NGO's as the link between state and society? Women's community centers in Southeastern Turkey
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Civil society initiatives in Turkey are transforming from organizations based on traditional commitments, religious ties, and other primordial forms of relations to organizations based on universal values, which are shaped mainly by the claims of a larger civil society on a global scale. These universal values are in close interconnection with changes taking place at the local level, exerting an influence on particularistic values. This results in flows of interaction between global civil society and grassroots initiatives. In this sense, civil society organizations at the national level play a crucial role in the provision of the link between the global and the local within a given nation-state. However, values promoted at the national level, shaped mainly by politics of the nation-state, can be in sharp contradiction to those of a universalist and equally particularistic character. This situation is currently prevalent in Turkey with respect to the discussions on the crisis of democracy in the country. Civil society organizations, represented mainly by vakıfs and derneks as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), are trying to bring closer together the national practice of democracy with the changes of the notion of democracy at the global level, with reference to local particularities. It is the role of the national NGOs in Turkey, then, to ease the tension with respect to the clash of values between the state and the local community level as shaped by a global civil society. On a global scale, NGOs have started filling the gap between the top-down policies of the state and the bottom-up demands of local grassroots activity. The three-tier relationship between the state, NGO, and the local community is becoming increasingly complex due to the internal as well as external forces at play. It is this role of Turkish NGOs that is the focus of the current study. It is interesting to observe the degree to which NGOs in Turkey are creating alternatives to development and a move towards participatory democracy through women’s empowerment centers within a larger state-sponsored development project in Southeastern Turkey. Given the peculiarities of gender and minorities as essential components of the case study, the thesis analyzes the role of Turkish NGOs in creating the links between local and central authorities on the one hand, and the local community on the other.