After the July 15th failed coup attempt that killed approximately 300 people and injured over 2,200, the Turkish government has implemented a series of crackdowns on civil society organizations resulting in the suspension of approximately 1,495 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The Ministry of Interior justifies their actions under Article 11 of the State of Emergency Law 2935, which allows the state to take necessary measures to prevent the spread of violence. President Erdogan’s government claims that these organizations have ties to the Gulen Movement, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) and the Islamic State (IS). While the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurulmus maintained that the NGOs are suspended, not shut down, the extent of this suspension remains undetermined. Suspended NGOs include the Progressive Lawyers Association, the Association of Lawyers for Freedom, the Association for Support of Women Candidates, Istanbul LGBTI, and Flying Broom. Media outlets have also been shut down, including the Cihan news agency, the pro-Kurdish IMC TV, the opposition newspaper Taraf, as well as the Zaman newspaper and its English language sister publication.
The state of emergency has also led to mass detentions and the loss of 50,000 state jobs, most of which are from the education sector. With the government openly denying civil society organizations their constitutional rights of assembly, demonstration, and organization, what is the future for civil society organization in the country? Tulay Cetingulec, author of al-monitor.com article “State of Emergency Shuts Down Turkish NGOs,” mentions that the majority of Turks are not active in any NGO due to the country’s history of military coups, with the first targets of dismantlement being civil society organizations and labor unions. Senal Sarihan of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) states, “Sadly, in Turkey, associations have become places grouping people born in the same cities or who come together to build mosques. This is not a sign of democracy. Women’s associations and teachers’ associations are rapidly disappearing.”
The state of emergency was extended for another three months as of 19 October 2016, confirming fears that the crackdown and the restrictions that followed would soon become permanent. Though the future seems bleak, many organizations have openly stated their opposition to this restrictive period, namely the Turkish Bar Associations and more than 50 women’s NGOs, including HasNa partner Mus Kadin Catisi. The women’s organizations have released a joint declaration stating that their organizations may be shut down, but they will still spread their opposition sentiment throughout the country. The consequences of the extended state of emergency may further dissuade Turkish citizens to be active participants in civil society organizations.
Written by Ashley Brekke and Sydney Brown
Gonzalo-Bilbao, Noemi. (November 22, 2016). “Turkey: HRF Condemns Shutdown of 370 Independent Civil Society Groups.” Human Rights Foundation. Accessed November 30, 2016. Retrieved from https://hrf.org/news/turkey-hrf-condemns-shutdown-of-370-independent-civil-society-groups-00595.
Cetingulec, Tulay. Translated by Timur Goksel. (November 21, 2016). “State of emergency shuts down Turkey’s NGOs.” Al-Monitor. Accessed November 30, 2016. Retrieved from