Getting involved in the community you live in is a great way to learn about a new culture and share your support for the civil society. With about 83,000 associations and 4,500 foundations in Turkey it is quite difficult to find your way around the big jungle of non-governmental organizations (NGO). For you to have an easier start, I have put together a small list of some of the NGOs working in Istanbul.
The Human Rights Association
The Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği, İHD, ihd.org.tr) has been in operation since 1986 for human rights in Turkey, with a focus on the subject of abuse. Even though the headquarters are in Ankara, they have a branch in Istanbul. Another human rights association in Istanbul is Toplumsal Haklar ve Araştırmalar Derneği (TOHAD, tohad.org). TOHAD works on legal rights for disadvantaged groups, such as women, children, disabled or the elderly.
Civil Society in the Penal System
Civil Society in the Penal System (Ceza Infaz Sisteminde Sivil Toplum Dernegi, CISST, http://www.tcps.org.tr/) deals specifically with the Turkish prisons’ situations. CISST works together with both the state authorities and civil society on different levels. Currently CISST works on projects for prisoners with special needs (children and women in prison, LGBTI prisoner, prisoner with health problems, elderly prisoners, foreign prisoners and life imprisonment).
Women’s Solidarity Foundation
Women’s Solidarity Foundation (Kadın Dayanışma Vakfı, KADAV, kadav-ist.org) works on the implementation of social programs for women since its official establishment in 2001. It covers the area of gender discrimination in employment and sexual harassment with various women groups.
Youth Re-autonomy Foundation of Turkey
An NGO specifically working on children rights is the Youth Re-autonomy Foundation of Turkey (Türkiye Çocuklara Yeniden Özgürlük Vakfı, TCYOV). TCVOV has been especially active in the field of juvenile criminality.
The Human Rights in Mental Health Initiative Association
The Human Rights in Mental Health Initiative Association (RUSİHAK, rusihak.org) works on national and international rights-based projects in the field of mental disability, such as a civic monitoring Project with the support of EU where they brought together different activists, local groups and NGOs within a national monitoring network
Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association
Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association (Kaos GL, kaosgl.com) is a Turkish LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) rights organisation. The association itself conducts activities in culture, education, arts, sports in their Kaos Cultural Centre and furthermore publishes reports, the Kaos GL Journal and organizes platforms.
Social and Cultural Life Development
The NGO "Social and Cultural Life Development" (Sosyal Kültürel Yaşamı Geliştirme Derneği, SKYGD, sosyalkulturelyasam.org) works primarily with people from disadvantaged areas who face the risk of being excluded from society. Their aim is to restore social and cultural life through art workshops for children, people with disabilities, families of relatives of detainees and prisoners.
This list is definitely not an extensive list but rather just an overview of the different groups working in Istanbul and Turkey. In case there is nothing of your interest just write one of the NGOs and they can recommend you to other groups. Amnesty International in Turkey and Human Rights Watch Turkey are also good starting points.
IHD - www.ihd.org.tr
TOHAD - www.tohad.org
KADAV - www.kadav-ist.org
TCYOV - www.tcyov.org
RUSIHAK - www.rusihak.org
Kaos GL - www.kaosgl.com
CISST - www.cezaevindestk.org
SKYGD - www.sosyalkulturelyasam.org