Turkish nonprofits compelled to misreport foreign aid?

Turkish nonprofits compelled to misreport foreign aid?



 Kerem Dikmen

In a recent development impacting nonprofits in Turkey, a controversial requirement has pushed organizations into a predicament where they might have to falsely report financial activities. This issue stems from a modification in the Associations Law, particularly concerning the stipulations for overseas aid, which now mandates prior notification to local authorities before any foreign aid transaction.

The Constitutional Court of Turkey recently annulled certain provisions of the Law on the Prevention of Financing of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which, despite its name, mainly amended the Associations Law. The new changes include a crucial addition to Article 21 of the Associations Law, requiring any overseas assistance to be reported beforehand to the provincial directorate responsible for relations with civil society.

This requirement has led to significant confusion and challenges for nonprofits. Many associations recently received notifications about administrative fines for allegedly not reporting overseas aid. However, upon closer examination, these transactions often do not qualify as 'aid' under existing regulations. For example, payments for international conference fees, subscription dues to international bodies, or copyrights for articles published in foreign journals do not inherently constitute aid as defined by relevant Turkish regulations, which describe aid as assets provided either as a donation or a loan.

Further complicating matters, the Constitutional Court invalidated a decree that sought to outline the procedures and principles for domestic and international aid, criticizing it for granting excessive and vague regulatory powers to the executive branch without a clear legislative framework.

This has placed nonprofits in a challenging situation, as they navigate the complexities of compliance while trying to avoid penalties for misreporting. For instance, payments made in exchange for services, like expert consultancy fees or medical expenses for staff members abroad, are being misconstrued as aid. Nonprofits are thus forced to either mislabel these payments as aid or risk fines for non-disclosure.

The struggle against these regulations is not isolated to individual nonprofits but is part of a broader context of human rights challenges in Turkey. Despite the pressures, many nonprofits continue to resist and challenge these impositions through legal channels, pushing for adherence to constitutional standards.

This situation also underscores a larger crisis in human rights and democracy in Turkey, as state practices increasingly encroach on freedoms and rights. The ongoing legal battles and potential future rulings by the Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights could provide critical relief and set precedents for the protection of nonprofit operations against undue governmental interference.


Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) haber alma hakkı, ifade özgürlüğü ve basın özgürlüğü alanlarında faaliyet yürüten bir sivil toplum kuruluşudur. Derneğimiz başta gazeteciler olmak üzere mesleki faaliyetleri sebebiyle yargılanan kişilere hukuki destek vermektedir.