Civil society and state relations in Turkey: Opposing trajectories of two Islamist women's civil society organizations

Keysan A. O., Ozdemir Z.

ASIAN JOURNAL OF WOMENS STUDIES, vol.26, no.3, pp.301-325, 2020 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 26 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/12259276.2020.1799565
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Index Islamicus, MLA - Modern Language Association Database
  • Page Numbers: pp.301-325
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The Islamic women's civil society organizations (CSOs) in Turkey entered a new phase with the lifting of the headscarf ban, which had long been the focus of Islamic women's activism against authoritarian gender policies in the country. Based on research conducted in 2012 and 2018 on two Islamist women's CSOs that have been active here during the last two decades, AKDER (Women's Rights Organization against Discrimination) and BKP (Capital City Women's Platform Association), this paper aims to understand these groups and their positions regarding the civil society-state relationship under an altered climate vis-a-vis gender. While AKDER represented a shift from an oppositional to a close relationship with the state from 2012 to 2018 respectively, the BKP in 2018 represented a more conflictual and oppositional stance towards the state compared to 2012. This paper argues that the combined impact of the revocation of the ban and an increasingly authoritarian climate in Turkey has led to a shrinking of space for struggle by the women's movement in general and for the Islamist women in particular. When the headscarf issue disappeared, the solidarity that prevailed among Islamist women started to weaken and divergences emerged.