At the heart of the diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey, arising out of the tragic May 31 commando raid on an aid flotilla steaming towards Gaza, lies the rise of the previously obscure IHH, the Turkish Islamic non-governmental organization that spearheaded the convoy. The IHH’s rise, analysts say, was made possible by some profound changes – both promising and troubling – that have taken place in Turkey over the last decade, most significantly the flowering of civil society organizations in Turkey.
Islamic groups have especially benefited from the development of civil society over the past decade in Turkey. Prior to that, such groups had been subjected to intense scrutiny by secularist state institutions in Ankara. “Turkish civil society is much more of an actor in Turkey now. It is part of the struggle for democratization here,” said Ferhat Kentel, a professor of sociology at Istanbul’s Sehir University.
Says Izzet Sahin, who oversees IHH’s work in Western countries: “Previously you couldn’t see the reaction of civilians here. Now there is more freedom. Everybody feels more democratic now. This is not only for Muslims – it is for everybody.”
To read the full story
Yigal Schleifer is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul. He is the editor of EurasiaNet's Kebabistan blog.