From social capital to social cohesion: Syrian refugees in Turkey and the role of NGOs as intermediaries

Zihnioglu O., Dalkiran M.

JOURNAL OF ETHNIC AND MIGRATION STUDIES, vol.48, no.11, pp.2455-2472, 2022 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 48 Issue: 11
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/1369183x.2022.2047908
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, EBSCO Education Source, Educational research abstracts (ERA), Geobase, Index Islamicus, Political Science Complete, Public Affairs Index, Social services abstracts, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.2455-2472
  • Keywords: NGOs, refugees, social capital, social cohesion, Turkey, CIVIL-SOCIETY, HEALTH, PROSPECTS
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Since the first Syrian refugees arrived in Turkey with the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, NGOs have been a crucial actor in first distributing humanitarian aid and later facilitating refugees' access to education, employment, and healthcare services. More recently, as intercommunal tension between Syrian refugees and the Turkish community has been increasing, many NGOs shifted their focus in building refugees' social cohesion in Turkey. This study examines these efforts from a social capital perspective. We interviewed a total of twelve local/national, international and Syrian community-led NGOs working with refugees in Istanbul. We found that the intercommunal activities promoted by NGOs provide a space for both the Turkish and Syrian communities to meet, whose pathways would likely not cross otherwise. However, our study showed serious limitations in building bridging social capital as these activities attract participants already open to intercommunal dialogue and the language barrier hinders the sustainability of the relations. At the same time, however, we found that projects connecting refugees with people or institutions of authority have the potential to enhance social cohesion. These activities can facilitate refugees' adaptation to the national system, which in turn entails more stable and sustainable relationship with Turkish people.