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Turkey Leaks Secret Locations of U.S. Troops in Syria
In the latest display of Turkish anger at U.S. policy in Syria, the state news agency has divulged the locations of 10 U.S. military bases and outposts in northern Syria where the U.S. is leading an operation to destroy the so-called Islamic State in its self-styled capital of Raqqa.
The list published by the Anadolu news agency points to a U.S. presence from one end to the other of the Kurdish self-administration region—a distance of more than 200 miles. The Anadolu news agency even...
author:roy_gutman  syria  turkey  france  anadolu  kurds  erdogan 
3 days ago by Psook
Trends in Turkish Civil Society - Center for American Progress, July 10, 2017
Of course, civil society activity is not a panacea and will not solve Turkey’s political problems nor improve its relations with Europe and the West absent high-level political understandings. Outside of the nation’s major cities, civil society has limited influence on Turkish society as a whole, and is largely sidelined by the government. Even in the big cities, civil society remains on the periphery of society in many areas. Participation in civil society organizations (CSOs) remains low, and may suffer from the increasingly risky political environment. But civil society participation has been shown to help reduce polarization, encourage democratic participation and active citizenship, and increase integration and tolerance within a society—it can help prepare the ground for political compromise.11
Nevertheless, the election of Turgut Özal as prime minister and the return to civilian rule in November 1983 ushered in an era of greater political and economic openness in Turkey, which ultimately produced the budding of autonomous civil society groups in the remainder of the 1980s and 1990s. Over the roughly two decades from 1983 to 2004, the number of NGOs in Turkey tripled.19 Some of the noteworthy groups founded during this period include the Human Rights Association, established in 1986 and focused on civil rights abuses in Turkey, especially in the mainly Kurdish southeast; the Human Rights Foundation, founded in 1990 to support victims of torture; Mazlumder, a human rights group established in 1991 and inspired particularly by concern for religious and impoverished Turkish citizens; the Mesopotamia Cultural Center, founded in 1991 to promote Kurdish language and culture; ARI Group, a secular group established in 1994 to promote democracy and good governance in Turkey; Araştırma ve Kurtarma Dernegi, or Search and Rescue Association, which was founded in 1996 and won high praise for its efforts in the aftermath of the deadly August 1999 earthquake; and KA-DER, a women’s empowerment group established in 1997.

Another important breakthrough occurred in December 1999, when the EU recognized Turkey as a candidate for membership. However, the Turkish establishment remained suspicious of civil society, particularly politically oriented organizations, and still believed civil society should function essentially as an extension of the state. For example, in 1997, the military mobilized businessmen and secular civil society groups to support its efforts to bring down a government led by Islamist-oriented Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan.22 The 1997 bloodless coup also caused a break among religious civil society and political groups, and pushed much religious and Kurdish civic activity underground. The prospect of a pathway to EU membership, however, left that establishment little choice but to move toward greater acceptance of civil society. In November 2001, under staunchly secular Kemalist Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, the Turkish government liberalized the 1983 Associations Law, opening up new space for civil society. Through various EU mechanisms, EU funding also began to flow to civil society groups.23
This new and more open environment was inherited by the AKP when it came to power in November 2002 and expanded by the new government to include greater space for religious and, eventually, Kurdish civic activity. State control and suspicion of civil society, with its roots in the Ottoman and early republic eras, had not ended, but the reins had been decidedly loosened. Turkish citizens, meanwhile, increasingly had come to see civil society formation more as a right than a privilege allowed by the ruling authorities.

For all of these reasons, the AKP oversaw a series of legal reforms that contributed to a flowering of civil society activity. In 2004, a new Associations Law was passed, stripping out provisions in the previous law that had required government authorization in order to receive foreign funding or to cooperate with foreign organizations, as well as requiring advance notice to the government of any general meetings. The new law also loosened restrictions on student groups, required advance notice and just cause for government audits, made it necessary for security forces to obtain a warrant before searching associations’ offices, and allowed CSOs to form temporary platforms or initiatives to cooperate on specific issues.29

A 2005 addendum to the Associations Law, meanwhile, upheld the restrictions on associations devoted to particular religious or cultural identities.31 This concept has an interesting history and continues to be relevant, allowing the government to pick favorites through selective enforcement: Organizations with overt Sunni Muslim goals might have faced closure under past governments, but are now tolerated, while government policy toward Kurdish, Armenian, or Alevi groups, for example, varies with the political climate. In 2008, the government passed a new Foundations Law designed to bring the legal standing of those entities into line with the liberalized Associations Law, and—it was hoped—EU standards.32

The Gezi Park protests of 2013 are a clear watershed in this process. These nationwide urban protests against the government’s heavy-handedness in social life and the growing political repression and suppression of dissent ballooned into a genuine—if brief—mass movement. More than 2 million citizens in virtually every province in Turkey joined the protests. Previewing the majoritarian approach that has come to define him, then-Prime Minister Erdoğan rejected the legitimacy of the protests and pointed to the ballot box as the only legitimate mode of democratic participation.34 The protests elicited a brutal police response from the government, followed by a series of laws that—contrary to the party’s early reformist impulses—significantly strengthened the state’s ability to prevent and suppress protests, rallies, and mass movements.
The legal environment for civil society activists further deteriorated after Gezi Park and after large 2014 protests in the mainly Kurdish southeast, prompted by anger over the government’s response to the Islamic State assault on Kobani in northern Syria. The perceived threat to the government prompted new internal security laws—giving police the right to detain any citizen without a prosecutor’s order, tightening restrictions on public gatherings, stiffening penalties for violations, and giving the state new powers to monitor and police online activity—that narrowed the scope of civic engagement.35
This 2013–2015 tightening of restrictions on political dissent and public activity only exacerbated an already vague and problematic legal and constitutional setup that has long provided the state with ample means to prosecute or suppress activities it deems undesirable. Despite the 2004 and 2008 improvements, provisions in the Associations Law and Foundations Law still prohibit any association “formed for an object contrary to the laws and morality,” any foundation “contrary to the characteristics of the Republic … or with the aim of supporting a distinctive race or community.”36 Numerous bureaucratic requirements imposed on associations and foundations provide many opportunities for selective enforcement, harassing inspections, damaging fines, and political deterrence of all but the most committed groups.
A number of longstanding laws likewise limit public activity and seriously constrain the broader environment for civil society groups, including laws banning groups or activities deemed contrary to “national security,” “public order,” or “morality and Turkish family structure.”37 Archaic provisions of the 1983 military constitution—left untouched by the AKP—require advance notice for any public gathering as well as Interior Ministry permission if a foreigner will be present, and extend legal liability for any protest to the organizers, the names and details of whom are required by the authorities.38
More broadly, the constitution provides numerous legal means to suppress wider political dissent in ways that also shape the civil society environment—most prominently, the Anti-Terror Law, which has long been used to jail Kurdish political activists and journalists. It has now been expanded to include secular and leftist critics and, most dramatically, alleged supporters of Gülen and affiliated groups.39 The April 16, 2017, constitutional referendum, which handed President Erdoğan vastly expanded executive powers, did nothing to change this restrictive environment. In fact, the package included an amendment that handed the State Supervisory Board prosecutorial powers over civil society organizations, further expanding the president’s authority to police their activities.40
Turkey  civil_society  history  authoritarian_regime  NGO  EU  KurdishRights  activism  repression 
5 days ago by elizrael

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