Explained: Turkey’s controversial law which will tighten monitoring of civil society

The Turkish parliament on Sunday passed a bill that might increase the monitoring of civil society groups. The act is named “Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction” and was proposed by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development party so as to suits UN Security Council’s recommendations to stay terror financing and concealment in restraint .

Critics are seeing certain provisions of the bill as arbitrary and believe that it violates the provisions under the Turkish constitution since it interferes with the proper to freedom of association.

What does the Bill say?
The Bill has come following the 2019 report on Turkey prepared by the intergovernmental body Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meant to fight concealment and terror financing. The bill consists of 43 articles and has made changes to seven laws on Turkey’s Law of Associations and is supposed to stay Turkey from being blacklisted by the Paris-based watchdog of terror financing.

The FATF is an inter-governmental body that’s now in its 30th year, working to “set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating concealment , terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system”.

What are the implications of the Bill being passed?
The Bill gives the Turkish government the facility to appoint trustees to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to suspend their activities, seize their assets and monitor their sources of funding.

As per various media reports, critics and human rights activists are seeing this move as how to clamp down on dissidents during a country where civil society is already not very free.

After a failed coup in 2016 that was aimed toward protecting democracy within the country, thousands of journalists, bureaucrats, academics and judges are targeted by the govt .

Earlier this year, Turkish prosecutors ordered the arrest of nearly 700 including military and justice ministry personnel, as a part of its moves against those accused of being involved during a 2016 coup plan to overthrow Erdogan’s government. Erdogan, who is taken into account to be an Islamist and conservative, has been in power for over a decade now and has brought during a series of reforms in Turkish society.

Since the coup happened , the Turkish authorities are completing a crackdown on the alleged followers of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Erdogan has long accused of plotting the 2016 coup. Gülen has denied these allegations and had condemned the coup. In fact, he has previously suggested that the coup was “staged” by the govt itself.

A report in Al-Monitor said that the bill will deal an extra blow to “civil society, whose determined efforts to steer Turkey toward a more democratic path have radiated hope whilst Erdogan moves the country within the other way .”

Heidi Phillips