Sida's work in Turkey
Negotiations on Turkish membership of the European Union commenced in 2005 with high hopes for continued democratic development. Unfortunately, for several years now this development has been moving in the wrong direction. Sida supports stakeholders who choose to stand up for democracy, human rights, gender equality and the rule of law.
Progress has been made
Poverty is declining
Poverty in Turkey has declined. In 2006, 19 percent of the population lived in poverty, in 2018 only 14 percent, according to the World Bank.
Improved living conditions
According to the UNDP Human Development Index, living conditions have improved in terms of education, life expectancy, health and income.
Adoptation of international conventions
Turkey has adopted international conventions on human rights and now has a national plan for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
Increasing gender inequality
Gender equality is on the back foot. Turkey has fallen from 120th place in 2013 to 130th place in 2019 on the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index. COVID-19 restrictions have led to an increase in violence against women.
Threats against human rights defenders
Pressure has increased on critics of the Government. Human rights defenders, journalists and other who question those in power have been arrested. Civil servants have also been arrested, imprisoned or dismissed on the grounds of alleged terrorist offences.
The Turkish economy is struggling with major structural challenges and the percentage of the population living in poverty has increased.
Reform cooperation in Turkey
Over recent decades, Turkey has made significant progress in terms of economic and social development. Negotiations on EU membership began in 2005, at which time hope were high that Turkish democracy would be strengthened. Since then, the country has backslid on democracy, gender equality and human rights. Independent civil society organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to operate, including those working for women’s and LGBTQI rights. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are limited and the detention of human rights activists, academics and journalists is not uncommon.
Human rights and democracy
In 2018, Freedom House, an NGO that analyses political rights and civil liberties in the world’s countries, changed Turkey’s status from “partly free” to “not free”.
Integrating citizens into politics
The Checks and Balances Network (CBN) works to integrate citizens into politics through the dissemination of information and dialogue between citizens, civil society organisations and public institutions. The network is made up by 300 different CSOs diverse in political perspective, gender, lifestyle, ethnicity, faith and geography.
Supporting victims of violations
Despite an official policy of zero tolerance, there are well-founded accusations of torture and other human rights violations in detention centres and prisons. The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) supports the victims of torture and documents violations of human rights. More than 600 torture victims turned to the organisation for help in 2020.
Support to the LGBTQI community
LGBTQI individuals are subject to discrimination and hate speech from the media, judicial institutions and government officials. The use of the Pride flag is restricted and there are limitations on rallys and events. Sida supports the LGBTQI rights organisation KAOS GL, that promotes LGBTQI rights and gathers data and reports of violations. Local LGBTQI organisations receive micro granting and capacity support
Despite earlier progress, the situation for girls and women has deteriorated over recent years. Turkey has decided to withdraw from the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
Increasing knowledge of gender-based violance
While statistics are sometimes disputed, many women are subjected to violence, including through child marriage. The organisation KAMER works to prevent gender-based violence and strengthen women’s power over their own lives. Among other initiatives, KAMER visits women at home, strengthens relations between public authorities and NGOs and runs centres for women who have been subjected to violence. The organisation Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR) trains women as well as municipal officials in human rights in order to increase knowledge of issues such as gender-based violence and to make it easier for women to exercise their rights.
Strengthening labour rights for women
Women are underrepresented on the Turkish labour market. The International Labour Organization (ILO) works to ensure that more women can obtain formal employment, to cut the gender pay gap and increase the knowledge of employers and employees regarding gender equality and labour rights.
The principles of the rule of law
Power in Turkey is increasing concentrated to the president, while mechanisms to review and distribute power are being weakened. The rule of law is being undermined and the independence of the judiciary questioned; judges and prosecutors are being dismissed or arbitrarily transferred and lawyers are being subjected to violence and intimidation.
Access to legal aid for vulnerable groups
Access to legal aid for vulnerable persons, and especially for women subject to violence, is key for securing justice. The UNDP, the Union of Turkish Bar Associations and Ministry of Justice train lawyers to address the specific needs of vulnerable groups. They plan to establish 7 violence prevention centres.
Updated: 17 December 2021