Turkey’s ‘new’ foreign policy in the Middle East: the civil society factor
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date07/07/2019
Fildes, Harriet Ann
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This thesis aims to address a key and understudied element of Turkish foreign-policy under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP): the civil-society factor. It answers the question: How has foreign-policy and diplomacy changed in this era due to the domestic dynamics, exploring how Turkey’s image and global standing is dependent on the legitimacy and activism of non-state actors. The central aim being to understand how the interests, identity and practices of civil-society organizations (CSOs) have changed modes and channels of engagement with the Middle East: with Turkey increasingly deploying economic, humanitarian and cultural diplomacy in their relations with the region. The theoretical focus provides an alternative perspective on foreign-policy from a societal and ideational perspective. The empirical focus examines the development of civil-society in Turkey alongside the trajectory of changing foreign relations with the Middle East. This thesis highlights the variation in CSOs in terms of their relationship with the government: the type of interaction based on a number of variables such as autonomy from the government, the democratization process, the security environment and openings in the political space. By analysing the patterns of interaction and influence of CSOs, this dissertation contributes to the literature on civil-society influence and literature on Turkish foreign-policy (TFP). This thesis aims to contribute to growing research on civil-society’s role in Turkey, however within the specific and understudied context of Middle East relations. It choses civil-society as the main unit of analysis in what is acknowledged to be a complex and multifaceted policy environment. However, as will be discussed throughout this thesis in relation to strong elements of continuity in TFP, the emergence of normative discourses, social, economic and political ties at the level of civil-society is one of the most distinct changes of the AKP era. Turkey’s engagement with the Middle East has been shaped, and channelled through these actors, legitimized to the public and the international community. This renders the behaviour of Turkish CSOs even more significant to international relations, with Turkey’s pre-2013 image as a regional mediator, humanitarian diplomat and soft-power contingent on these actors.