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Sida's work in Türkiye

Sida's reform cooperation in Türkiye supports organisations that stand up for democracy, human rights, gender equality and the rule of law. When negotiations regarding Türkiye's EU membership commenced in 2005, there were high hopes for continued democratic development. Instead, a negative trend in human rights and democracy has been evident for several years.

Sida’s support in Türkiye

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Important thematic areas in Türkiye

Progress has been made

As many girls as boys in primary and lower-secondary school

Literacy rates have increased for both men and women, and the gender gap has narrowed. As many boys as girls attend primary and lower-secondary school, but more girls engage in distance learning.1

Improved living conditions

Over time, people’s conditions in terms of education, longevity and health have improved.2 However, income poverty is once more on the rise.

Climate challenges

In 2021, Türkiye pledged to comply with the Paris Agreement, the global climate agreement. Environmental engagement on the local level is increasing. Industry is adapting to EU environmental requirements as trade with the EU is important.

Challenges remain

Progress on gender equality is declining

In 2021, Türkiye withdrew from the Istanbul Convention which aims to eliminate violence against women.3 Media reports and data from women’s organisations suggest that violence against women is widespread despite the country’s claim of zero tolerance.4 Significantly fewer women than men participate in the labour market and only 16 % of young women attend university.5

Poverty has increased

Türkiye’s economy faces major challenges and poverty is on the rise. Economic inequality is also increasing, with the richest 4 % now owning 67 % of assets.6

Pressure on human-rights activists

Women and LGBTQI activists face discrimination and are seen as less worthy in the state-controlled media; they are considered a threat to family values and public morality. Human-rights defenders, journalists and people who question the authorities risk being punished.

Reform cooperation in Türkiye

Türkiye has developed socially and economically in recent decades. When negotiations regarding EU membership commenced in 2005, many hoped that democracy would be strengthened. But in recent years, democracy, gender equality and human rights have gone in the wrong direction. Independent civil-society organisations find it increasingly difficult to operate. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are restricted, while human rights activists, academics and journalists are detained.

Political hostility is growing. There are tensions between central authorities and municipalities led by the opposition. This makes it difficult to provide residents with well-functioning local services, such as social services.

Human rights and democracy

Türkiye remains one of the most challenging places in the European region to exercise the right to freedom of expression.7 Human-rights defenders are prosecuted and fined for speaking out in the media or participating in demonstrations. Civil-society organisations are increasingly controlled by the authorities.

Türkiye’s president has been given more power. The mechanisms in place to review and distribute power have been weakened. The independence of the judicial system is in doubt and judges and prosecutors who do not comply may be dismissed or transferred to less attractive positions. Lawyers are subjected to threats and violence. The public administration is accused of corruption and political appointments. Reforms are needed for society to be governed democratically.

Empowering citizens

Sida supports the Checks and Balances Network (CBN), which increases citizen participation in politics. This is done, among other ways, by disseminating information and strengthening dialogue between citizens, civil-society organisations and the public administration. The network consists of 300 organisations that are diverse in terms of political perspective, gender, background, ethnicity, faith and geography. 

Checks and Balances Network website

Improved legal support for female victims of violence

Female victims of violence need access to legal representation in order for justice to be served. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women, the Union of Turkish Bar Associations and the Turkish Ministry of Justice train lawyers to address the needs of vulnerable groups. They also run violence-prevention centres where people can receive support.

UNDP Türkiye website

Support for torture victims

Although Türkiye officially has zero tolerance for torture, there are well-founded allegations regarding both torture and other human-rights violations in prisons and detention centres. Sida supports the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), which provides support to victims of torture and documents violations.

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey website

Support for vulnerable LGBTQI people

LGBTQI people face discrimination and hate speech from the media, the judicial system and officials. Sida supports the organisation KAOS GL, which works for the rights of LGBTQI people and collects data and reports on violations. This organisation in turn supports several smaller organisations working on LGBTQI issues, so that they can reach out to more people in the target group.

KAOS GL website

Gender equality

Despite significant progress on gender equality in the past, the situation for girls and women has deteriorated in recent years. Women’s participate politically and in the labour market to a small extent.8

Gender-equality work in Türkiye faces resistance, for example, the word ‘gender equality’ has been completely removed from various policy documents. Some religious and conservative groups oppose gender equality.

Empowering women in the labour market

Sida supports the International Labour Organization (ILO), which works to increase the number of women in Türkiye entering the labour market, to reduce the wage gap between men and women and to increase employers’ and employees’ awareness of gender equality and trade-union rights.

International Labour Organization website

Gender-equal fathers

Involving fathers in gender-equality work is important. Sida supports ACEV’s initiative “Involved fatherhood by transforming masculinities”, which targets fathers in socio-economically vulnerable families. During the Coronavirus pandemic, online platforms and local fatherhood initiatives were used. This has contributed, among other things, to the adoption by all districts in the city of Izmir of an action plan to support fathers of small children. In the city of Samsun, shopping centres have introduced changing rooms for fathers.

ACEV website

Preventing gender-based violence

KAMER prevents gender-based violence and empowers women in south-east Türkiye. KAMER carries out home visits, strengthens relations between authorities and organisations and operates various centres for women who are victims of violence. The Purple Roof Women’s Shelter works in a similar way in other parts of the country.

Updated: December 17, 2021