25 Ocak 2014 Cumartesi


The role and significance of NGOs and civil society in world politics has increased significantly after the Cold War. NGOs play critical roles in a wide range of fields, such as education, healthcare, human rights, and humanitarian relief. They fill a big gap where the state fails to provide the basic services to its citizens and they provide humanitarian assistance in the regions affected by war, conflict, poverty, earthquake, human right abuses and diseases. Even though NGOs and civil society organizations have been influential actor in resolving humanitarian problems, they have very complex structure due to their activities in vast fields.

From the establishment of Turkey to 1950, the concept of civil society had a passive meaning and had a restricted role over the society due to the dominant role of the single party system in the country. The single party in Turkey especially focused on the establishment and enforcement of the nation-state. Therefore, the concept of nation-state mainly dominated civil society organizations. Until 1950, civil society organizations in Turkey could not play constructive role in developing Turkish society. During the period of the single party system, freedom of religion, media and human rights had been constrained. While the minority group included the military elites and the Kemalists gained economic and political power in the country, the majority of the population faced deep economic, social and political problems. Inequalities and human right abuses have especially paralyzed the development of the notion of civil society in the early years of the Republic.

In 1950, Turkey first met the multiparty system. With the changing political structure in Turkey in 1950, the conception of civil society became very important in developing social, economic and political structure of the country. However, the military bureaucracy and the impact of the single party system damaged emerging the concept of a strong civil society in Turkey between 1950 and 1960. It should be underlined that there have been two important obstacles in evolving and developing civil society in Turkey. The first is the military elite, and the second is the ideology of the Kemalist party. The development of the concept of civil society has depended on the level of freedom in Turkey.

The period of Turgut Ozal (1983-1993) has been very important in strengthening the concept of civil society. Ozal paid attention to increasing the role of Turkish civil society organizations in resolving social, economic, and political problems in the country. He particularly attempted to implement liberal policies, reduce the role of military elite in politics but the military elite in Turkey had been very powerful in shaping domestic and external politics of the country. Turkish civil society organizations were developed in a limited way in his period. After the period of Turgut Ozal, weak coalition governments, the impact of military elite and the party of Kemalist have continued to undermine developing Turkish civil society organizations. The research shows that Turkish NGOs and civil society organizations have increased their activities when there is more freedom and political and economic stability in the country. After 2002, Turkish NGOs and civil society organizations have more actively involved in providing humanitarian activities in the region hit by war, conflict, poverty, earthquake, and diseases. The main motivations behind the changing role of Turkish NGOs and civil society abroad can be summarized as follows:

1. The changing political structure: Weak coalition governments in Turkey have undermined social, economic, and political development. After 2002, the Justice and Development Party paved the way for increasing the global role of Turkish NGOs and civil society. Political stability creates economic stability. With the ruling party, political stability has been established since 2002. The ruling party has created a dynamic structure for Turkish NGOs to play more active role in the country and abroad.

2. The changing economic dynamics: In the last decade, Turkish economic structure has changed significantly. It has developed its economic relations with different countries. For instance, while Turkey's total trade with Africa was 2 billion dollars, it reached 22 billion dollars in 2012. Political stability in Turkey stimulates economic cooperation with different countries. Importantly, the national income of Turkey was changed considerably over the last decade. While it was 230 billion dollars in 2002, it reached to 799 billion dollars in 2013. Turkish people have increased their financial support to Turkish NGOs and civil society organizations' humanitarian activities abroad according to their increasing economic power.

3. Social dynamics: 99 percent of the population in Turkey is Muslims. In the religion of Islam, solidarity and help for needy people are essential. These elements of Islam construct the essence of the society. The Islam identity of Turkish people has particularly affected peoples' decisions towards Turkish NGOs' humanitarian activities in Africa.

4. Developing a global perception: Turkey has begun to take more global responsibilities in resolving global problems and increasing its role at international organizations. For example, Turkey first became a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2009-2010. The growing role of Turkey in world politics encourages Turkish NGOs and civil society organizations to take more global responsibilities in Africa and in other regions.

The Role and Activities of The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief  in Africa (IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation) 

The IHH was officially established as a non-governmental organization in Istanbul, Turkey in 1995. In particular, the outbreak of the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina in May 1992 and Chechnya in December 1994 played a significant role in the establishment of the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation. With the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 1 March 1992, the Serbs began to commit a big genocide against the Bosnian Muslims in May 1994. The international community and even the Islamic world failed to prevent this genocide in the country. The Bosnian war was known as the largest genocide and the most destructive war happened after the Second World War. During the war, more than 100.000 civilians were killed and two million people had to leave their homes and country as a result of the genocide and became refugees in the country that had totally four million populations in 1994.

 A group of voluntary and altruistic people from Turkey started to collect humanitarian aid individually and sent them to the victims of the Bosnian war as well the Chechen War so as to mitigate sufferings in these regions. Those people who organized humanitarian assistance programs for the people affected by the Bosnian and Chechen Wars realized that it was necessary to establish a humanitarian relief foundation to help the victims of the wars more effectively and deliver humanitarian assistance more quickly.[1] As a result of this action of those voluntary people, the IHH was created in 1995. Today, the Foundation operates in 120 countries and deliver humanitarian help to the regions hit by war, conflicts, earthquake and hunger. It is the largest and the leading Turkish NGO in terms of providing humanitarian relief internationally. Importantly, the IHH not only works globally but also works nationally.

The aims and goals of the IHH have expanded over the years. The foundation has a wide range of activities around the globe. Its activities are classified as follow: (a) Emergency aid activities: The foundation is aiming to provide health services, medical equipment aid, and deliveries of food, clothing, and tents (b) Social aid activities: The organization is aiming to organize food aid programs, orphan care programs, shelter and clothing aid programs, vocational training program and drill water wells and canals, (c) Educational aid activities: It includes educational facilities and infrastructure aid, educational materials aid, and vocational training aid, (d) Cultural aid activities: This comprises supporting radio and television broadcasting and building mosques and shrines, (e) Sanitary aid activities: This consists of health facilities and infrastructure aid, and health services aid, (f) Projects to increase awareness: The IHH organizes international conferences, panels, symposiums in order to increase awareness of social responsibility so as to prevent the violations of human rights.

The IHH has worked closely with the international community and has held membership with various international organizations. For example, it has had a Special Consultative Status in the UN Economic and Social Council since 2004 and the memberships of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)'s Humanitarian Forum, the Council of International Organizations for Relief in Iraq, and the Turkish Foundation for Volunteer Organizations (TGTV). The most important character of the foundation is that it provides its humanitarian assistance to everyone affected by human rights abuses, poverty, conflicts, war and earthquake regardless of religion, race, region, sect and nations. At the same time, the foundation works independently despite its connections with the different political parties in Turkey. Meanwhile, the IHH has also got different local and international awards, such as by the Turkish Parliament in 2007, the Pakistani, Somalian, and Iraqi General Directorates of Foundations in 2006. Also, it was chosen as a "foundation that uses its resources in the most efficient way" by Turkish General Directorate of Foundations in 2005.[2]  

The IHH has been very influential Turkish NGO in the world politics. For instance, it organized the "Gaza Freedom Movement" on 30 May 2010 to break the Israeli blockade over Gaza and provide humanitarian relief to the Palestinian. On 31 May 2010, Israeli soldiers attacked the ships and the civilians on the international water and killed 9 civilian people on the ships. The people from 37 different countries participated in the Gaza Freedom Movement. Turkey froze its political relations with Israel as a result of the Israeli soldiers' attacks on the ships. On 22 March 2013, Israel made an official apology and accepted to pay a compensation to the victims of the attacks. The international community strongly criticized the Israel's unmoral and aggressive behavior towards this civilian initiative. Israel softened its blockade over Gaza after the strong condemnations of the international community over the Israel's apartheid policy in Gaza and in Palestine.

The IHH operates in 42 African countries and has a wide range of humanitarian relief programs. The IHH launched a water well project in 2002 to provide clean water in Africa. People in many African countries still lack access to clean water; therefore they use unhealthy drinking water. Due to shortage of water and fatal droughts in Africa, thousands of people die every year. In particular, droughts have been seen at the highest level in Africa in the world. The IHH has so far opened more than 1000 water wells in different African countries such as 1146 in Somalia,[3] 27 in Cameroon, 24 in Kenya, 5 in Ethiopia. It can be said that opening water wells in Africa have been one of the most significant humanitarian assistance programs of the foundation in Africa. The foundation is also planning to open 475 more water wells in Africa.[4] The number of water wells in Africa is increasing every day opened by the IHH. The IHH not only carries out short-term projects but also implements long-term projects in Africa. For instance, it has opened agricultural schools so as to develop agriculture, alleviate poverty and hunger and mitigate the effects of drought in Africa.

The IHH established an agricultural school in Somalia[5] in 2013 in cooperation with Turkish Development and Cooperation Agency (TIKA) and in Gambia[6] in 2012 to train the African people in the field of agriculture. The foundation has also conducted important health projects since it was established. One of the most important health care projects of the foundation is Africa Cataract Project. The aim of the project is to offer free eye care and to prevent blindness in Africa. 1.2 percent of African population of one billion has cataract diseases. In other words, there are ten million people who are cataract patients cross the continent. This number increases every year as a result of malnourishment, poverty and drought. Thousands of people lose their life every year due to the lack of proper health care in Africa.[7] The IHH aims to provide 100.000 free cataract surgery operations in ten African countries, including Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Togo, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, and Benin. Especially, cataract diseases are very common in the mentioned countries.

Table 1: Distribution among the Countries[8]  
   Field Research
Medical  Examination
Sierra Leone

According to the table 2, 73.073 people began to see again after cataract surgery operations with the financial and logistical support of the IHH. In particular, the project of Cataract surgery was started by the foundation in 2007. Sudan is the most important country in this project due to the existence of a large number of blind people in the country. 35.040 cataract patients have had surgery so far in Sudan. Ethiopia and Somalia are also among the countries that more than 30.000 cataract patients had surgeries. In addition, the IHH made a comprehensive  medical research on 690.172 people to understand their health problems and 291.004 African people got medical examination with the support of the foundation. The IHH has also carried out various programs regarding orphans in Africa, such as building schools, providing financial support, and scholarship. It opened the largest orphanage in Somalia in 2013 named as Anatolia Educational Center. There are thousands of orphans in the country due to the fact that ongoing conflict and war has created many problems in the country including the emergence of orphans.

The education center consists of school and administrative buildings, a Quran course, sport halls, a mosque, a health center, and a dining hall. 400 students stay in the dormitories in the center while 15,00 students study.[9] The IHH has signed an agreement with the Islamic Development Bank and the Government of Niger in 2013 regarding the cataract project in Africa. According to the agreement, IHH will provide free eye care to cataract patients in Niger. Approximately 6000 cataract patients in the country are expected to benefit from this project every year.[10] The foundation has carried out relief activities during the Festivals of Ramadan and Sacrifices in Africa. In these festivals, the foundation provides food and clothing aids to the poor. Thousands of needy people have got humanitarian assistance from the IHH during these festivals of the Muslims.

IHH has also launched campaigns against drought in East Africa. More than 12 million people in East Africa has suffered due to deep drought. Every year, thousands of people dies of starvation in the region. The IHH donated €22,773,779 for the poor people in East Africa, including in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The humanitarian relief activities in East Africa comprised of delivery of water generators, delivery of tractors, meat distribution, food delivery, iftar meals distribution, medical examination, and setting up educational centers. Meanwhile, the foundation donated €7,752,969 to the orphans in the region in 2011. 2.640 orphans in Somalia, 1010 in Ethiopia, and 50 in Djibouti received humanitarian assistance from the IHH in 2011.[11]    

An Overview of Activities of Other Turkish NGOs in Africa

There are a number of important Turkish NGOs providing humanitarian reliefs in Africa. Cansuyu Solidarity and Charity Association, Aziz Mahmud Hudayi Foundation, Association of Is Anybody There? Deniz Feneri Association and Doctors Worldwide are among them. These Turkish NGOs have a wide range of humanitarian relief programs in Africa, such as drilling water wells, providing health services, orphan care programs, and education programs. Aziz Mahmud Hudayi Foundation has opened more than 100 water wells in different countries in Africa such as Tanzania, Cameroon and Burkina Faso. It has a training college for teachers where 73 students study and youth centers in Tanzania. The foundation provides free education for the college students and supports financially orphans and distributes food and clothing to the poor during the festivals of Ramadan and Sacrifices.[12] The foundation also has secondary and high schools in Cameroon[13] and Burkina Faso.[14]

It has launched a construction of a big and comprehensive education complex in the center of Ghana which includes a faculty, a high school, a primary school, student dormitories, health center, mosque, and administrative building for religious affairs of Ghana. The foundation carries out this project in cooperation with different partners in Turkey, including the Turkish Government, Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey, and Metropolitan Municipality of Samsun. 10.000 people will pray at the same time in the mosque and it will be the largest mosque in the country. 1000 students will be able to study at the education center at the Accra Furqan Complex. The complex is planned to be finished in 2014.[15] The Aziz Mahmud Hudayi Foundation was established in Istanbul in 1985.[16] The foundation has particularly increased its humanitarian and education activities in Africa since 2005. 

Cansuyu Association has opened 20 water wells in Chad and Cameroon and provided food and clothing aid to needy people during the Festivals of Ramadan and Sacrifices. The Association is preparing to open more water wells in the countries where drought is very common.[17] Cansuyu Association was established in Ankara in 2005 and it operates in Turkey and abroad. The Association works in 62 foreign countries to provide humanitarian relief.[18] Association of Is Anybody There? was created in Istanbul in 2004 and works in 100 foreign countries. Deniz Feneri Association operates in Ethiopia, Niger, Somalia, Sierra Leon, Mozambique, Madagascar, Congo, and Ghana. 200 tons of food were distributed in Niger in 2005 and a health center was opened by the Association in 2007. More than 1000 poor people get free medical examination through the health center. It also opened an emergency assistance hospital in Somalia in 2011.[19] The Deniz Feneri Association was opened in Istanbul in 1998 and operates in 23 foreign countries.[20] Doctors Worldwide focuses on health problems of African people. It opened medical nutrition centers in Somalia and had provided tons of food to the needy people in Somalia, Kenya and Niger. Doctors provide free health care to the poor people in Somalia.[21] Thousands of poor people in Somalia receive free health service through Doctors Worldwide. This initiative was created in 2000 and operates in more than 30 foreign countries.


Turkish NGOs and civil society organizations' humanitarian relief activities in Africa play a critical role in enhancing soft power of Turkey at the international level. There was fear before that if the Turkish Governments cooperated with Turkish NGOs and civil society organizations having different identities, it would create damage the Kemalist ideology but such meaningless and visionary fear was gone with the ruling party. Since 2002, Turkey has strengthened its relations with different Turkish NGOs and civil society organizations regardless of their identities and values encouraged them to take more responsibilities in the different regions hit by poverty, diseases, war, conflict and earthquake.

The policy of Turkish NGOs in Africa which is providing humanitarian relief assistance to everyone regardless of religion, race, nation, and segments has strengthened the role of Turkish NGOs in Africa. African people have provided their support to the Turkish NGOs and civil society organizations due to the service to everyone without any discrimination and any conditions. Furthermore, Turkish NGOs have developed a complementary policy which is aiming to make comprehensive projects to reduce humanitarian problems. For instance, they do not only focus on education problems in a conflict area but also healthcare, agriculture, and human rights and liberties. Developing a comprehensive humanitarian aid policy has made Turkish NGOs and civil society organizations stronger, transparent, humanitarian and more effective in world politics compared to other Western NGOs.


[1] IHH (n.d). About Us. Available from: http://www.ihh.org.tr/en/main/pages/hakkimizda/114 (Accessed on 17 November 2013).
[2] IHH (n.d). Hakkımızda. Available from: http://www.ihh.org.tr/tr/main/pages/hakkimizda/114 (Accessed on 17 November 2013).
[3] IHH (n.d). IHH, Somali'de 636 Su Kuyusu Açacak. Available from: http://sukuyusu.ihh.org.tr/tr/main/news/1/ihh-somalide-636-su-kuyusu-acacak/1129 (Accessed on 23 November 2013).
[4] IHH (n.d). IHH opened 2512 water wells in Asia, Africa. Available from: http://www.ihh.org.tr/en/main/news/1/ihh-opened-2512-water-wells-in-asia-africa/1450 (Accessed on 19 November 2013).
[5] IHH (n.d). Meaningful Project from IHH for Africa. Available from: http://www.ihh.org.tr/en/main/news/2/meaningful-project-from-ihh-for-africa/1586 (Accessed on 20 November 2013).  
[6] IHH (n.d). Gambia "Agriculture School Project" Finalized. Available from: http://www.ihh.org.tr/en/main/news/2/gambia-agriculture-school-project-finalized/1350 (Accessed on 20 November 2013).
[7] IHH (n.d). Statistical Data. Available from: http://www.ihh.org.tr/en/main/pages/rakamlar/216 (Accessed on 23 November 2013).
[8] IHH (n.d). Katarakt Ameliyatları (Rakamlar). Available from: http://www.ihh.org.tr/tr/main/pages/katarak-ameliyatlari/289 (Accessed on 23 November 2013).
[9] IHH (n.d). IHH Opened Largest Orphanage in Somalia. Available from: http://www.ihh.org.tr/en/main/news/2/ihh-opened-largest-orphanage-in-somalia/1723 (Accessed on 24 November 2013).
[10] IHH (n.d). Türkiye'den Nijer'de Dev Katarakt Projesi. Available from: http://www.ihh.org.tr/tr/main/region/nijer/43/turkiyeden-nijerde-dev-katarakt-projesi/1940 (Accessed on 24 November 2013).
[11] IHH (2011). East Africa Drought Emergency Relief Works Report. Fatih: IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, pp. 7-8.
[12] Rehema (n.d). Safina. Available from: http://www.refso.co.tz/safina.html (Accessed on 25 November 2013).
[13] Haber7 (n.d). Bozdağ, Kamerun'da Okul Açılışına Katıldı. Available from: http://www.haber7.com/afrika/haber/1093484-bozdag-kamerunda-okul-acilisina-katildi (Accessed on 25 November 2013).
[14] Gencdergisi (n.d). Genç Gönüllüler Afrika'da. Available from: http://gencdergisi.com/1136-genc-gonulluler-afrika-da-.html (Accessed on 25 November 2013).
[15] Accrafurkan (n.d). Akra Furkan Camii ve Külliyesi. Available from: http://www.accrafurqan.com/proje_detaylari (Accessed on 25 November 2013).
[16] Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi Vakfı (n.d). Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi Vakfı-Vakıf Senedi. Available from: http://www.hudayivakfi.org/kurumsal/vak%C4%B1f-senedi.html (Accessed on 25 November 2013).
[17] Cansuyu (n.d). Afrika'nın İmdadına Cansuyu Yetişti. Available from.: http://www.cansuyu.org.tr/h=23?afrika-nin-imdadina-cansuyu-yetisti (Accessed on 25 November 2013).
[18] Cansuyu (n.d). Müslüman Topluluklar Birliği Kongresi. Available from: http://www.cansuyu.org.tr/h=150?musluman-topluluklar-birligi-kongresi (Accessed on 25 November 2013).
[19] Deniz Feneri Association (n.d). Africa. Available from: http://www.denizfeneri.org.tr/icerik.aspx?kod=AFRICA (Accessed on 25 November 2013).  
[20] Deniz Feneri Association (n.d). Deniz Feneri 23 Ülkede Yüzleri Güldürdü. Available from: http://www.denizfeneri.org.tr/icerik.aspx?kod=deniz-feneri-23-ulkede-yuzleri-guldurdu (Accessed on 25 November 2013).
[21] Doctors Worldwide (n.d). Afrika Hayat Operasyonu Hakkında. Available from: https://www.yyd.org.tr/tr/projeler/yuruyen-projeler/afrika-hayat-operasyonu.html (Accessed on 25 November 2013).

Turkey-Africa alliance: Evolving patterns in security relations

ABSTRACT Turkey has maintained its strategic relations with Africa at the highest level under recent AK Party governments in the ...