A Historical Comparative: Syria and Turkey

The transformation and development in Europe and the Middle East after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire is nothing short from one of the greatest historical modifications in human society. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire, many heterodox and syncretistic religions of the Near East and Anatolia who had long experienced persecution that isolated them into an impoverished environment, found themselves tasting relative freedom and independence for the first time. For centuries, the Ottomans had poor relations with the Shi’i sects and both met with antagonism and ultimately violence, most notable with the conflict between the empire and the Safavids. Heterodox groups were never granted the status of millet that consequently left them unprotected and were often required to pay high taxes.

The region of Latakia is mostly inhabited by Alawis, yet because of the difficulty penetrating the mountains, the Ottomans could only mobilise authority in the region in the 1850’s where they introduced Sunni landlords and a mutasallim (district governor).[i] Like the Alevis, the Alawis have deep-seeded antagonism towards the Sunni elite and view them as the main oppressor. “The Ottomans and their Syrian walis repeated tried to impose their authority in and collect revenue from the Alawi and Druze areas.”[ii] Adding to this authority, numerous and violent fatwas were made against these heterodox communities in the region. “The Sunni ulema provided the religious legitimization for the persecutions. This in a fetva from 1548 the famous Seyhulislam Ebussuud Effendi declared the Qizilbaş [Alevi] heretics, the murder of whom being permissible by Islamic law.”[iii]

As Daniel Pipes clearly shows, Islamic intellectuals and theologians such as Hamza ibn Ali, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Ahmad ibn Taymiya and Shaykh Ibrahim al-Maghribi freely spoke about the divine necessity to kill or confiscate property from the Alawi people.[iv] It is for this reason the Alawi community fled into the isolated mountainous regions for the next several centuries. Abject poverty and the fear of violence changed the structure of their communal psyche that enveloped an attitude of leaning toward exclusivity, establishing intense internal division and tribal allegiances. As it is crucial to under the history in order to understand the present situation in Syria and Turkey, I will compare the Alawites of Syria with the Alevis of Turkey following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, explaining the differences between the struggle for power and how the Alawi experienced a sudden change of social and political fortune that sharply contrasts with the Alevis of Turkey.




The Latakia province has been the geographical position of the Alawi community since the beginning of the 10th or 11th century.[v] Their escape into the mountainous region did not end persecution nor change their lesser social class/position amongst the Sunni majority, but for a time merely lay dormant. “A fatwa was issued in the fourteenth century by a distinguished Sunni Muslim scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, stating that they [Alawi] were greater infidels than Jews, Christians and many idolaters and that waging war against them should please Allah.”[vi] Because the mountains in the Latakia region were isolated and difficult to travel through together with a lack of water resources and difficulty tending the land, the Alawi people have always been poor. As a result, they became servants to the Sunni elite and were treated with ignominy and contempt.

There are no social links between the Alevi and the Alawi, the latter viewing all Turks whether Alevi or Sunni as offspring of the Ottoman regime. This is only justified with the Turkish-Israeli alliance and the occupation of the Golan Heights by Israel, as well as the Alexandretta/Hatay controversy.[vii] Like the Alevi, the door fr modernisation was opened after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Syria ambitiously developed transport, communication and roads that made urbanisation and information accessible. Syria is predominately rural; the success rate for implementing or expanding and finally assimilating the rural into urban life has been far more successful in Turkey. This could be because funding in Turkey was spread unanimously throughout the region, while in Syria priority was given mainly to the Latakia region.[viii]The 1950’s and 1960’s found the expansion of education dramatically increase. “The number of state schools grew from 658 in 1948 to 3,804 in 1964… foreign and private schools went down from 40 per cent of all schools in 1945 to 19 per cent in 1951, and almost nil in 1967.”[ix] Education allowed the Alawi to mobilise and prompted an increased desire to participate in political life, for reasons twofold: the fear of Islamist accession to power and the introduction by France for minorities to play a role in political decision-making.

Itamar Rabinovich discusses six important phases between the years 1918-1945 that defined the status of minorities in Syria.[x] Between 1918-1920, the presence of the Hashemite Emir Faysal, who sought power in the Syrian region, declared himself to be the King of Syria until the French presence and ultimate occupation that quickly put an end to his authority. In August 1920, the French established Greater Lebanon and by doing so enabled the Alawi and Druze to create their own semi-autonomous states. By 1925, Greater Lebanon was abandoned and Syria was once again re-established, although the Alawi and Druze states remained (until 1936). By 1936, a treaty was developed – though not ratified – that granted Syrian independence and incorporated the Alawi and Druze states into the whole territory (only fully implemented in 1944 – 1945). In 1941, the presence of the Vicky French came to an end when British authority took control with the support of the Free French troops; by 1943, the first elections were held.


France maintained that methods and strategies needed to be implemented in order to prevent the growing threat of theocracy. Edmond Rabbath wrote Unite Syrienne et Devenir Arabe and claimed that the Alawi and other heterodox communities are no different to Muslims, but merely ‘lag behind.’[xi] As a sharp contrast to Turkey, minorities in Syria were included in political life from the beginning of independence and the presence of the French opened the door to a new social consciousness for the Alawi community. Rabinovich claims that the unique relationship between the Alawites and the French are particularly important because Latakia contained a sizeable population of Christian and Bedouin communities.[xii] France also required assistance in an increasingly frustrated Syria and therefore provided Alawis with autonomy in order to receive unanimous support.

[T]he state of Latakia was set up on 1 July 1922. They also gained legal autonomy; a 1922 decision to end Sunni control of court cases involving Alawis transferred these cases to Alawi jurists. The Alawi state enjoyed low taxation and a sizeable French subsidy… In return, Alawis helped maintain French rule.[xiii]

When France provided the Alawites their own independent state, it established a political and social consciousness for the Alawites and consequently increased their participation in the social and political arena. “The ferment and the quest for social advancement at least for their offspring prompted numerous Alawi families to invest in education or to have a son enlisted in the French troupes speciales.”[xiv] Nevertheless, the change from French to British authority in 1941 created several issues that originally appeared detrimental for the Alawites. Afraid of deteriorating their political relationship with Emir Faysal, the British became suspicious of Alawis and instead supported Sunni nationalism and the sunnification of the heterodox communities. With the growing presence of Sunni domination, the Alawis revolted under the leadership of Sulayman al-Murshid, an elected Alawi leader who became a national figure. The rebellion was crushed and Murshid executed in 1946 with the support of British High Commissioner Edward Spears. It was at this stage that power in Syria was inherited by Sunnis, only increasing Alawi resistance for fear of repression and violence by the Sunni elite. It was only when the Druze revolt of 1954 was crushed that the Alawi became disillusioned by the political situation, but it nevertheless reflects the rise of Alawi consciousness and participation in national and political rebellion.[xv] Consequently, the ihkwan al-Muslimin or the Muslim Brotherhood were gradually developing a strong social and political ideology, leading the Alawites to strongly question the direction of their fate.

The most important change in Syria developed after the intentional collapse of leading Sunni landlords and the distribution of land ownership. However, “[t]he Alawis could not change this [poverty] situation by outing a few people as in Hama: a basic social and political revolution was required in their society.”[xvi] The Alawi needed more than merely eliminating the Sunni elite, particularly if regional politics played a predominate role in Surian political culture that could have left the Latakia region open to danger. Thus, Michel ‘Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Baytar founded the Ba’th party during WW2 and by 1947 began to heavily recruit youths in high school. Although Turkey was much more successful with their coercive population politics and family planning that attempted to distribute communities and push for social fragmentation, there was no direct impact against the traditional social units in Syria and regional loyalty remained strong. “This gave the Ba’th party a regional, minoritarian, rural imprint that impeded its growth as an effective nationwide organisation.”[xvii] Syrian political culture contains a unique blend of traditional, regional, social and economic mechanisms. The development of the nation as a whole has not yet saturated supranational methods of political decision making or sub national administrative divisions and many citizens continue to call themselves ‘Arabs’ rather than ‘Syrians’. According to Michael H. Van Dusen, many continue to identify with local and parochial loyalties. “In Syria, the legacy of the past, the decentralized cell structure of political parties, the role of local politicians in ideological recruitment, political commitments based on high school allegiances – all have tended to perpetuate a sub-national network of political loyalties in the independence era.”[xviii]

The politicisation process began to enlarge following the early years of independence when an explosion of ideological stances with various alternatives became available. The process of modernisation did not directly affect self-sufficient and agricultural lifestyles, which maintained its uniformity and gradually developed into larger agro-cities. An agro-city is a large economic unit where the city centre is the central position for the wider agricultural towns or villages surrounding it and provides both security and health services for the population while growing in economic prominence.[xix] At the same time, specific ethnic populations reside in specific agro-cities, and it is for this reason that political culture and attitudes often revolve around regional interests rather than national. It is also the primary reason for intra-regional tension. Although national rhetoric is continuously reiterated, particularly in relation to Israel, Palestine and pan-Arabism, local loyalties are dominantly applied and national parties are still unable to penetrate intra-regional interests. It is the nature of agro-city politics that reduce the possibility for expanded support.[xx] Yet, the power of the Ba’th party came predominate became of their political stance towards the peasantry and the alleviation of poverty, something many in Syria can sympathise with.

According to Pipes, several factors played a role with Alawi ascension into power, particularly with their growing presence in the army.[xxi] The first is that the military continued to uphold the attitude of employing minorities since the Sunni majority viewed a career at Homs (Military Academy) as degrading. Secondly, while Sunni rule became dominant, they were both afraid and at the same time ignored the power of the military and avoided the provision of large funding. Finally, because of their economic situation, the Alawis could not pay the fee to avoid sending their children to the army, while at the same time found that a career at Homs an excellent opportunity for a steady income. “Alawi power resulted from an unplanned by sectarian transformation of public life in Syria.”[xxii] Minorities were originally placed in the lower ranks of the military, however this actually benefited their ascension since, “[s]enior officers engaged in innumerable military coup d’état between 1949 and 1963, each change of government was accompanied by ruinous power struggles among the Sunnis, leading to resignations and the depletion of Sunni ranks.”[xxiii] To add to this, because of the growing instability and distrust, kinship bonds became the favoured approach and thus advantageous for the Alawis whose power became increasingly visible. Thus, with the growing instability, the Ba’th party moved into an aggressive coup d’état in 1963 that finally swept them into power.



Syrian Officials in the Baath Party with Salah Jadid

Salah Jadid controlled all military appointments in 1963 and he removed hundreds f officers and replaced them with Alawites.[xxiv] Although the Alawi community only make 12% of the population, they nevertheless gradually absorbed enough power to control the nation. In 1966, a neo-Ba’th movement organised a coup by a predominately Alawite administration until this was finally followed by the final coup in 1970 by Hafiz al-Asad against Salah Jadid. According to Pipes, Jadid lost his reign of power because – unlike Asad – Jadid supported the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) against the Jordanian government and was ultimately defeated. As noted by Tord Olsson, members of the al-Asad family play a chief role in political and military life in Syria.[xxv] This process began at independence and with the decline of the Sunni elite and land re-distribution after 1958, the structure of power dramatically changed. As social modernisation processes began to develop, education and career options became the primary objective for the Alawi community. Hafiz al-Asad became the president and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, his brother Rifat became commander of the defense unit surrounding Damascus, yet another brother Jamil became the leading member of the defence and who was later transferred to Geneva, while his cousin ‘Adnan was Commander of the Struggle unit. This has yet to change, as his son Bashar al-Asad is the current president of Syria who assumed office in 2000.

In order to maintain political power, the Alawi have sought to repress Sunni dominance – particularly in the military – by providing leading roles to Alawi and mediocre roles spread out throughout the country to Sunni. These changes in political dominance did not proceed without aggression. “They [Alawi] were given high representation (21.4%) in the military structure of the Regional Commands of the Ba’th, but the outlying traditional Sunni towns of Aleppo and Hama had no representation at all. These were the two main areas where major Sunni opposition to Alawi hegemony was strong and violent.”[xxvi] This has only made Islamist movements stronger that have shaken political stability. However, it cannot be denied that unlike Jadid, al-Asad attempted to reduce this tension by increasing his presence amongst the Sunni and positioning Sunni Commanders into leading positions.




Turkey experienced a complex transformation from a historical and religious sovereignty by the Ottoman caliphate with multi-ethnic diversity and extensive territorial power into the nation-state that it is today. The Young Turks sough to eliminate the Ottoman and Islamic caliphate system, which they believed to be outdated and a thorn to modern progress. The Ottoman decline became highly visible during the reign of Sultan Adbulhamid II, where totalitarian enforcement and pan-Islamic propaganda dramatically increased until he was finally deposed by the Allies during World War One. In 1920, the Treaty of Sevres was signed and the Ottoman Empire partitioned, which provided the Young Turks a perfect opportunity to implement their dream for an independent national identity.


Ziya Gökalp is a leading figure who influenced the modernist ambitions of the Young Turks (Committee of Union and Progress) and their nationalist plight to eliminate religion in political life. Gökalp wrote about the challenge and transformation of millet (nation), ümmet (religion) and muasirlaşma (modernisation) when developing a modern civilisation.[xxvii] By attempting to elucidate the difference between culture and civilisation, Gökalp became a prominent figure of Turkish nationalism and a supporter of political secularization, which sought to reduce the power of religious ideology and clericalism in political and social decision-making. Only when religion is separated from the State can modernity truly develop, but this does not imply the complete eradication of religion nor was Gökalp a supporter of individualism.

Gökalp believed that the egoistic and utilitarian individualist ideals found in some western societies should never be the basis for building altruistic, tolerant, and public-oriented social norms in Turkey. Accordingly, individualism was a bankrupt social and political philosophy and a “threat to equilibrium and harmony of society but also to the individual himself.”[xxviii]

Similarly, Louis Dumont claimed that ‘equality’ and ‘individualism’ is an idea of an ideal but in no way natural like the hierarchy or caste system, particularly in India. “This individualistic tendency, which became established, generalized and popularized from the eighteenth century to the age of romanticism and beyond, was in fact accompanied by… organic solidarity.”[xxix] This “purblind provincialism” or the ideology of individualism has instead made the understanding of natural nomalism even more difficult.

Nevertheless, Gökalp’s triptych involved explicating the relationship modernism has with being a Turk and a Muslim. Is there an inherent challenge between Islam and modernity, or do the gates of ijtihad need to be re-opened in order for Islamic reform to take place, allowing modernity to flourish? Gökalp reject the şeriat or Islamic jurisprudence because he believed it to be inadequate and rigid to the ever-changing processes of modern society and claimed that şeyh-ül-Islam (Islamic officials and religious courts) and the medrese (religious schools) need to be transferred to the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Education respectively. The Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi) remained the only single party to rule until Turkey transitioned to the multi-party system in 1946. The fall of Nazi Germany and their fascist regime had the greatest impact for this political modification and it was generally acknowledged that in order to accomplish a modern society, Turkey required less totalitarian restrictions. Consequently, Islamic political groups found an opportunity to voice their concerns and sough for religious influence to help shape social and political life. Thus synergy between maintaining political secularism and democracy vis-à-vis Islam has become an important issue when discussing Turkish laicist politics.

As a bridge between the East and the West, Turkey has attempted to set the example by removing religious influence in political life, but this has only been possible through the constitutional court, several military coup d’état and even capital punishment. By 1950, the Democratic Party (Demokrat Partisi) swept into power under the leadership of Adnan Menderes marking the first political change since 1923. The main reason for this transformation was rural frustration at the economic conditions and political antagonism toward Islam. The Demokrat Partisi relaxed on harsh demands against religion and introduced major economic and social changes. Although serious economic policies in rural Turkey were initiated by the Demokrat Partisi, paradoxically it was because the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi consciously kept village life intact that the modernisation process was propelled. For instance, migrants who had left the village to seek employment in an urban environment could easily return to their village or their family could send food and other resources to help them manage, had they experienced poverty or failed to integrate.[xxx] If the collectivist approach had been implemented earlier and villages pushed to assimilate into the modernization process from the beginning, it could be argued that the development Turkey experienced would not have been accomplished successfully.

That the Kemalists left the villages’ social structure intact did not stem from an incapability to disturb their lives (they were undisputed masters of the land and of the armed forces) but was a deliberate, self-conscious action… the Republican People’s Party and their predecessors had a very clearly worked out rural policy, which was based on development through rural communities’ existing social life, and was not intent on destroying it.”[xxxi]

This, however, appears to contradict the situation in Dersim and other rural areas where direct policies were created during the sing-party administration who attempted to absorb communities into the Turkish nationalist ideal. The Village Law (Law no. 442) began as early as 1924 that sought to disperse villages to help the process of modernisation.[xxxii] Mandatory regulations and measures for small villages with a population of up to 2000 were coerced in order to push changes, particularly with education and hygiene. The Village Law had an ideological character that gave little consideration to the actual social and economic situation, and although the process of development included building roads and investing in schools, many communities were forced to leave their village upon instigation by the Turkish government in order to drive the assimilation process. When the Democratic Party took power and the Village Inventory (Köy Envanter Etudleri) became fully established, “[b]etween 1962 and 1968, showed that four decades after the Village Law took effect, there were mosques in 79 percent of villages, but only 55 percent had a school, 43 percent had grocery store, 32 percent had a meeting room for the community council and 30 percent had a water pipe (these were all mandatory requirements).”[xxxiii]

The standard model for a rural (Sunni) village is a mosque in the centre of a village with houses built around it, and with the increase of mosques in Alevi villages following the implementation of the Village Law, concerns about the decline of secular ambitions and an increase of Sunni domination were raised. Alevi intellectuals often claim that their tradition naturally supports modernism and Kemalism.[xxxiv] The Young Turks idealized the Alevis as ‘true Turks’, preserving national Turkish culture and religion against foreign (Arabic) influences,” though they ignored that many Alevi themselves were not in fact ethnically Turkish.[xxxv] Mustapha Kemal became the long-awaited Mahdi for the Alevis who completed the task the Qizilbaş had expected the Safavids to complete during the early sixteenth century. Cemalettin Efendi (from Çelebi) who was revered by the greater majority of the Alevis in Anatolia as the direct descendant of Haci Bektaş claimed to support Atatürk after meeting with him; he later became the second deputy of Atatürk, while other Alevi tribal leaders particularly from the Dersim region rose to leading positions.[xxxvi] Those areas influenced by Cemalettin (for instance Sivas and Tokat) still continue narratives that are noticeably Kemalist.[xxxvii] However, some Alevi groups who did not view Cemalettin Efendi as a figure of authority refused to support the Kemalist revolution, such as the Koçkiri tribe (perhaps because of their Kurdish ethnicity). Thus, these postulations about the self-evident unity of Alevilik with Turkish nationalism has been challenged by Hamit Bozarslan who states that continuous reproduction of myths – such as a natural alliance with secularism – are often left unquestioned by researchers.[xxxviii] It is paradoxical to assert that the dynamic structure of Alevism contains eternal qualities, consequently leading to inefficient research and perhaps even false conclusions. The apparent link between Alevism and democracy or equality is thus a false conclusion that must be analysed with a different sociological and historical attitude, since the internal social mechanics of Alevi society contain various levels of hierarchical authority and domination as well as differences in religious attitudes (such as Bektaşi) and ethnic heritage (such as Kurdish).

The Koçkiri and Dersim rebellions are primary examples that contradict the weak notion of an eternal position between Alevism and Kemalism. Dersim is a region located within the Tunceli province (Eastern Turkey) and contains a political history of defiance, particularly against the Ottoman Empire. “Aside from his assimilation policy, what brought Abdulhamid into evil repute among his heterodox subjects were the activities of the Hamidiye Cavalry in the Eastern provinces. Actually established by the Sultan to provide a bulwark against the Russians, the cavalry attacked the Alevi tribes in the region and confiscated their land.”[xxxix] Prior to the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the Kurdistan Teali Cemiyeti formed with the hope of creating an independent Kurdish State and with incitation by Britain, organised the first Koçkiri uprising in 1920. This was followed by the Sheikh Said Piran rebellion in 1925 arranged by a different Kurdish national group, the Azadi. “Said, leader of the 1925 ‘Sheikh Said rebellion’ was a Nakşibeni Sheikh,”[xl] thus Said Piran and his brother Sheik Abdurrahman (who attacked Palu and Malatya in 1927) where Sunni Kurds. Nevertheless, the Ararat Rebellion led by Ihsan Nuri Pasha, who in 1927 claimed independence from turkey until a series of campaigns by the Turkish forces crushed the rebellion and revolt.


While the Grand National Assembly was introduced to stimulate parliamentary and legislative authority during the Turkish War of Independence, discussions about the possibility for an independent administration for the Kurds had been made to reduce the pressure the Turkish National Movement was facing at the time. The Treaty of Lausanne failed to recognise ethno-linguistic groups – such as Alevis, Kurds, Laz and Circessians – although  it identified Jews and Christians as legitimate minorities and while it ended the war and finally established the Turkish Republic, it left Kurdistan as nothing but an imagined concept. This, therefore, led the Turkish government to purport Alevis as belonging to the majority and therefore disqualified from any rights. This consequently furthered violence where in 1937 the Qizilbaş Zaza people led by Seyid Riza rebelled against the Ataturk administration. Seyit Riza is often viewed as a symbol representing the Kurdish plight in Dersim. The distrust between tribes – for instance the Kurmanci – and the growing pressure of violence that later killed his two sons, Riza concluded that the new Turkish authorities were corrupt and consequently rebelled, leading to his eventual execution. In 1937, the government approved of a military operation in Dersim that “resulted in the annihilation of at least 10% of the population[xli] and the Tunceli Law (Tunceli Kanunlari) found thousands of people intentionally dispersed into other villages through the country to reduce the prospect of rebellion.

According to Borzalan, it was not only the Tunceli Law (a law that authorised the deportation of the Dersim population) but also the mass deportation and eventual genocide of Armenians that led to the Dersim rebellion. “They refused to go to war against the Russians during the world war and saved tens of thousands of Armenians from death.”[xlii] Over a decade of peace was suddenly converted to violence after a speech by Mustafa Kemal who pushed for an ‘Internal War of Independence’ against Dersim. It is fair to say that coercive policies in Dersim actually preceded the 1936-1938 rebellion. “A document dating back to January 1930 ordered the assessment of villagers with ‘foreign’ names and ‘foreign’ inhabitants, as well as the dispersion of these ‘foreigners’ over Turkish villages in order to make them Turks… In 1932 a law was passed in Turkish parliament that ordered the deportation and dispersion of Kurds to force their assimilation with ‘Turks’.”[xliii] In 1934, the Settlement Act was created to force an acculturation process particularly in the rural areas of Turkey, but it provided a wide margin of opportunity for authorities to apply coercive means against people by using such ambiguous language like ‘anarchist’ or ‘nomadic gypsy’.

The Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi or the National Action Party (MHP) is a far-right, conservative political group accused of human rights violations against Alevis. Including the Milli Selamet Partisi or the National Salvation Party (MSP) and the MHP youth organisation or ülkücü (idealists), a series of propaganda campaigns and offensive attacks in Sivas in 1978 and Çorum in 1980 led to mass violence and murder.[xliv] Three days in 1978 found 111 dead in the city of Kahramanmaraş after devious political machinations by ultranationalists pushed for the massacre. Such violence against Alevis involved two justifications; their left-wing or Marxist political association and the Kurdish national movement. “If nationalism is formulated in such a system of differences (A: non-A), it tends to destroy heterogeneity. The Other is then seen as the knife on the throat of the Nation.”[xlv] Türk Ameler Birliği (Turkish Workers’Union) became the first active organisation for the Alevis during the 1960’s, until replaced with Turtseverler Birliği (Patriots Union) that is affiliated with the Birlik Partisi (Union Party) in Turkey. Türkiye Komünist Partisi/Markist-Leninist or the Communist Party of Turkey/Markist-Leninist had a strong influence amongst Alevis, particularly in the Dersim region. With an increase of internal division against dedes for exploiting the community and hopelessness amongst the Alevi youth, Markist ideology became a better alternative to both Kemalism and Alevism in order to provide social unity and challenge the domination and nationalism sweeping through Turkey. “The mechanisms of domination that once were sufficient to manage the inter-community based conflicts declined, thus giving birth to massive violence, radical modes of expression and transformation of symbolic values and resources into key elements of mobilisation.”[xlvi] As Islamism began to be visually and socially perceptive, so did the growth of Alevi identity due to particularly to the restrictions that only non-Turkish (such as Kurds or Arabs) or non-Sunni (such as Alevi) were forced to experience. As the power of the left declined, it opportuned a new and modern communalism with the Alevi community.

The Jandarma, or the Turkish National Police, is a paramilitary force working under the Interior Ministry who primarily function in urban areas, particularly south-eastern Turkey. Riddled with corruption, the Jandarma are blamed for violence and torture among other abuses. “’Disappearances’ and extra-judicial executions took hundreds of lives in the 1990’s.”[xlvii] In 1995, the leader of the TKP/ML Party, Hasan Ocak, disappeared and was later found brutally murdered after being tortured. There is evidence that proved he was detained by police before his body was found.[xlviii] International and domestic human rights organisations claim that freedom of expression and human rights have been continuously undermined because of hidden but coercive violence against civilians, particularly Alevis and Kurds, which is clearly domination by the State who promote social cohesion through violence and fear or nationalism through human rights abuses. Organisations such as the TIHV (Türkiye Insan Haklari Vakfi) or the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and the IHD (Insan Haklari Derneği) have documented both the scale of torture and the violent methods used by the military and police. The obvious use of excessive force resulted from the shift in political and social ideology particularly with the Turkish-Islamic Synthesis (Türk-Islam Sentezi) that developed following the military coup in 1980 that found several politicians, including Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, executed for high treason.

In order to deal with the social and political upheaval and several years of military rule, the Enlightenment Hearths (Aydinlar Ocaklari) were a group of political, business and academic elites who developed the Turkish-Islamic Synthesis as an apparent way to tackle the mounting left-wing activism and by promoting a national religious culture. “After the 1980 coup, where the military took control of power for three years, found military leaders adopted new policies directly inspired by the Türk-Islam Sentezi, which aimed at switching Alevi identity to Sunni identity.”[xlix] It was introduced in the referendum of the new constitution as a form of social cohesion or Unitarian nationalism to tackle the economic and social problems, thus the government decided to manage the social upheaval by inducing further national solidity; to create a national and secular Turkey with Sunni Islam as the predominate religion. Ethnic and religious diversity was reversed to exclusion or assimilation. Legislators immediately began imposing Sunni Islamic religious ideals (sunnification) within predominately Alevi communities, such as building mosques in Alevi villages. This appears contrary to Kemalism that believed the Ottoman Islamic structure to be feudal and backward, where secularisation and modernisation was supposed to gradually diminish Ottoman influence, hence the radical changes in dress code and other legal frameworks. It is for this reason that Alevis have re-created the alliance with Kemalism, claiming that these structural changes are anti-Kemalist and the return to Sunni domination. Kemalism was reconstructed to tackle both the accelerating economic and social change vis-à-vis the rapidly expanding industrialisation process, together with the advancing ultranationalist groups who were attempting to gain public support after the coup d’etat.[l]

It cannot be denied that nationalism has provided the justification for “othering” Alevi and Kurdish groups, yet far-right radicalism in Turkey also became religiously compelled. Ultranationalists like the MHP appealed to Sunni Islamic Orthodoxy as a predominant method of symbolic legitimisation. Turkish nationalists and conservatives began to associate a dialectical synthesis with Islam, and while history can be used  to under the positive and negative aspects of the process of historical development, when linked with nationalism, can also be used as a hegemonic tool. For instance, a mob of Islamists (and authorities) were incited to violence in Sivas following Friday prayers and set fire to the Madimak Hotel where the Alevi Pir Sultan Abdal Kültür association arranged a cultural festival. Police and security forces deliberately did nothing to protect the 37 people who died in the fire. The same could easily be said for the violent reaction by police to contain a protest in Gazi (Gaziosmanpaşa) after the drive-by shootings at Doğu Coffeehouse in a predominately Alevi neighbourhood in Istanbul, where police randomly shot into the crowd and killed 15 people. “This conflict was highlighted in January 2005, when Alevis in Ankara applied for permit to build a cemevi. The Diyanet responded that the cem house was unnecessary, because they could worship at a mosque instead. In May 2006, the Diyanet President rejected offering financial support for cemevis on the grounds that the DIB lacked funds for “supporting mystical worship.”[li] The Department of Religious Affairs in Turkey now has one of the highest budgets (approx. $US1Billion).



Turkey has undergone a massive transformation and in the process has developed a national ideology with a strong emphasis on modernisation. Ziya Gölkalp became the leading figure who influence the ambitions of the Young Turks (Committee of Union and Profess) and their nationalist plight to eliminate religion in political and social life, in particular Mustapha Kemal Atatürk (Father of the Turks). After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey was declared a Republic on October 29, 1923 under the leadership of Atatürk who sought to reform the country and create a modern nation-state. Consequently, many dervish orders were closed and assimilation policies were implemented throughout Turkey. Alevis and other minority groups experienced discrimination and violence that has consequently opened dialogue on the politics of recognition. The complex internal dynamics of Turkey society has led the Alevis to declare that they do not want a minority status, but seek only to be recognised as having a legitmate religion. Thus, they are faced with the requirement to scriptualise their oral tradition and consequently effectuate a theological doctrine. By codifying their oral tradition, they will not only transform Alevism into a systematic set of beliefs – something they in principle are not – but will condense their traditional methods of religious association, which developed over hundreds of years.

The Fertile Crescent has been the centre for many powerful and exclusive civilisations, while also home to the Alevi (Turkey), Alawi (Syrian), Druze (Lebanon), Ahl-q Haqq (Iran) and Yazidi (Iraq) that worship a unique form of Islam with a blend of Pagan, Zoroastrian, Buddhist and Christian influences. With increased migration into Europe and Turkey’s potential accession into the European Union, questions about the status of minorities have been raised. In 1992, Alevi intellectuals wrote a manifesto asking for political legitimacy by the Diyanet Işleri Başkanligi (Directorate of Religious Affairs), yet they remain officially unrecognised the by government.[lii] Accordingly, suspicion is only increasing and these doubts are justified by the 2007 election results. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) received the majority vote while the Republican People’s Party (CHP) – the centre-left Kemalist party – came second on the national polls. Nevetherless, a close third was the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the ultra-nationalist party accused of neo-fascism with just over five million votes, nearly three million more than in 2002. That is five million votes too much.

Although the Alevis have remained under the control of the Sunni majority in Turkey, the Alawi of Syria have transformed from a persecuted and impoverished minority to a leading political and military power. Former power-relations began to dissolve particularly in the urban context that transformed Syria into a new political force. Unlike Turkey, who sought to repress minorities in Syria were encouraged to participate politically in order to reduce the strength of the growing Islamist position. “The French had encouraged minority recruitment as a means to counter the nationalist tendencies of the Arab-Sunni majority and to secure the alliance of the minority communities.”[i] Union with Egypt interrupted state politics that eventually paved the way for the Ba’th party to sweep into power, and though only a minority group statistically at 12% of the Syrian population, the Alawi held most of the majority posts and were represented only second to the majority Sunni population in the government.



[i] Itamar Rabonvich, “The Compact Minorities and the Syrian State, 1918-1945” Journal of Contemporary History 14:4 (Oct 1979) 703
[ii] Ibid., 694
[iii] Paul J White and Joost Jongerden, Turkey’s Alevi Enigma: A Comprehensive Overview, (Boston: Brill, 2003) 55
[iv] Daniel Pipes, “The Alawi Capture of Power in Syria” Middle Eastern Studies 25:4 (Oct 1989) pp 434-435
[v] Elisabeth Ozdalga, Tord Olsson and Catharina Raudvere, Alevi Identity: Cultural, Religious and Social Perspectives (Stockholm: Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 1998) 167. The Alawites were persecuted from the beginning of the Mamluks which consequently forced them into the mountainous regions of Latakia.
[vi] Ibid., 152
[vii] Ibid., 165. Alexandretta/Hatay were incorporated into Turkey in 1939 after the French made a compromise with the Turkish government. The region has a sizeable portion of Alawites.
[viii] Mahmud A. Faksh, “The Alawi Community of Syria: A New Dminant Political Force” Middle Eastern Studies 20:2 (April 1984) 133-153. Although Latakia received most of the funding and improved more than any other region, it is claimed that Latakia was given priority because of its impoverished and rural situation rather than it being predominately Alawi. Whether this is true or not remains unknown.
[ix] Ibid., 140
[x] Rabanovich, op. cit., pp 695-696
[xi] Ibid., 699
[xii] Ibid., 703
[xiii] Daniel Pipes. “The Alawi Capture of Power in Syria” Middle Eastern Studies 25:4 (Oct 1989) 429-450
[xiv] Rabinovich, op. cit., pp 695-696
[xv] Faksh, op.cit., 139. This was also followed by the Druze rebellion in 1954; the Druze or Ahl- al-Tawid are populated mostly in Syria and follow Ismaili Shi’i Islam, but are not like the Alawi as they are officially recognised as Muslims.
[xvi] Michael H. Van Dusen, “Political Integration and Regionalism in Syria,” Middle East Journal 26:2 (Spring 1972) 132
[xvii] Faksh, op. cit., 141
[xviii] Dusen, op. cit., 135
[xix] Ibid., 124
[xx] Ibid., 129
[xxi] Pipes, op. cit., 440
[xxii] Ibid., 430
[xxiii] Ibid., 441
[xxiv] Olsson, Ozdalga and Raudvere, op. cit., 161
[xxv] Ibid., 167
[xxvi] Faksh, op. cit., 145
[xxvii] Andrew Davison, Secularism and Revivalism in Turkey: A Hermeneutic Reconsideration (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998) 92
[xxviii] Ibid., 97
[xxix] Alan Mcfarlane, “Louis Dumont and the Origins of Individualism” Cambridge Anthropology 16:1 (1993) 3
[xxx] David Shankland, The Turkish Republic at Seventy-Five Years. (Cambridgeshire: The Eothen Press, 1999) 60
[xxxi] Ibid., 58
[xxxii] Erhand Franz, Population Policy in Turkey: Family Planning and Migration between 1960 and 1992 (Hamburg: Deutsches Orient-Instit, 1994) 221
[xxxiii] Ibid., 222
[xxxiv] Olsson, Ozdalga and Raudvere, op. cit., 107
[xxxv] White and Jongerden, op. cit., 57
[xxxvi] Ibid., 59. “The entire order was governed by Celebi, who resided in the mother-monastery (pir-evi) Haci Bektas, constructed over the saint’s tomb (between Kirsehir and Kayseri).”
[xxxvii] Ibid., 60
[xxxviii] Ibid., 3
[xxxix] Ibid., 56
[xl] Ibid., 26
[xli] Ibid., 66
[xlii] Ibid., 10
[xliii] Ibid., 77-78
[xliv] Ibid., 83
[xlv] Ibid., 84
[xlvi] Ibid., 14. Abdullah Ocalan is a prominent figure in the Kurdish domain who in 1974 established the PKK under Marxist ideology.
[xlvii] Ibid., 71
[xlviii] Ibid., 86
[xlix] Olsson, Ozdalga and Raudvere, op. cit., 80
[l] Ibid., 7
[li] David Shankland, op. cit., 65
[lii] Olsson, Ozdalga and Raudvere, Op. Cit., 127

Exploitation of Syrian Women and Children: Refugee Law In Lebanon and Jordan

As of March 2017, key figures from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that more than 5 million refugees have fled Syria, with 6.3 million internally displaced and a total of over 13 million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.[1] Turkey has accepted a large number of the refugees, hosting over 2.8 million refugees, comparably with Europe where less than 900,000 applicants since 2011 have applied for asylum, data retrieved from 37 European countries that provide UNHCR with monthly figures.[2] Additionally, countries such as Lebanon has taken in over 1 million and over 650,000 have fled to Jordan, two countries that have not signed the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees adopted in 1951 and further still, the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees that extended the former boundaries that were initially limited to Europe so as to enable universal coverage. Article 1 of the 1951 Convention nevertheless transformed the international status and human rights of refugees by providing a single definition:

“As a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”[3]

Like many instruments that developed at the time, the convention strengthened principles particularly relating to the fundamental rights of refugees such as non-discrimination and particularly non-refoulement,[4] the latter where asylum seekers are forced to return back to a country where they there may be a strong likelihood of experiencing persecution in a number of various ways. It also reinforced the universality of international human rights law without exception to State provisions as well as prejudice toward race, religion or country of origin.

Nevertheless, there have been a number of concerns relating to the effectiveness of the Refugee Convention and its Protocol in managing the influx of refugees and demonstrated by the huge number of asylum seekers displaced from the Syrian War. Some of these failures have enabled discussions on reforming the instruments to deal with the crises of asylum seekers to suit the current economic and social conditions and to satisfactorily manage a system fraught with problems. One of these includes the convention’ failure to ameliorate new global changes to social, demographic and national environments that render it ineffective to adequately deal with the logistical, financial and humanitarian aspects of the influx of refugees. While taking a rights-based approach, both the refugee convention and the protocol fail to address the complexities of man-made catastrophes and the unique regional differences that causally play a role in these catastrophes. As such, it has been argued that a holistic approach is required to enable better considerations of regional and cultural attitudes that enhance a decisive clarity of the causes in order to measure, prevent and manage man-made disasters. It is clear, for instance, the dynamics of ISIS in the Middle East, the ramifications of the gulf-war, oil and water politics and the post-colonial economic hardships that have enabled destabilising political regimes demonstrate the necessity for a holistic approach specific to the Middle East.

In order to compare the possible effectiveness of a holistic approach to the concerns raised by the recent influx of Syrian refugees, development of a number of additional instruments that attempt to define the legal confusion on the status of a refugee in other regions have been adopted. In 1999, the Tampere Council – a special European Council meeting held in Tampere – attempted to improve changes to immigration as well as consolidate foreign and security policies through the opportunities that the Treaty of Amsterdam afforded. The Treaty of Amsterdam altered the former Treaty of Maastricht [where the development of supranational institutions such as the European Court of Justice was initiated] and includes a number of protocols and declarations that empowered the European Union to develop legislation that would effectively coordinate policies and procedures more effectively, along with strategies that would strengthen intergovernmental cooperation subject to protecting its own interests. Since then, there has been an ongoing development to improve legislative frameworks that recognise, for instance, the importance of the financial output during an influx of those seeking asylum and thus established the European Refugee Fund [ERF] that administers financial support to member countries to manage and resettle refugees and displaced persons.

Syrian children who have fled into Jordan and Lebanon are being illegally exploited and due to their status are forced into labour rather than schools; despite countries like Jordan being a signatory to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. 


Representatives that drafted the 1951 Convention also desired signatories to exceed the demands set out in the convention, thus it was not long after that the European Union developed The Qualification Directive.[5] This followed the Temporary Protection Directive[6] that was developed due to the poor management vis-à-vis violence in the former Yugoslavia that resulted in large numbers of displaced persons in the region and thus, under exceptional circumstances such as war, became a process to provide temporary protection. It sought to exemplify minimum standards for refugees, stateless persons or third-country nationals that required international protection and develop a common policy on asylum by advancing the Common European Asylum System Agency (EASO), as well as facilitate better cooperation between member states by improving protection and “affirming the principle of non-refoulement and ensuring that nobody is sent back to persecution.”[7] The Common European Asylum System guaranteed standards of protection where asylum seekers are treated fairly and with dignity. The Qualification Directive established a criterion that would qualify the minimum standards that confirms the status of a refugee and thus regulating the process that determines the granting of international protection. An act of persecution must be sufficiently serious that would violate human rights including act of physical, sexual and psychological or any disproportionate legal prosecution that would result in discriminatory prosecution.

And yet, with what appears to be a small number of refugees from Syria seeking asylum in Europe comparably to other States, none of these instruments have been put to use, on the contrary, it appears that there may either be a hesitation as the limited timeframe for providing asylum for a maximum of up to two years to Syrian refugees is not realistic in relation to the ongoing length of the war, or there is a hidden exclusivity to these instruments limited to the possibility of use in the event of a European catastrophe. UN High Commissioner for Refugees determined that the needs of the refugees require hefty financial support and pledged nine billion at the conference in London.[8] While financial support would enable countries experiencing an influx of refugees to manage the economic strain, it is clear that the ERF may still struggle to manage, whereby OCHA estimates that a total of $3.4billion dollars is required to fund a humanitarian response plan for the life-saving assistance to 13 million Syrians in need of urgent humanitarian support, funding that has only reached 11.3% of this required target.[9]

Other failures also include no guarantee that unaccompanied children will have access to legal representation, along with the absence of provisions that deal with Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), knowing that within in Syria there are 6.3million IDP’s that require urgent assistance. That is, the Convention does not “apply to those refugees who have a status equivalent to nationals in their country of asylum.”[10] It has been argued that the Convention should be reformulated to address these issues however the potential problem to removing and establishing a new convention is that it would still fail to address continuous regional changes that may impact on the development of even more disputes. For instance, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child stated that States “shall not return to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk of irreparable harm to the child,”[11] and while they clarified the responsibilities of States to ensure how the assessment of this risk should be conducted, this risk is nevertheless open to interpretation. For instance, Suresh v Canada[12] questioned procedural fairness whereby even if a refugee is at risk being tortured, they can be deported to their homeland if they conversely a serious risk to Canadian security. Procedural fairness without the inclusion of assessing unaccompanied minors or other vulnerable groups including women who are pregnant or survivors of serious trauma that have developed serious mental health issues may lead to prejudicial outcomes.

Other global and regional instruments enacted to ensure adequate support for asylum seekers are effectively taking place can act as a catalyst to developing changes to the Middle East. In Africa, for instance, where a number of political and social instabilities have resulted in an influx of refugees, established the Organisation of African Unity and the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa[13] that attempted to ameliorate a stronger understanding of the legal or political aspects to refugee protection but specific to Africa. Together with the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees[14] in Latin-American, the protection of refugees within the instruments were extended to include a more demographically and culturally appropriate – thus holistic – approach to regional affairs that the Convention and its Protocol were unable to adequately compliment, thus enabling better responses to mass displacement. For instance, while the convention and the protocol are rights-based instruments, OAU Convention seeks to address humanitarian responses to mass influx of refugees by enabling its member States to legislate domestically in order to address and protect all those seeking asylum. It additionally clarified the differences between groups of refugees as a result of a disaster with individual refugees seeking protection.

The United Nations estimates Lebanon is housing 1.14 million Syrian refugees and not being party to the Refugee Convention and Protocol, Lebanese domestic laws that purport any person without legal documentation within its boundaries are considered illegal have left Syrian refugees without legal status. In fact, while Lebanon is constitutionally bound by customary law and other human rights obligations being a signatory to a number of human rights conventions,[15] not becoming party to the 1951 Convention or its following Protocol has left only a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the UNHCR[16] as the only instrument to assist refugees coming from Syria. UNHCR has noted that even with the MOU protection remains notoriously difficult.[17] Domestic legislation in Lebanon governing refugees is extremely limited whereby Law of 1962 regulating the Entry and Stay of Foreigners in Lebanon and their Exit from the Country[18] fails to provide legal protection and other important human rights services for Syrian refugees. Unlike OAU Convention that treats individual and group assessments based on contingent situations such as fleeing war or other man made violence, the provisions of the 1962 law treat individual cases. “Any foreigners who is subject of pursuit or has been convicted for a political crime by a non-Lebanese authority or whose life or freedom is threatened because of political considerations may ask for political asylum.”[19] As such, Syrian refugees in Lebanon are without any legal protection and according to Article 32 of the 1962 Law, can be fined and even imprisoned as illegal entrants.[20] While the MOU signed between Lebanon and UNCHR enables the latter to ensure temporary residence permits are provided as a solution – albeit temporary – to the problem with Syrian refugees, the limited time (of a maximum of nine months) may not be estimative of the realistic timeframes necessary to support them pending the continued violence in Syria. Clarification of renewing residency permits remains ambiguous and any rights including seeking employment are extremely limited, if not non-existent and leaving refugees in an incredibly vulnerable position. This was further delayed when the Lebanese government requested that UNHCR suspend registrations of Syrian refugees in 2015.[21]

The image below exposes the horror of what happened to almost 75 Syrian women who fled the war and were tortured and forced into sexual slavery within ‘Chez Maurice’ in the Lebanese town of Jounieh. Notwithstanding the horrible men involved in this disgusting trafficking incident, it also shows the failure of the government to protect asylum seekers and why it is so important.


While Lebanon has recently enacted changes to domestic legislation amid continued discussions relating to the status of refugees, in particular waiving fees for Syrian refugees fleeing the war [a charge of US$200 that was introduced in 2015], this unfortunately excludes a large number who were unable to register with UNHCR, almost half a million.[22] The impact of these failures in Lebanon can have devastating effects to the rights and protection of Syrian refugees since by having no legal status and being at risk of imprisonment, movements become restricted and in order to survive many refugees are becoming victims to exploitation. According to the final report on Syrian refugees in Lebanon by Freedom Fund, incidence of slavery and human trafficking is growing including child labour and marriage, sexual exploitation and forced labour[23] that clearly exemplifies why ratification of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol is necessary. In addition, children from families without residency permits in Lebanon are unable to obtain a formal education as well as access to healthcare for families including pregnant women whose children are at risk of statelessness. It is also clear that existing regulatory frameworks are modified along with domestic legislation protecting Syrian refugees from harm including exploitation and trafficking is afforded. Although Lebanon is constitutionally bound by the customary law principle of non-refoulement, recent talks between Lebanon and the Syrian opposition to return those seeking asylum – whereby Hezbollah stated that they have been mediating the possible return of refugees from the Arsal border to the Qalamoun region in Syria[24] – that begs the question of whether non- refoulement procedures are adequately adhered.

According to Amnesty International, while Jordan is hosting over 650,000 refugees, in mid-2016 it closed its borders that stranded over 75,000 Syrian refugees between the Syrian-Jordanian borders in the horrific al-Rukban and Hadalat refugee camps within desert conditions.[25] This is not a problem with Jordan alone, whereby Human Rights Watch has also reported shootings against Syrian refugees attempting to enter the country at Turkish borders. Whilst citing security concerns amid threats from ISIS, the strain that Jordan has experienced economically due to the lack of international aid has pressured the government to regulate occupation that only Jordanian citizens are allowed to work in, forcing asylum seekers toward illegal working conditions.[26] Jordan also signed an MOU with UNHCR that enabled recognition of refugee status for a duration of up to six to twelve months[27] but consideration of the massive influx of Syrian refugees was not adequately deliberated as domestic law similarly observe a case-by-case basis.[28] In addition to this, each of the individuals fleeing are required to have documentation, something that clearly may not always be possible considering the situation. Constitutionally, Jordan must adhere to international customary law on non-refoulment, where extradition of political refugees is prohibited.

With the surmounting difficulties along the borders of Lebanon and Jordan, the clarity and necessity of including internally displaced persons within the international framework becomes clear as millions of Syrian refugees are unable to flee. The United Nations– along with reaffirming – has called upon States such as Jordan and Lebanon to become party to the Convention.[29] Regarding the problem of stranded refugees along the Jordanian-Syrian border, comparatively the OAU Convention explicitly reaffirms that in the even where a member state may find it difficult to continue granting asylum it will appeal to other Member States of the OAU to assist in supporting them.[30] As such, the development of a similar regional instrument amongst Middle Eastern States that touch on relevant concerns specific to the demographics and culture would be an important step forward to strengthen a cohesive process for Syrian refugees to adequately manage man-made disasters as well as improve processes for countries such as Jordan and Lebanon to better protect asylum seekers. It will also ensure that compliance to the States’ ratification of the relevant instruments along with a complementarity between the regional and international refugee protection frameworks are adequately observed. Other improvements and regulations would be the consistent pressure to ensure Lebanon and Jordan ratify the 1951 Status of Refugees Convention and its 1967 Protocol, as well as honing down on better domestic legislation that will ensure legal protections are provided to refugees and asylum seekers. With stronger mutual cooperation in the Middle East, the distribution of services to victims of mad-made disasters specific to regional affairs may protect women and children from becoming victims of exploitation.


[1] http://www.unocha.org/syrian-arab-republic/syria-country-profile/about-crisis
[2] http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/asylum.php
[3] Article 1 (a)(2) The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951
[4] Ibid., Article 33(1)
[5] Qualification Directive 2004/83/EC
[6] Temporary Protection Directive 2001/55/EC
[7] Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, 13 December 2011
[8] Supporting Syria & the Region Conference in London on 4th February, 2016
[9] http://www.unocha.org/top-stories/all-stories/syria-us-34-billion-needed-provide-life-saving-assistance-13-million-people
[10] Op. Cit., 1951 Refugee Convention
[11] General Comment No 6 – Treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin, UN Doc CRC/GC/2006/6 (2005)
[12] Suresh v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [2002] 1 S.C.R. 3
[13] OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, September 10, 1969.
[14] Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, November 22, 1984.
[15] Section B of the preamble of the Lebanese Constitution, Lebanese Constitution (1926), as amended to 1995
[16] UNHCR Regional Office in Lebanon, Country Operations Plan 1 (2004)
[17] UNHCR, Submission by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Compilation Report – Universal Periodic Review: The Republic of Lebanon 2 (Apr. 2010)
[18] Order No. 319 Regulating the Status of Foreign Nationals In Lebanon, Date of Entry into Force: August 2, 1962 (19620802)
[19] Ibid., Article 26.
[20] 1962 Law, Pursuant to article 32 foreigners who enter Lebanon illegally can be imprisoned for one month to 3 years and/or fined.
[21] Human Rights Watch Country Report, Lebanon: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/country-chapters/lebanon#4694c7
[22] Human Rights Watch, Lebanon: New Refugee Policy a Step Forward: Open the Door to Legal Status for All Syrian Refugees, February 14, 2017: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/14/lebanon-new-refugee-policy-step-forward
[23] Freedom Fund, Struggling to Survive: Slavery and Exploitation of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, http://freedomfund.org/wp-content/uploads/Lebanon-Report-FINAL-8April16.pdf
[24] http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2017/Feb-11/393177-hezbollah-mediating-safe-return-of-syrian-refugees.ashx
[25] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/09/syria-jordan-border-75000-refugees-trapped-in-desert-no-mans-land-in-dire-conditions/?utm_content=bufferdbc2e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
[26] List of Professions Not Allowed to Foreign Workers, Ministry of Labor, http://www.mol.gov.jo/Portals/ 0/Decisions/closed.pdf
[27] UNHCR Global Appeal 2013 Update: Jordan, UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/4ec231020.pdf
[28] Law No. 24 of 1973, art. 12, Al-Jarida Al-Rasmiyya, 16 June 1973, at 1112, http://www.lob.gov.jo/ui/laws/ search_no.jsp?year=1973&no=24 (official website of the Jordanian Council of Ministers)
[29] Declaration of States parties to the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, Ministerial Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, Switzerland, 12-13 December 2001, UN Doc. HCR/MMSP/2001/09, 16 January 2002. The Declaration was welcomed by the UN General Assembly in resolution A/RES/57/187, para. 4, adopted on 18 December 2001.
[30] UNHCR, Persons covered by the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and by the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (Submitted by the African Group and the Latin American Group)Persons covered by the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and by the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (Submitted by the African Group and the Latin American Group) EC/1992/SCP/CRP.6 (6 April 1992)


The Gülen Movement in Turkey: The Politics of Islam and Modernity

The Gülen Movement’s growing power and influence, followed by its public criticism of the AKP government in 2010 and 2013, and finally the coup attempt in July 2016, has led to an unprecedented crackdown on the Gülen Movement in Turkey. The purge has ousted thousands of employees from major state and civil society institutions, including the military, judiciary, and education institutions, as well as the mass media. The rise and fall of the Gülen Movement has been one of the defining issues in Turkish politics in the twenty-first century.

Book Review

Caroline Tee

The Gülen Movement in Turkey: The Politics of Islam and Modernity

(London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2016) 227pp

ISBN: 978-1-78453-588-9


The turmoil following the gradual dissolution of the Ottoman Empire during the late nineteenth century led to the sharp rise of Turkish nationalism. During this period, the Young Turks (Jöntürkler) attempted to define the ‘nation’ and what it meant to be ‘Turkish’. Following international and domestic chaos during the Great War and the Balkan War, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk established the Turkish Republic and transformed the remnants of the Ottoman Empire into a modern, secular nation-state. The state abolished the caliphate, controlled the appointments of imams, rescinded religious courts and schools, and created new laws that further limited the power of religion in Turkish public life. These political and cultural reforms were intended to transform civic culture by strengthening loyalty to the new Turkish Republic. Nevertheless, winning popular acceptance for this new secular nationalism was an uneven and complex process that was not fully embraced by all sectors of Turkish society.

Accordingly, leading religious intellectuals such as Bediuzzaman Said Nursî sought to challenge the new nationalist ideology or Kemalism, which was influenced by the work of Ziya Gölkalp who strongly suggested suppressing any connections to the former Ottoman regime. Nursî believed that reinforcing Islam would establish a balance with secularism in all areas of Turkish society, particularly in education and intercultural dialogue. When the Turkish political system moved from a one-party authoritarian regime to a multi-party system in the middle of the twentieth century, discussions of Islam that had long laid dormant began to emerge and the scale of this divide between Kemalist secularists and religious Turks became clear. Beginning in the 1960s, these cultural and religious tensions during a period of economic turmoil gradually prompted civil violence and led the military to government interventions. This phenomenon continued in the 1970s, leading to a series of demonstrations, violence between the secular and Islamist factions and political assassinations. It was only with the 1980 coup d’état and the sweeping reforms that were initiated following the deaths of thousands that the Turkish-Islam Synthesis (Türk-İslam Sentezi) was introduced, in an attempt to establish a political balance between Kemalism and Sunni Islam (Hanafi). Political parties – like the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi) and the Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi) – were shut down both in 1998 and 2001 respectively, leading to a cycle of socio-political tension.It was in this atmosphere that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) emerged.

Its initial success was due to support from influential religious and social institutions, like the peculiar and autonomous Gülen Movement. Strengthened by this significant and influential alliance during the first decade of the twentieth-century – particularly with leading figures in the judiciary loyal to the Islamic movement’s leader, Fethullah Gülen – tensions surfaced between the ruling AKP and Gülen, after Gülen criticized the government for its anti-Israel rhetoric following the May 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla crisis in Gaza and additionally for its use of excessive force during Gezi Park Protests in May 2013. The political alliance was ruptured when notable AKP figures were arrested or questioned for corruption, money laundering and bribery charges in what became one of the largest and most controversial legal cases in Turkey, leading Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to brand the Gülen Movement a ‘parallel structure’ [Paralel Devlet Yapılanması] or a state-like organisation without democratic legitimacy. While it is important to distinguish between the enigmatic figure of Fethullah Gülen who leads an ascetic lifestyle in the remote Pennsylvania countryside of the U.S., and the contemplative Sufi cleric who vis-à-vis the movement holds identifiable wealth and influence in Turkey and across the globe, it is undeniable that political polarization and the AK Party’s use of pro-government discourses has served as a platform to promote an authoritarian legitimacy, thus deepening the confusion.

Gülen’ Hizmet Movement

Caroline Tee’s The Gülen Movement in Turkey: The Politics of Islam and Modernity is an essential introduction to the topic, which addresses the Gülen Movement’s intentions, networks, and its broad influence in Turkish society. The book begins with Fethullah Gülen himself and the influence of Islamic theologian Bediuzzaman Said Nursî – particularly the effect his seminal work Risale-i Nur –on Gülen’s own spiritual framework. Raised in Erzurum, which is socially and religiously conservative, Gülen gained his traditional religious education at a Sufi tekke (lodge), which were the religious institutions of both the Naqshbandi and Qadiri Sufi Orders. He continued his formal education in Islamic jurisprudence and by the age of eighteen became a state-qualified Imam. Several years later, Gülen was posted to the center of Izmir as the director of the Qur’anic school in Kestanepazan Mosque, and though he desired to move to a more conservative environment, and away from the liberal atmosphere of the western provinces of Turkey, he remained in Izmir and developed his vision of spiritual reform with the intent of reinvigorating Islam and bringing it to a wider audience. He gained a small following both at the mosque and through regular meetings at coffee houses, creating the Hizmet or ‘Service’ movement during the rigid secular posture of the state in the 1960s.

The movement began to grow when his vision for an altın nesil, or ‘golden generation’ was implemented through organized summer camps that aimed to educate the next generation of Turks in both Islam and the modern sciences. This illustrates the influence of Said Nursî who also envisioned the revitalization of Turkish religious culture, which had been vastly transformed by modern secularism by calling for positive action (müspet hareket) from pious individuals to engage in all areas of the public sphere. Said Nursî also emphasized the importance of education in both Islam and the sciences, with Gülen’ pedagogy following Nursî’s attempt to change the impression that religion is inimical to science. Eventually, the summer camps became after-school centers (dershane) that gradually began to expand into other cities across Turkey, despite the growing social and political tensions between leftists and right-wing factions during the 1970s.

A complete overhaul of the constitution following the 1980 military coup d’état, ushered in a period of economic liberalization led by Turgut Özal. And the new Turkish-Islam synthesis (Türk-İslam Sentezi) that emerged removed some of the restrictions on religious life in Turkey. Tee explains how the Gülenists began investing in business and media interests and taking advantage of new international opportunities particularly in the Central Asia, which provided the movement with fertile ground for geographic expansion.

The Gülen Network

The second part of the book contains the core of Caroline Tee’s research into Gülen Movement’s membership and its approach to scientific education. Tee uses anthropological fieldwork to explain how Gülen’s Islamic creationist movement teaches science within an Islamic framework. Tee describes her experiences with the Gülenist educational system, which is characterized by strong academic achievement. Gülenist schools are preferred by conservative religious families for their moral and religious commitment and secular curriculum. Nevertheless, Gülenist schools are not explicitly linked to Gülen and are not promoted as such, instead the connection to Gülen is a matter of local knowledge illustrating the decentralized and low key nature of the Gülen Movement. “Both he and his followers prefer to speak of a loose connection of initiatives that are all ‘inspired’ by his teachings, but do not constitute a single coordinated entity” (p.57). Any organized efforts to coordinate initiatives are usually through local affiliations between several schools in a given region or city, while well known and prestigious schools established by Gülen followers such as Yamanlar Koleji in Izmir and Fatih Okulu in Istanbul have franchised a number of schools directly.

One intriguing element of the Gülen network that Tee brings to light is the concept of “service” (hizmet) in Gülen-run institutions, such as assigning a chemistry teacher Irem, “against her personal wishes” to a particular school far away from her home in northwest Turkey (p.54). Referred to as fedakarlik or self-sacrifice, they consider themselves as educators rather than mere teachers, thus functioning as a representative or role model to guide or inspire the ethical and personal education of the students. Such dedication lacks financial rewards but is motivated by a spiritual eschatology and the belief in sevap (good deeds) that will be rewarded on Judgement Day. This clearly suggests a formal membership structure within the movement that transcends mere professional networking. Tee conducted her fieldwork in two Gülen schools in order to ascertain how science is taught within a secular curriculum yet framed by Islamic theology and the philosophy of Said-Nursî. Tee also exposes the considerable influence of religious ontology in science classes at the Gülen schools. For example, an educator in a middle-school science class, who was teaching students about a skin disease, claimed that the disease was given to a person as part of a divine test (sinav) and that the students should give thanks for not having such a skin disease. While remaining within the required boundaries of scientific education, the staff attached an Islamic ethic to the content, educating students through religious inferences in an attempt to establish coherence between science and religion.

Tee discusses Islamic creationism as an essential belief within the Gülenist framework (Chapter Four), the Gülen Movement’s argument being that science has become secularized, particularly through the theory of biological evolution that has created an unnecessary rift between science and an Islamic education. Gülen has written about evolution in his book Yaratılış Gerçeği ve Evrim among other sources and not only rejects the theory of evolution but views it as an attempt to justify atheistic materialism. Tee shows that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk advocated evolutionary biology and the secular policies of his time enforced the addition of evolution in the school curriculum at the founding of the Turkish Republic. Said Nursî opposed this change, which radically changed the fabric of Turkish society through what Nursî saw as the coercive disassociation with Islamic values. Accordingly, Gülen opposes the inclusion of evolutionary theory in the curriculum, and an anti-evolutionary agenda has allowed the movement to reconcile modern science with Islam and harmonize what were once two mutually exclusive categories.

Overall, the Gülenist target is to combat atheism through education. Gülenists belief that failing to adapt to the social requirements of modernity by refusing a scientific education merely favors Darwinian adherents; thus Gülenists battle atheism by teaching science through an Islamic lens. Tee explains that from the outset the movement has prioritized spreading Islamic values through local recruiting and international networking, particularly engaging students in Gülenist schools in foreign countries. The schools provide scholarships, educational and employment opportunities and other opportunities for self-improvement. This emphasis on competitive achievement is one reason why Gülenist schools emphasize participating in the Science Olympiads, a prestigious international competition that provides students with the opportunity to compete for financial rewards, as well as improve their chances of getting admitted to prestigious universities. These competitions also play a vital role in changing the status quo, by allowing “Islamic actors to engage successfully with a critical aspect of modernity” (p.77). Higher education institutions, such as Irfan University – which is economically supported by a group of investors sympathetic to the movement, some of whom are extremely wealthy Turkish businessmen – is described by Tee as unfinished, but nevertheless lavish and impressive, hosting a number of high-achieving students and staffed by academics with strong credentials and research excellence. Higher education offers the movement a way to increase its global influence.

The exact number of Gülen-run educational institutions remains unknown as they do not “publically affiliate with one another” (p.55) and they do not identify with Gülen or even share a common name or logo as institutions often do. Tee tackles – albeit briefly – some important questions that lie at the heart of the movement’s ambiguous status. For example, is there an Islamist agenda at the core of its endeavors? Skeptics label the movement a cemaat (religious community), implying its interests do not lie solely in the principle of positive action in civil society, which is what the movement emphasizes. These concerns have been exacerbated by Gülen’s public sermons reminding his followers to be responsive to the dangers of materialism. However, the movement’s economic interests allow it to continue to project its influence and demonstrate the strength of Islam by building international institutions of higher education. In a similar vein, staff working at Gülen-run institutions straddle an ambiguous personal and professional position, where spiritual goals are integrated into their curricula. While this educational homogeneity strengthens the quality of teaching and increases overall academic achievement, its lack of clarity has led to several legal cases against Gülenist schools in the United States, for mismanagement of funds and failing to clearly outline its affiliation with the Gülen Movement. Other contradictions include Gülen’s statements that he supports secularism and seeks only to change the nature of Turkish secularism, which actively opposes Islam. Yet in other statements, either directly or indirectly, Gülen encourages the complete collapse of Turkish secularism and replacing it with an Islamic state.


Gülenists and Politics

Caroline Tee focuses much of her work on the structure of the organization and its ambiguous position in Turkish political, judicial and civil society. She argues that while there is no official criteria for joining the movement, it consists of a multi-tiered level of commitment that includes not only the core followers such as teachers at Gülen-led schools, but also those on the periphery of the movement including sympathizers (onaylayanlar) and consumers. Consumers are those who use the movement’s products and services, whether consciously or unconsciously, and play a vital role in strengthening the success of the movement. Tee’s analysis slightly differs from Joshua Hendrick, author of Gulen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam in Turkey and the World who argues that the movement consists of four – rather than three – groups of affiliates that engage with the movement. Hendrick divides the core group of Gülenists into two: the ‘aristocracy’ who are surrounded by ‘friends.’ In the third part of the book, The Wider Context (chapters six, seven, and eight) provides an overview of the Gülen Movement’s place in Turkish politics, vis-à-vis their impaired relationship with the AK Party, as well as its global status, particularly with respect to the United States.

The Gülen Movement’s intercultural dialogue initiative through The Journalists and Writers Foundation (Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfi), where Gülen himself serves as honorary chairman, promotes dialogue between Muslims and other religions and cultures. The Gülen Movement’s emphasis on intercultural dialogue stems from Said Nursî, who also promoted interfaith communication. The movement attempts to find common ground between the major religions of the “People of the Book” (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) as a strategy for peaceful engagement and effective networking, promoting Islam as well as Turkey and the movement as a whole. Since 1999, Gülen has lived in Pennsylvania and is often referred to by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as Pennsylvania’daki adam (the man from Pennsylvania). Gülen’s move to the U.S. has been subject to allegations that he has relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Indeed, it is interesting to note that a former CIA agent and senior staff at the National Intelligence Council supported Gülen’s application for a green card. Nevertheless, the move to the United States established the global presence of the movement and the rapid expansion that followed. The movement now has a presence in over 120 countries globally, though membership overwhelmingly rests with Muslim and Turkish adherents despite its transnational scope. It is not clear, however, what led to Gülen’s decision to immigrate to the United States, but his residency there has certainly allowed the movement to thrive on an international scale.

For most of the past decade, the movement has avoided politically or religiously sensitive discourse, instead engaging in debates that build and cultivate relationships, which allowed the Gülen Movement and Erdoğan’s AKP to coexist. According to Tee, the movement has not embraced political activism, despite the fact that loyal Gülenists were the leading figures in the corruption investigations against senior AKP officials. The 2013 corruption probes led Erdoğan to declare war on the movement, arresting or dismissing loyal Gülenist sympathizers, and claiming the movement was a serious threat to national security by attempting to destabilize the government. Tee attempts to clarify whether the Gülen Movement is indeed an exclusively civil-society institution or something more. “By going public with a raft of toxic allegations, it is clear that the Gülenist’ intention was to unseat now-President Erdoğan and precipitate a change in the Turkish administration” (pp. 163-164). By the end of 2015, the AKP had taken numerous steps to extradite Gülen from the United States to stand trial prior to formally declaring the Gülen Movement as a terrorist organization [Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü or FETÖ]– which occurred just after Tee’s book was published.

While Tee states that her research intends to explain the movement as an Islamic group using “the burgeoning field of the sociology of science and Islam” (p. 5) as part of her research, yet she nevertheless attempts to analyze the political dynamics between the 2013 Erdoğan-Gülen split utilizing a historical approach in the context of political Islam. They were initially united by their common Islamic roots in the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam and the shared goal of reducing the power of the military elite. The collapse of the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi) in 1998 led by Necmettin Erbakan and the Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi) in 2001 led to the establishment of the AKP [2001], which held the belief that Islamic conservatism would remain unsuccessful as long as a strong secular, military presence continued to play a central role in Turkish politics. The AKP has maneuvered to reduce the constitutional powers given to the military through the infamous Ergenekon, Balyoz and Poyrazköy trials, which portrayed the military elite as operating a ‘deep state’ that was intent on overthrowing the government. These trials were only possible with support from senior judicial and executive staff loyal to Gülen. Many prominent figures were arrested and eventually given life sentences, all of whom have now been released since the Erdoğan-Gülen rift began in late 2013, although Gülen has denied any involvement in the cases. Nevertheless, Tee makes it clear that Gülen is guilty of numerous contradictions and inconsistencies, and even his previous teachings of an anti-Christian and Jewish nature raise doubts as to his genuine acceptance of secularism and of intercultural dialogue.

As a detailed study of the Gülen Movement, which unlike other Islamic groups places a strong emphasis on science education, Caroline Tee provides an excellent – albeit brief – overview of the subject and certainly whets your appetite for more. Without probing deeply into the political or social terrain of the subject, which can be found in other sources, she explains the history and root causes of the Erdoğan-Gülen feud, providing details about the sweeping attacks made against Gülen schools and dershane, the various businesses including Bank Asya, and the public vitriol directly against the movement. She also provided a clearer picture about the movement’s schools by engaging with students and teachers at various levels within these institutions in several cities around Turkey. Tee’s fieldwork is a vital contribution to the scholarship on the Gülen Movement, because it shed lights on some of the opaque aspects of the movement and its global success. She also exposes some of the movement’s contradictions, such as the requirement to preserve public order and stability as part of one’s membership, yet there are no formal initiation rites or any clearly defined criterion for membership itself. However, since positive action with the goal of integrating Islam into modern society is a key part of the Gülenist agenda, the difficulty to ascertain – particularly in light of its ambiguous position – whether followers adhere to this agenda would have been a valuable contribution in Tee’s research. This is what Joshua Hendrick has argued is the movement’s deliberate ‘strategic ambiguity’ which is due to the repressive political and social climate in Turkey.[1] Indeed, as Tee herself states, “the Gülen Movement functions today as an ostensibly apolitical community, but one which has managed to accrue significant power and influence”(p. 3) The use of social anthropology as a theoretical framework to understand the internal hierarchy and structure of the movement using interviews to supplement fieldwork is a valuable approach that contributes to our understanding of the movement’ social influence, which has become the basis for its success and power.

[1] Joshua D. Hendrick, Gülen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam in Turkey and the World, NYU Press (2014) pp 206-232

That Awkward Moment in Turkish Politics

Perhaps I am being somewhat suspicious but well after a decade of factitious ideological politics, the recent failed coup in Turkey could almost be considered theatrical, a prominent show of untruths entwined within truths that one can no longer differentiate between the two. The ‘truth’ itself – whatever that may be – may just be too daunting to face that the majority would subconsciously prefer and even deliberately avoid confronting it so as to maintain a sense of serenity that divisive politics affords the ignorant. That is, othering imparts a sense of relief for many who require tangible justifications for their subjective foolhardiness. Subjectivity being intangible requires conventional points of reference so that feelings – such as fear – make sense and become transferrable, often to blind submission either implemented by politics or society, or hatred because of individual evil. Whilst people may call it determinism, they choose whether consciously or not (the unconscious mind is still a form of consciousness) to paradoxically never choose, that is, they choose to be slaves.

This schism of opinions that stand either for or against Recep Tayyip Erdogan – current president of Turkey and former Prime Minister – is riddled with suspicions, distrust against him and his party, distrust for his intentions to control the military, distrust that a gradual implementation of Islamic culture is being enforced despite Turkey’s history since the time of Kemal Ataturk. Blaming cleric Fethullah Gülen for the coup, lashing out against the CIA among many other ridiculous displays held in the media – a media said to be controlled by Erdogan himself of which I will explain a little later – the coup being botched by an elite, world-class military experienced in coups makes one really wonder about what is going on. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) emerged as a saviour during a difficult economic and social time in Turkey, encouraging the prospect that they can embrace both Islam and Democracy under the banner of human rights and freedoms and effectively implement reforms to complete the Copenhagen criteria toward EU accession. These reforms included legislative changes through amendments of the constitution underlined by the strengthening of an independent judiciary and the advancement of freedoms and cultural rights. As said by Erdogan himself, “one of the greatest common denominators of mankind’s existence on earth is the development of humanistic values over centuries. Universal values that are embodied in the concept of democracy and supported by principles such as human rights, rule of law, good governance are the product of the collected wisdom derived from different civilisations.”[1] Such discourse on responsibility and gaining prominence by acting as an example in a complex global environment has consistently been reiterated by the AKP and while constitutional reforms along with a number of ratified international conventions have since taken place, the current social and political dynamics prove such discourses to have been nothing but mere flatteries without weight to the mechanisms that strengthen the principles of human rights. The almost schizophrenic movement between an uncompromising, conservative paternalism with the conservative-moderate political model appears to be a type of Newtons Cradle between a want for EU accession and an opportunity to strengthen a neo-Ottoman agenda. The AKP has either way attempted to strengthen legitimacy by showcasing popular domestic support and representing themselves as significant actors of democracy and human rights, an image recently proven by social media to be fictitious. While it is evident that media representation of the party is one-sided with Turkey becoming notorious for arresting journalists and restricting the independence of journalism and the media in its entirety, social media has become an expressive platform to expose the discontent displayed by the population.


Historically, Turkey was born out of the ashes of a failing Ottoman Empire, the late nineteenth century initiated the beginnings of Turkish nationalism through Jöntürkler or the Young Turks, when the underlying complexity between “a territorial, an ethnic or a religious basis for the ‘nation’”[2] promoted discourse on political identity and what it meant to be ‘Turkish’. It was not long afterwards that the proclamation of the Turkish Republic headed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was established following intense international and domestic upheaval including the First World War, the Balkan Wars and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, together with domestic strife such as the Sheik Said rebellion in the Eastern provinces. While the efforts and overall establishment of the Turkish parliament can be considered a success, the contradictory nationalist ideas particularly between Islamism and Turkism along with violence against ethnic and religious minorities proved the application of this new Turkish identity was initiated through an aggressive state nationalism in an attempt to submerge resistance.

As such, intense cultural and social transformations were implemented to change the structural dynamic of the new country from the old culture, the first being the abolishment of the caliphate that had been the primary system of governance in the region for centuries. Other instituted policies included the control of the appointments of imams, the abolishment of religious courts and schools, and other laws such as enacting the prohibition of any religious interference within the Grand National Assembly and Turkish politics.[3] While such political and cultural reforms no doubt had an impact on the calculated efforts to transform civic society and culture by strengthening loyalty to the new Turkish nationalism, the schism between secularists and Islamists proved the acceptance of the new ideology was indeed a complicated endeavour.

The one-party system changed in the late 1940’s toward a multi-party system and this process of democratisation exposed the broader Islamic sensibilities and cultural norms of the citizens. Consolidating the transformation toward democracy also allowed the country’s marginalised an avenue for political participation and thus this new opportunity never previously afforded to a public desirous to engage in a politics of identity became the basis of confrontational movements as part of this transformative process. Consequently, particularly during the late 1970’s, Turkey experienced serious social and political upheaval between what became known as the ‘leftists’ with the ‘rightists’.[4] With the propagation of Islamic nationalism by identifying Turkish nationalism with Pan-Turkic identity, an ultranationalist right-wing ideology founded by political leader Alparslan Turkeş and strengthened by the youth-wing (the terror organisation Grey Wolves), the determination to fight against what it saw as the growth of left-wing humanism escalated the violence.[5] Political parties such as the Aydinlar Ocaği or the Hearth of the Enlightened (AO) and the National Salvation Party (MSP) mobilised support and increased social turbulence. The evolution of the violence was amplified with the changes from a predominantly rural context toward an urban environment with mass population movements to the cities for employment causing poverty and squatter settlements. A ‘clash’ of various groups illustrated by serious street violence between the Alevi and Sunni, Kurdish, non-Turkish such as Muslims from the Balkans, Communists and right-wing Ultranationalists among others proved that espousing Turkish nationalism and identity within a democratic space clearly contained hostilities that had not been effectively uprooted.

This period of unrivalled turmoil led to the 1980 military coup d’état, whereby the Turkish military took control of the government and closed down political parties, banning leaders from political interference and revoking the constitution as part of its sweeping reforms of the country.[6] The intervention of the Turkish armed forces into social and political life during the most tumultuous period of its history can be viewed as both a breakthrough since the military are seen to have saved the country from an impending civil war and become the bastion of Kemalism, but in doing so implemented a harsh regiment of torture and extreme violence that found hundreds of thousands arrested, executed or dying in custody.[7] Recent developments found the final two surviving military leaders General Kenan Evren – who served as president during the junta – along with Tahsin Sahinkaya arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for the brutality of the military during that period.[8] The several years of martial rule was an attempt to transition Turkish society and governance toward democratisation; the first and significant step required was a complete overhaul of the Turkish constitution and restoring a more effective civilian government.

Other changes included basic education of Islamic principles and morals,[9] whereby military authorities purported that religious education had been corrupted by leadership and as such became part of the cause of the political and civic violence. Additionally, neo-liberal economic reforms based on individualistic and profitable activities – perhaps unintentionally – developed as a causal effect from the trauma of the radical changes that were implemented during the military coup and as such an increase in political disengagement and fear of losing property and family members compelled a change in economic processes.[10] Military interference continued particularly during the 1990’s where ideological and ethnic violence reared its ugly head once again, particularly the PKK and the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, mass violence such as the Sivas massacre, along with “deep state” suspicions that led to the death of President Turgut Ozal with assassinations of important military and judicial figures. These suspicions have been solidified with the Ergenekon trials that found the indictment of apparent members of a clandestine secularist organisation that were secretly plotting against the Turkish government.[11] On the contrary, the Adelet ve Kalkinma Partisi [AKP], the popular centre-right political party founded by Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been consistently accused of implementing an Islamist agenda by addressing domestic lawmakers to execute changes against restrictions set by secular policies, foreign policy statements that imply a neo-Ottoman stance, and as said earlier, gradually restricting the power of the military that some imply to be a way to provide him with the freedom to continue strengthening this agenda hiding under the banner of international obligations toward EU accession.

It is essential to understand the influence media has with social life and thus arguably it’s often controversial relationship with politics since “almost everywhere in the world, most of the media is still politically differentiated along with general political orientations.”[12] To have named Fethullah Gülen, a Sufi preacher of peace and writer, the mastermind behind the coup and to label him a terrorist, whereby social media suddenly opened and went on the attack, is an expression of why identifying the nature of this relationship between politics and society is necessary. Ascertaining the degree of political influence and intervention on reporting and especially legal regulations that encourage partisan content through restrictions to freedom of expression is a model that can often be causally linked to the historical conditions of the country in question. Thus, in order to understand the distinct Turkish experience along with the necessary and proper conceptualisation of the failure to consolidate human rights norms at political and cultural level, it is essential to feature historical and social factors that influence and ultimately undermine the effective habituation of democratic principles. These have been factored into several important cleavages, which include 1. Military and beaurecratic elitism and the uneasy relationship with the citizens, 2. The schism between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam [primarily Alevi], 3. Dominant ethnic rivalries namely between the Kurds and the Turks.[13]

Thus the recent and tumultuous history of the country and the constant suspicions against the potential hidden intentions vis-à-vis political, ethnic or religious leanings is linked to the reservations raised against media communication and freedom of speech. It does not help that the polarisation of these ethnic and religious cleavages undermine the democratic transformation within Turkey, and that may be exactly what is wanted. The Ottoman past remains highly influential, clearly visible with the symbolic relationship between Turkey’s military and government with Turkey itself considered the father, a preference for a paternal and perhaps authoritarian management of civil affairs rather than democratic. Whilst defining ‘democracy’ is certainly ambiguous and perhaps to a degree the interpretation is relative to the customs and conventions in the context of each national government and its relationship with and regulation of its citizens, religious and ethnic cleavages rooted in Turkey’s unfavourable history that proves the acclimatisation of even the most basic tenets of democracy such as the structure and equitable distribution of executive powers along with the effective participation of and guaranteed rights of its citizens appears to have become crystallised in beaurecratic elitism, perhaps itself rooted in the former tradition of Ottoman centralism. While democratic progress and achievements have taken shape, they have nevertheless failed to consolidate culturally and appear superficial and at best mere “instruments of convenience.”[15]

Rooted in the current legal and political framework, not only is it clearly visible that political elites exercise a formulation of ownership policy that nevertheless manufactures independence and sincerity to pacify sceptics, Turkish media laws are also marked by a historical relationship with censorship policy that illustrates a continuation of civic suspicions. The onset of the Tanzimat period during the Ottoman Empire can be considered the commencement of press related activities with newspapers such as the French Bulletin des Nouvelles in 1795, the Turkish-Arabic Vakay-I Misryiye in 1828, and the first Turkish Takvim-I Vekayi in 1831 under the reign of Sultan Mahmud II being successfully published and circulated. Such activities only increased over time and eventually shaped the Matbaa Nizamnamesi (1857) that regulated printing houses and publishing materials. However, the fractured condition of the empire particularly during the reign of Abdul Hamid II [1842-1918] who imposed Draconian censorship against current affairs or any liberal political views, further censored the former press regulations whereby in 1909 it was replaced with Matbuat Kanunu [Press Law] and by extension was the continuation of the former regulations but with greater restrictions determined by the Ministry of the Interior and continued long after. “Böylece 45 yil yürürlükten kalan 1864 Matbuat Nizamnamesi;nin yerini alan ve 32 yil sonar 1931 Matbuat Kanunu’yla yürürlükten kalirilacak olan 1909 Matbuat Kanunu yayilanmiştir.”[16] The Hamidian system established the Domestic Press Directorate (Matbuati Dahiliye Müdiriyeti) that included, “a director with five assistants; five examining clerks (mümeyyiz); more than a dozen inspectors (müfettiş) responsible for supervision of newspapers, printing establishments and theatres,”[17] and rigorously examined content of the press and periodicals to ensure censorship both pre and post-publication. The regulations were arbitrary and lacked specificity or concrete guidelines, thus remained dependant on the examination and decisions of officials usually in the context of current affairs.[18]

Attention and discussions relating to the absence of Internet laws was realised in 1998 with the prosecution of 18-year-old Emre Ersöz, who mistakenly criticised the national police for the extreme and unnecessary violence against a group of blind protestors.[19] The charge itself was for “[p]ublicly insulting state security forces” on a Turkish forum Turknet[20] and he was prosecuted with a suspended sentence of ten months imprisonment under Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code. Article 159 could at the time imprison for up to six years for publicly denigrating Turkishness. While Article 301 made a series of changes from Article 159, the ambiguity of the language and the uncertainty surrounding the interpretation of the clauses did not modify the potentially detrimental impact the code had on human rights and freedoms. Claudia Roth, the vice-president of the German-Turkish Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group and Germany’ Greens politician stated that the death of Armenian-Turkish Journalist Hrant Dink is linked to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal code, as the latter strengthens nationalism.[21] Nationalism, freedom of expression and human rights have remained key issues vis-à-vis Turkey’s democratisation process, with remnants of the past, global culture and modernisation together with religion, civic and ethnic nationalisms all playing a role in the popular attitudes and mobility – or lack thereof – of the population.

On one end, there certainly does appear a risk to security with the continued conflict of ideological positions between ethnic and religious groups that unlike more liberal and democratic countries where such freedom of expression could have little direct impact or consequence, the risk of violence in Turkey appears to be much higher. For instance, the Sivas Massacre found 35 dead after Islamic Salafists set fire to a hotel where Alevi intellectuals were holding a cultural festival, one such intellectual purporting to have organised a discussion on the Satanic verses by Salman Rushdie.[22] In the case of Gündüz V Turkey[23] at the European Court of Human Rights, Müslüm Gündüz campaigned on live television for the implementation of Sharia laws and criticised secularism, with the court finding it favour of Gündüz (under article 10 of the convention) defending Sharia without inciting violence cannot be considered hate speech, his criminal conviction of two years imprisonment under Turkish law thus in violation of ECHR.[24] The margins of defending Sharia, which is known for intolerance and having the potential impact of inciting violence and hatred expresses the difficulty of ascertaining what justifies as hate speech according to the history and culture of a country like Turkey. The Sivas Massacre – where police and fire brigades that were at the scene during the incident, did little to protect, prevent or assist – highlights the impact and the risk public communication has in Turkey and the lack of human right commitments at a social and cultural level. Censorship can in addition also ensure that young people are not exposed to content or information that could be detrimental to their wellbeing, that racial vilification and hate speech is controlled as well as reduce crimes such as violations of copyright laws, rampant spamming and other security concerns.

On the other hand, however, the restrictive line to freedom of speech and communication is crossed when too much government control begins to limit access to information, hindering websites and removing content and thus inhibiting knowledge and current affairs. For instance, failure to highlight or broadcast activities that prove political opposition or that criticise governance and legislation. This suspicion that the liberalisation of the press had been infiltrated by political influence was solidified with the recent Gezi Park Protests in Istanbul that caused domestic and international outrage at the handling of peaceful protesters, a story rarely mentioned on popular television broadcasters in Turkey during the tumult. Prior to the enactment of internet censorship Law No. 5651, media reports on child pornography was sweeping that some claim was intentional to ensure support for the law, as it “came across as an orchestrated effort.”[25] In addition, there are growing concerns at the censorship and restrictions against journalists and a liberal and independent media, with many journalists losing their jobs amid political pressure and yet others being arrested or targeted in arbitrary prosecutions under anti-terrorism legislation [Law 3713]. Turkey has become notorious for being a country arresting local and international journalists and while state control of the media is not new, the AKP agenda has intensified. “There has been state influence on journalists in Turkey for decades, but the situation has deteriorated, in three ways, since the AKP won second term in 2007… by abusing the legal framework to criminalize Kurdish journalists, by instrumentalizing a major political investigation – Ergenekon – to prosecute dissenting journalists, and by exploiting its economic relationships with media conglomerates to engender self-censorship in the press.”[26]

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) have been noted to place pressure on channels that are critical against the government and Turkey’s major broadcaster TRT is known for remaining one-sided and propagandist toward the AKP. CNN Turkey 5N1K program terminated journalist Murat Aksoy’ position, for instance, following his comment that the AKP should investigate corruption.[27] In 2000, the Telecommunications Authority under Law No. 4502 was established due to local and international pressure to liberalise the telecommunications industry, however legal provisions expose a failure to safeguard independence and political interference, which is clearly visible with the provision that purports members of the board are appointed by the council of ministers.[28] During this period, a draft bill attempting to regulate internet publications by including it under the same umbrella of legal restrictions that was already governing television broadcasting, print media and radio had risen to the fore and while controversy arose during this period, by 2002 amendments to Law No. 4676 were passed that included regulations vis-à-vis internet publications.[29] The monopoly between the state, private media companies and the economic value media has neglected to focus on interests of the public or human rights and freedoms. By 2007, Law No. 5651 on the Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Suppression of Crimes Committed by means of such publications came to force and access to sites – including Youtube – were consequently blocked or regulated. The law itself provided a catalogue of crimes along with the legal and procedural framework during the investigation and consequent banning of a website, attempting to work within the configuration of the Budapest Convention of Cybercrime, an international treaty that attempts to regulate internet and computer crime (only signed by Turkey in 2014). The catalogue of crimes include the Incitement to suicide (TCK-84), sexual abuse of children (TCK-103), facilitation of the use of narcotics (TCK-190), provision of substances harmful to health (TCK-194), obscenity (TCK-226), prostitution (TCK-227), facilitation of gambling (TCK-228), crimes against Ataturk (Law 5816 for defamation as defined in Article 125 of Turkish Criminal Law) and gambling (under sports law).[30] In addition, Turkey’s Telecommunications Directorate [TIB] was granted the authority to block access to websites without a court order and the scope of what and the reasons behind the banning has not been publically or adequately supplied.

In 2011, a major domestic project was implemented that required all internet users to select a profile [family, standard, domestic, child] as an attempt to filter websites linked to the profile choice.[31] This caused demonstrations against privacy in major cities and the obligatory requirement was eventually changed to a voluntary one. In 2014, amendments to Law No. 5651 was ratified primarily because of the outpour of discontent across Turkey during the Gezi Park protests. It was in the same year that Erdogan vowed to eradicate Twitter, what he referred to as a “menace” to society[32] and such discourse and eventual implementation parallels the AKP political identity of power and legitimacy both locally and internationally. It ensured harsher regulations against social networking and a faster process to ban web content, failing to follow correct procedural consultations as is oft required when amending or passing new laws. In 2015, further amendments continued when the internet became a medium to expose corrupt political officials and other high profile scandals with changes to internet defamation.[33]

From an international human rights scope, several problems are exposed when assessing social media and censorship in Turkey. The first and perhaps primary question is whether social media itself is a human right. The choice to follow and have access to information, to choose your associations and the value the interactive platform has to expression is essential to the rights articulated in International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Social networking sites are not public forums in that they are privately controlled and therefore the topic of human rights vis-à-vis social media falls primarily under the banner of freedom of expression, association and information and as such the exercise of such rights carries responsibilities. During the 2011 London Riots, however, where thousands looted and set fire to property in London and other towns following the death of 29 year old Mark Duggan by police, questions were introduced as to the potential of blocking social media in an otherwise Western and liberal country.[34] David Cameron explored the possibility of blocking social media such as twitter, facebook and other internet communication technologies during times of civil unrest.[35] As emphasised earlier, it raises a difficult problem between human rights and national security. For instance, while Turkey ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that includes articles which safeguard freedom of expression and the prevention of interference by public authorities, it is essential to point that that 10.2 of the article states that the exercise of such freedoms may be subject to restrictions or penalties as prescribed by the law in the interest of national security, territorial integrity and public safety. Thus, there continues to remain the difficulty of interpreting the agenda and the ambiguity of language used in Turkish law that assess what warrants restrictions and perhaps the reason why accountability and transparency remain vital to the integrity of a democratic society. Accordingly, 80,000 websites as of May 2015 have been banned in Turkey[36] with the reasons behind the decisions lacking clarity and while regulation to the internet may have been necessary to protect the security of the state, it should be within the limitations set by international human rights principles. This lack of clarity has unfortunately made it difficult to ascertain whether the plurality and independence of the media is in serious jeopardy, relying on international cases to outline whether the restrictions are justifiable. There have been a number of cases against Turkey breaching Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. One such case was Ürper and Others V Turkey[37] where the publication and distribution of a series of newspapers were restricted under section 6(5) of Law no. 3713 (the Prevention of Terrorism Act) for disseminating propaganda[38] due to alleged connections or sympathies with the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party). The European Court of Human Rights found in favour of Ürper and Others[39] that the government failed to safeguard freedom of the press. The suspension of their newspapers even for short periods had an impact on the value of the information it intended on supplying.[40]

The bridges between moral laws and democracy have often co-existed on shaky grounds, particularly in Islamic countries. While Turkey views itself as a champion of synthesising Islam with Democracy, the recent events particularly the Gezi Park protests demonstrates that this is not the case. When one considers the power the military has in Turkey being the second largest NATO army to date, to stage a coup that fails as badly as it did in Turkey raises many questions. As Turkey maintains this important and determined separation between religion and a secular government with the Turkish military the backbone to the Kemalist agenda, penetrating and ultimately challenging the separation of powers could leap Turkey into the authoritarian realm that many secularists fear Erdogan is attempting to achieve. Democracy sets the political foundation for the establishment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, raising the problem of whether Islam and Democracy is mutually exclusive or compatible. Social media has thus become a symbol of the right to expression and to obtain information from sources otherwise unavailable in Turkey and the Arab World and itself a voice of democracy. The separation of religion from state has been an ongoing problem, John Locke writing about the social contract theory and why absolute power and governance fails to protect natural liberties. “For no government can have a right to obedience from a people who have not freely consented to it.”[41] Freedom of expression has been one of the key issues in Turkey’s democratisation process. The European Court of Human Rights has found Turkey in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights in a number of cases and the laws of internet censorship contains provisions that continue to violate fundamental freedoms. While legislation against public denigration is not something that is unique to Turkey, with Italy, Poland, Spain and Germany also regulating and convicting under similar laws,[42] variations in the application and interpretation of these laws exist in part from the legal and political history and cultural attitudes of the country in question. This is clearly visible with Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code relating to the criminalisation against those that denigrate Turkishness, the Republic and institutions and organs of the state. The ambiguous nature of the term ‘Turkishness’ and the various interpretations and definitions particularly by political parties and institutions prove the controversial nature of the term. In addition, justifiable terms that inhibit human rights in the name of security, such as prosecuting freedom of speech under ‘terrorism’ laws is in itself dangerous territory. The lack of transparency as to the number of sites blocked and the reasons ascertaining the ban is certainly not clear, making it difficult to correctly assess and analyse the justifications behind the blockage or ban. If there exists a chance of uniting democratic ideals with religious, economic and political standards, human rights and freedom of expression remains the key component, with social media standing at the forefront of this symbolic unison.




[1] Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “Conservative Democracy and the Globalization of Freedom” Speech at the American Enterprise Institute (January 29, 2004)

[2] Hugh Poulton, Top Hat, Grey Wolf and the Crescent: Turkish Nationalism and the Turkish Republic, New York University Press (1997) 315

[3] Tuğrul Ansay, Don Wallace, Introduction to Turkish Law, Kluwer Law International (2011) 52

[4]Meltem Müftüler-Bac, Yannis A. Stivachtis, Turkey-European Union Relations: Dilemmas, Opportunities, and Constraints, Lexington Books (2008) 304

[5] Gerald MacLean, Abdullah Gul and the Making of the New Turkey, Oneworld Publications (2014)

[6] Elifcan Karacan, Remembering the 1980 Turkish Military Coup d‘État: Memory, Violence, and Trauma, Springer (2015) 139

[7]According to statistics, 650,000 citizens were arrested and taken into custody, with 230,000 placed on trial. 517 were sentenced to the death penality and 50 executed by hanging, along with 299 prisoners dying from ‘unknown’ causes. See The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey by Banu Elgur, (2010) 90

[8] Robert B Durham, False Flags, Covert Operations, & Propaganda (2014) 348

[9] Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı Din Bilgisi Oğretimi (Ankara, September 1981). Op. Cit., Hugh Poulton, 181.

[10] Op. Cit., Elifcan Karacan, 162

[11]Ebru Canan-Sokullu, Debating Security in Turkey: Challenges and Changes in the Twenty-First Century, Rowman & Littlefield (2013) 86

[12] Rasit Kaya and Baris Cakmur, “Politics and the Mass Media in Turkey,” Turkish Studies, (Vol 11:4) 521-537, December 2010

[13] Nevzat Soguk (1993) A study of the historico cultural reasons for turkey’s ‘inconclusive’ democracy, New Political Science, 13:1, 89-116,

[15] Ibid.

[16] Doç. Dr. Nurşen Mazici, “1930’a Kadar Basinin Durumu ve 1931 Matbuat Kanunu”, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü Öğretim Üyesi. 1 E Ji. Carr, Tarih Nedir? İletişim Yayınlan, İst. (1987), s.41 137

[17] Carter Vaughn Findley, Bureaucratic Reform in the Ottoman Empire: The Sublime Porte, 1789-1922, Princeton University Press (2012) 253

[18] Ottoman Press: from Tanzimat to early Young Turk period (1830s-1909)

[19]The World Bank, The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development, Roumeen Islam (2002) 212

[20]Turkish Teenager Sentenced for Internet Comments; HDN, 6/3/1998:


[21] 301 Concerns Resurface During Dink Trials, October 02, 2007:


[22] Kenneth Christie, Ethnic Conflict, Tribal Politics: A Global Perspective, Psychology Press (1998) 167

[23] Case of Gündüz V Turkey, ECHR, 14/11/2000.

[24]Jane Boulden & Will Kymlicka, International Approaches to Governing Ethnic Diversity, Oxford University Press (2015) 29

[25]Melih Kırlıdoğ and Mustafa Akgül, “Internet censorship in Turkey” Internet Policy Review (Vol 4:2) 2015

[26]Natalie Martin, Security and the Turkey-EU Accession Process: Norms, Reforms and the Cyprus Issue, Palgrave Macmillan (2015) 171

[27]Journalist from pro-government daily fired over TV comments, Jan 12, 2014: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/journalist-from-pro-government-daily-fired-over-tv-comments.aspx?pageID=238&nID=60943&NewsCatID=341

[28] Article 8 of Law No. 2813

[29]Jostein Gripsrud, Lennart Weibull, Media, Markets & Public Spheres: European Media at the Crossroads, Intellect Books (2010) 184

[30] Yaman Akdeniz, Report of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media on Turkey and Internet Censorship, Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe

[31] Eda Çataklar, Decision of the Internet Authority Concerning Internet Security and Access Restriction, IRIS (2011) 7:1/45

[32] Bissera Zankova, Andrej Školkay, Iliana Franklin, Smart Journalism, lulu.com, 128

[33] New Law to Further Tighten Turkey’s Internet Control, January 24 (2015) Today’s Zaman http://www.todayszaman.com/anasayfa_new-law-to-further-tighten-turkeys-internet-control_370721.html

[34] BBC News, England riots: Government mulls social media controls (11 August 2011):


[35] Ibid.

[36] Op. Cit., Melih Kırlıdoğ and Mustafa Akgül

[37] Ürper and Others v. Turkey, (Applications nos. 14526/07, 14747/07, 15022/07, 15737/07, 36137/07, 47245/07, 50371/07, 50372/07 and 54637/07), Chamber Judgment of 20.10.2009, paras 39-45.

[38] §6(2) and §7(2) of Law no. 3713, as well as Articles 215 and 218 of the Criminal Code

[39] Article 44 §2 of the Convention

[40] Op. Cit., Jane Boulden and Will Kymlicka

[41] John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, §192

[42] Louis-Léon Christians, Expert workshop on the prohibition of incitement to national, racial or religious hatred, Study for the workshop on Europe (9 and 10 February 2011, Vienna).