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Shrinking humanitarian space in Turkey: The government of Turkey’s agency in shaping the operations of humanitarian NGOs in Turkey

Boztaş, Özge
Applying the theoretical framework of NGO-government relations, this article shall look into the Government of Turkey (GoT)’s critical role in shaping humanitarian space in Southeast Turkey, which increasingly gained a reputation as the hinterland of cross-border response to Northern Syria and Syrian refugee response in Turkey. The year of 2015 proved a turning point for change in the Turkish government’s stance towards humanitarian activities, stemming from proliferating security concerns over the spill-overs of the Syrian Civil War. Meanwhile, Turkey’s political stance has evolved into playing a more active role through military involvement, which has also constituted the basis for widening controls and pressure over non-governmental organisations (NGOs) sending cross-border aid deliveries from Turkey to Syria. As the case study, I shall explore the government’s management of its Southeast border with Syria to restrict NGO operations while reinforcing the operational space of several favoured organisations. Overall, this article argues that GoT used its certain leverage guaranteed through institutional conditioning factors, and its agency on not adopting select border management practices introduced through EU externalisation, to regulate and hamper humanitarian aid flow over its Southeast border with Syria to be in consistence with its political stance towards the Syrian Civil War, which overall led to shrinking humanitarian space in the Turkey context.