye through arbitrary and restrictive legislative interpretation, pressure, dismissals, and frequent court cases against journalists, writers, and social media users. The number of people in Türkiye prosecuted and convicted for “insulting the president” has risen sharply. The Ministry of Justice published its 2022 Justice Statistics report based on data from judicial units. According to the report, the number of the investigations in 2022 because of the allegation of “insulting the president” and “degrading the symbols of state sovereignty” and the government institutions generally is 51,077. In 2022, the number of lawsuits filed for these crimes was 17,752 and the courts issued 1,981 convictions and 3,177 postponements of the sentence.

Türkiye’s Constitutional Court ruled that disciplinary penalties given by universities to members of the Academics for Peace, who have been dismissed from their positions in universities through decrees after signing a 2016 petition calling on Turkish authorities to initiate a peaceful solution to the Kurdish Turkish conflict, had violated their right to freedom of speech and expression. This is the second time that the Court ruled that there was a violation of rights of the academics. Accordingly, the Court ordered authorities to pay the academics non-pecuniary damages.

However, repression and intimidation against human rights defenders continues and the space for freedom of speech and advocacy has significantly deteriorated in Türkiye. 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 of 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.

A number of reports have documented restrictions on freedom of speech and advocacy in Türkiye. For example, based on the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) annual activity report published on January 2023, Türkiye ranked first with respect to the applications to the Court in 2022. Among a total of 45,500 applications, 26,9% were from Türkiye. The Reporters Without Borders’ 2023 World Press Freedom Index, Türkiye ranked 165 out of 180 countries. The Council of Europe’s Annual Penal Statistics 2021, which were published on April 5, 2022, shows that Türkiye remains one of Europe’s leading jailers because of the increasingly authoritarian rule and crackdown on critics.

According to the Pressure, Barriers and Difficulties Encountered by Human Rights Defenders in Türkiye information note published by the HRFT in January 2022, 833 human rights defenders faced judicial harassment between September 1 and December 31, 2021 and 353 human rights defenders faced administrative harassment, while 34 human rights defenders were subjected to threats, targeting, and retaliation and 46 peaceful meetings and demonstrations faced interference and obstruction.

Hafıza Merkezi published the “Don’t Stay Silent for Rights Defenders: 2022” almanac, which documented the oppressive practices against human rights defenders in 2022. In addition, The Amnesty International 2022/23 Report, which was launched at the end of March 2023, covered Türkiye, with mention of:

  • Baseless investigations, prosecutions and convictions of human rights defenders, journalists, opposition politicians and others.
  • Parliament’s introduction of draconian amendments to existing laws that further restricted freedom of expression online.
  • Police use of unlawful force to detain hundreds of participants in banned Pride marches in several provinces,.
  • The Council of State’s declining to overturn a 2021 decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention.

According to the fact sheet on Human Rights Violations Data in Turkey 2022 published by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) and Human Rights Association (HRA), as of December 1, 2022, at least 64 journalists and media professionals were in prison in Türkiye. Between January 1 and November 30, 2022, 63 journalists were detained, 30 journalists were arrested, one journalist was deported, and two journalists were prevented from entering the country. As a result of attacks, one journalist was also killed and at least three journalists were injured. Further, access to 507 news articles, 274 pieces of content, 33 social media posts and 1,773 websites were blocked. 90 people, including a child, were also detained on the grounds of their social media posts, and six people were arrested. According to data released by the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS), 47 journalists are currently in prison as of June 2023, while 97 journalists were detained and 32 were arrested in Turkey in the previous year. 263 journalists were subject to 125 separate criminal cases. In the completed cases, more than 55 years in prison sentences were handed down to journalists and 4,148 news articles and 46 news websites were banned.

Overall, the detention and prosecution of human rights activists, journalists and even members of parliament have had severe consequences upon silencing the advocacy and monitoring work of rights-based CSOs in Türkiye.

The Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic issued a written statement on the detention and arrest against Kurdish politicians, artists, lawyers and journalists in Amed- and Ankara-based investigations on May 5, 2023.

Lastly, the following are among the most notable cases of restricting the freedom of expression, press, and the right to information since October 2022:

  • On October 25, 2022, 11 journalists working in two Kurdish media outlets, Mezopotamya Agency (MA) and JINNEWS, were detained in house raids across six cities. Nine of the journalists were sent to prison. The trial of the 11 journalists started seven months later at the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court. The court ruled for the release of the journalists (except for one newspaper distributor), who were charged with “illegal organization membership,” and the court adjourned the hearing to July 5, 2023.
  • On February 8, 2023, two days after deadly earthquakes, access to Twitter was restricted more than ten hours by the authorities.
  • On February 16, 2023, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported that after the earthquakes, several journalists were detained in the quake-hit region and courts blocked access to some online news articles about the disaster. As a result of the investigations initiated regarding the social media posts related to the earthquake, legal proceedings were launched against 575 people and 141 people were detained and 27 people were arrested. In a joint statement, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) released in April 2023, it was emphasized that the state of emergency declared in the earthquake zone was used by law enforcement officials as an excuse for impunity to torture and ill-treatment.
  • In March 2023, Sinan Aygül, who is also the chairperson of the Bitlis Association of Journalists, became the first journalist who was put on trial and sentenced under the Disinformation Law. He received a ten-month prison sentence at the first hearing of the lawsuit filed against him and was accused of “disseminating misleading information.” He had posted tweets that covered claims about sexual abuse of children by public officials in Bitlis, despite that he had deleted the tweets within a few hours and informed the public that he had shared unconfirmed information. On June 17, he was hospitalized after the physical attack of a police officer and the security guard employed by the mayor of Tatvan, Mehmet Emin Geylani. Two attackers were arrested after the incident and charged with “intentional injury with a weapon.” Two days before the assault, Aygül had raised allegations of irregularities in the public tender for property sales involving the Tatvan Municipality and its mayor, and called for its cancellation via social media posts.
  • On May 3, 2023, a man in the Kadıköy district of Istanbul fatally stabbed Cihan Aymaz, a Kurdish street musician, claiming that Aymaz refused to play a nationalist song as requested. According to Aymaz’s family members, the musician had previously faced legal issues for performing political songs, which led them to suspect that the assailant’s actions were driven by racism.
  • A day before the May 14 election, Twitter announced it would restrict access to some content in Türkiye and to ensure Twitter remains available to the people in Türkiye. On May 15, Twitter published a second announcement and stated that by blocking access to four accounts and 409 Tweets, Twitter complied with existing court orders and otherwise there is a threat to throttle the service by Turkish authorities.
  • On April 24, 2020, the lawsuit filed against the Ankara Bar Association administration for criticizing Ali Erbaş, the President of Religious Affairs, who targeted LGBTI people in his sermon, was concluded with an acquittal. The lawsuit accused the then Ankara Bar Association President and 11 lawyers, who were members of the board of directors of the Ankara Bar Association, of “insulting a public official because of his duty.”
  • On May 2023, Journalist Mustafa Mert Bildircin was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the President (TCK 299)” for the news titled “Dark Spiral” published on 13 January 2022. The court delayed the announcement of the verdict. In the news, Bildircin had reported that certain religious groups and CSOs close to the government exercise their control on state power and bureaucracy.
  • On May 26, 2023, the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK), affiliated to the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, banned presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu from sending mass messages to citizens. BTK, in its announcement letter to GSM operators, stated that “It is forbidden to make propaganda by sending video, voice or text messages to citizens’ e-mail addresses, mobile or fixed phones.” However, BTK overlooked the ruling alliance’s parliamentary candidates, who sent SMS messages to voters during the May 14 election campaigns.

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 Türkiye must receive permission from the government prior to starting their activities.

Barriers to Resources

Foreign Funding

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.

The Regulation on Associations was amended on July 9, 2020 to require foreign foundations and associations to notify the government upon the receipt of donations in cash or in kind from abroad, even if the donation comes from its headquarters. Previously, funds originating from the headquarters were not subject to a prior notification.

Domestic Funding

CSOs face serious problems in their fundraising activities due to the highly restrictive and overly bureaucratic Law on Collection of Aid (No 1983, 23/6/1983). The Law requires permission for each fundraising activity by a CSO though an application procedure in which the CSO is requested to provide detailed 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 grant 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.). In May 2022, the accounts of Nesin Foundation were blocked for breaching the Law of Aid Collection during a fundraising campaign for which no permit had been received. This incident highlighted the over-restrictive nature of that Law and the need for change.

While the Law on Collection of Aid does not apply to voluntary donations, and while CSOs do not have to secure an official permit to  publish their bank account number on their website, most other online forms of soliciting 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. This results in a repressive environment for donation collection and income generating activities of CSOs. Certain CSOs may receive an exemption from the Law on Collection of Aid. However, as of June 2022, only 35 CSOs have such an exemption, which is strikingly few. Moreover, some of those CSOs with an exemption were founded by law and are administered by the state.

There is also 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 on the total amount of annual public funding; the total budgets, modality, and forms of funding for CSOs are determined at the discretion of ministries. 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 are conducted by a separate corporate subsidiary.  In this case, the CSO is obliged to register the subsidiary in the trade registry. Thus, the commercial enterprises of associations and foundations are treated as business corporations, and the corporate tax is levied on profits. This places burdens on CSOs that would undertake economic activities to create social benefit.

Barriers to Assembly

The legal framework for the exercise of assembly in Türkiye includes the Constitution; Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations, which was adopted on October 6, 1983; 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. In accordance with Article 34 of the Constitution, rights to assembly and demonstrations may be restricted on the grounds of “preservation of national security,” “public order,” “prevention of crime,” and protection of “public morality” and “public health.” Although these restrictive measures are arguably in compliance with Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, 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 government considers the assembly illegal and is authorized 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.

In its judgment of September 28, 2017, the Constitutional Court held unconstitutional certain provisions of Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations – namely, provisions 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 subsequently adopted on July 25, 2018, contains regulations on assemblies, demonstrations, and marches and replaced the phrase “meeting and walking must be dispersed before the sunset” with “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.

As pointed out in the “Turkey’s Civic Space under Siege” report published in November 2021, from 2015 to 2019 as result of attacks on freedom of assembly 20,071 people were detained, 662 people were arrested, 999 people were sentenced to imprisonment, 4,450 people were exposed to physical violence by police, 90 people were injured by police fire, 19 people were killed either by direct police fire or as a result of police violence, 1,022 people were injured in bombing attacks, and 141 people were killed in bombing attacks.

In December 2022, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) and Human Rights Association (HRA) published a fact sheet on Human Rights Violations Data in Turkey 2022. According to the data of the HRA Documentation Unit, between January 1 and November 30, 2022, at least 5,323 people were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment as a result of the intervention of law enforcement forces in peaceful demonstrations and activities within the scope of freedom of assembly and demonstration.

According to 2022 Justice Statistics, 7,704 investigations were opened due to allegations of violating the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations No. 2911, and 2,287 lawsuits were filed against 6,618 people. In these cases, the courts ruled 732 times for conviction and 859 times for postponements of sentences. In addition, according to the 2021 Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers Report published by the HRFT on May 7, 2022, 10 applicants in 2021 were tortured on the street or during public demonstrations. Other restrictions on freedom of assembly in 2023 include the following:

  • The Local governorships in Mardin, Mersin, Siirt, Osmaniye, and Hakkari restricted the right to assembly for 15 days between March 1-15, 2023, which was the period when many women’s organizations organize events, marches, and protests related to the March 8 International Women’s Day.
  • On March 8, 2023, The Beyoğlu District Governor’s Office banned the 21st Feminist Night March in İstanbul.
  • On May 30, 2023, the chairperson and executives of the Independent Mining Workers Union (Bağımsız Maden İş Sendikası), and union executives were detained by the police as they protested against unfair treatment to workers and union-based discrimination in front of Yeni Anadolu Mining Company in the Soma district of Manisa.
  • On May, 31 2023, the Gezi Park and Taksim Square were surrounded by police barricades and closed to pedestrians to restrict demonstrations for the 10th anniversary of the Gezi Park protests.

Since 2015, Pride Marches and LGBTI+ meetings and events have also been systematically prevented by the administrative authorities and security forces in many cities.

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. According to the 2022 Report on Türkiye published by the European Commission in October 2022, the EU’s serious concerns on the continued deterioration of democracy, the rule of law, fundamental rights and the independence of the judiciary have not been addressed by Türkiye. In the introduction of the report, the European Commission indicated that there is further backsliding in many areas and indicated that during the reporting period, democratic backsliding continued. Structural deficiencies in the presidential system remained in place. Parliament continued to lack the necessary means to hold the government accountable.

The report also emphasized that Constitutional architecture continued to centralize power at the level of the Presidency without ensuring the sound and effective separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judiciary. In the absence of an effective checks and balances mechanism, the democratic accountability of the executive branch continues to be limited to elections.

2. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had ruled that Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala should be released immediately. However, Turkish authorities did not implement these rulings.

Türkiye’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 Türkiye 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, ECHR 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.

3. In December 2021, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe announced that it started the “violation procedure” at its meeting and reiterated the decision in February 2022 meeting for Türkiye, which did not implement the decision of the European Court of Human Rights to release Osman Kavala. Thus, Türkiye became the second country, after Azerbaijan, to be subjected to this process since 2010. In the vote of the Committee of Ministers, 35 countries supported the initiation of the “violation procedure”. The President criticized the Committee of Ministers’ decision repeating his previous words: “It doesn’t concern us much what ECHR and Council of Europe say. I say this very clearly that we do not legitimize those who do not legitimize our courts.”

4. On April 25, 2022, the trial ended with aggravated life sentence handed down to Osman Kavala and 18 years imprisonment for seven other defendants all of whom denied the charges of aiding in or attempting to “overthrow the government.” The verdict can be seen as a threat to human rights activism, civil society, and political opponents in Türkiye.

Following the court’s verdict, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on May 5, 2022 to condemn the decision and to call on the EU and Member States to take action. The resolution asked for the immediate release of Kavala and others and stated that the Parliament believes Kavala and others have been convicted on unjustified charges to silence him as a human rights defender and other critical voices in Türkiye. Following the announcement of the verdict in the Gezi trial, two rapporteurs from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) visited Türkiye on May 16-18, 2022. During the monitoring mission, the rapporteurs wanted to see Osman Kavala in his prison cell. However, the Ministry of Justice rejected this request.

5. On April 28, 2022, Türkiye’s State Council Prosecutor determined that because Istanbul Convention was ratified by the Parliament, it cannot be annulled by a presidential decree. The President’s decision regarding the withdrawal from Istanbul Convention, therefore, was unlawful and Prosecutor requested the President’s decision be withdrawn. The President had issued the decree on March 21, 2021. However, on July 19, 2022, Türkiye’s Council of State, which is the highest administrative court in the country, ruled in favor of President’s unilateral decision. This came after a year of legal appeals filed by the leading opposition party and women’s rights groups, which urged the court to block the withdrawal.

6. On May 28, 2023, President Erdoğan won the presidential elections receiving 49.5% in the first round and 52.2 in the second round. Millet Alliance candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu received 44.9% of the votes in the first election and 47.8% in the second election. In the parliamentary elections, the AKP and MHP alliance won the parliamentary majority again.

General News

Türkiye elections marked by unlevel playing field yet still competitive (May 2023)
Characterized by a high turnout, Türkiye’s general elections were well-managed and offered voters a choice between genuine political alternatives, but the current president and the ruling parties enjoyed an unjustified advantage. Continued restrictions on fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression hindered the participation of some opposition politicians and parties, as well as civil society and independent media, international observers said in a statement.

Thousands dead, millions displaced: earthquake fallout in Turkey and Syria (February 2023)
Turkey’s death toll has climbed above 41,000, the country’s disaster authority has said. In Syria, already devastated by years of war, authorities have said more than 5,800 people died. According to Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s Europe director, relief workers were facing “the worst natural disaster in the region for a century”, adding that 26 million people need assistance across both countries.”

‘Disinformation’ tactics silence journalism (October 2022)
According to the BİA Media Monitoring Report of the July-August 2022 period, 126 media representatives faced trials. In the previous three months, at least five media representatives, including three women and one LGBTI+, were detained. The most important agenda of the three months was the “Disinformation Law.”

Turkey detains medical group head on ‘terrorist propaganda’ charge (October 2022)
Turkish police detained the head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), Sebnem Korur Fincanci, for allegedly “spreading terrorist group propaganda.” The state-owned Anadolu news agency said an investigation was launched over statements Fincanci made to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group-linked media last week on alleged chemical weapons use by the Turkish armed forces. The TTB described her arrest as a “political lynching” and said it was the final stage of pressure exerted by authorities on the medical group and its leaders. It demanded that she be released immediately after her statement is taken.

Turkey: Court upholds exit from treaty on violence against women (July 2022)
Turkey’s top administrative court on Tuesday ruled that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s move to pull Ankara out of a European treaty protecting women was lawful.

Turkey’s top appeals court upholds jail term for prominent opposition figure (May 2022)
Canan Kaftancioglu, the head of the CHP’s Istanbul branch, was sentenced to nearly five years in prison and was barred from politics for insulting President Erdogan and the Turkish government.

Top appeals court upholds jail term for prominent opposition figure (May 2022)
Canan Kaftancioglu, head of the CHP’s Istanbul branch, was sentenced to nearly five years in prison and was barred from politics for insulting President Erdogan and the Turkish government.

Philanthropist sentenced to life in Turkey in ‘travesty’ trial over Gezi Park protests (April 2022)
A Turkish court has sentenced a leading philanthropist to life imprisonment after finding him guilty of “attempting to overthrow the government by force” in connection with the Gezi Park anti-government protests in 2013. The court also handed out 18-year sentences to seven activists accused of assisting Kavala.

Council of Europe Congress highlights “generally degrading situation” of local democracy in Turkey (March 2022)
The 46-nation Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has reported a “generally degrading situation” with regard to local democracy in Turkey.

Osman Kavala case: Council of Europe launches proceedings against Turkey (February 2022)
The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has taken a further step to launching sanctions against Turkey for not releasing philanthropist Osman Kavala. It has asked the ECHR to reexamine the case.

Erdogan tightens grip on media with circular on family values (January 2022)
A midnight circular from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls on media outlets and regulatory groups to take decisive steps to protect youth and children from Western-inspired programs and certain symbols.

Boğaziçi University students protesting: 14 detained (October 2021)
After two students of Boğaziçi University were arrested over their protests against appointed rector Naci İnci, several students gathered to protest. The police intervened before the students entered the university, detaining at least 14 students.

Turkish government increases pressure on social media (September 2021)
In the almost 20 years that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in power, he has succeeded in bringing newspapers and television stations largely under his government’s control. In reaction, opposition politicians, activists and critics have used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other such platforms to draw attention to problems. But Erdogan and his government are now tightening their grip on the internet.

Istanbul police attack peace rally, detain several (September 2021)
Turkish police attacked several people who wanted to attend a rally organized by the Istanbul Labor Peace and Democracy Forces to mark World Peace Day. The police encircled the journalists and HDP MP Musa Piroğlu with their shields and did not let them leave the Tünel Square.

Turkey to further ease coronavirus restrictions from July (June 2021)
Turkey further relaxed restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 from July 1 on. Lockdowns that had been imposed on Sundays and curfews from 19.00 GMT on weekdays would be lifted from July 1, Erdogan said after a government cabinet meeting. “Public transportation restrictions will also be lifted and public institutions will return to normal working hours,” Erdogan said.

Committee of Ministers of CoE gives warning to Turkey (June 2021)
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe gave a warning to Turkey at its meeting on June 7-9 that it will initiate the procedure for the violation of the European Convention on Human Rights against Turkey, since the the government did not implement the decision of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the violation of Osman Kavala.

Büyükada trial: Constitutional Court rules that rights advocate Eser’s arrest was unlawful (June 2021)
The Constitutional court has ruled that the arrest of İdil Eser, the former director of Amnesty Turkey, during the Büyükada trial caused a rights violation. The court has concluded that the state violated personal liberty and security, which is guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution, because Eser’s arrest was not lawful, and ordered it to pay 40,000 lira (4,663 USD) for immaterial damages. The court gave the judgment unanimously.

Exiled Turkish journalist attacked in Germany (July 2021)
A Turkish journalist who is critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and has been living in exile in Germany said he was attacked and injured outside his home in suburban Berlin by three men who reportedly warned him to stop writing. Erk Acarer, a columnist for Turkey’s independent Birgun newspaper, said in a video posted on Twitter that the attack occurred late Wednesday in the courtyard of his home. The 48-year-old sustained some swelling on his head and was kept at a hospital for several hours for observation.

İstanbul Pride March: Several people detained (June 2021)
The Sub-Governor’s Office of Beyoğlu has banned the LGBTI+ Pride March to be held in Taksim. The police attacked the group that gathered in Taksim. Using plastic bullets, they took at least 20 people into custody.

Erdoğan reveals stricter COVID-19 measures during Ramadan (April 2021)
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan revealed a series of measures for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, saying that the country would be switching to partial lockdown in the first two weeks of Ramadan to decrease the coronavirus caseload.

Diyarbakır police detain dozens of women in early morning raid (April 2021)
Police detained dozens of women in early morning raids in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on April 5, including a reporter from Kurdish online news outlet Jinnews, representatives of political parties and the Rosa Women’s Association.

Hrant Dink murder: people sentenced to life in prison (March 2021)
After 14 years of drawn-out legal proceedings, a Turkish court has sentenced several people to prison for their role in the murder of journalist Hrant Dink.

Boğaziçi protests: police detain 12 students for carrying rainbow flags (March 2021)
A Boğaziçi student is under a disciplinary investigation for displaying a rainbow flag during protests. Today, students held a protest against this investigation and 12 of them, including the student in question, were detained for carrying rainbow flags.

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)