In recent years, Turkey’s authoritarian slide has raised concerns among its Western allies and complicated international efforts to support democracy and human rights there. The Biden administration pointedly excluded Turkey from its December 2021 Summit for Democracy, signaling that it does not currently view Turkey as part of the international community of democracies. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan openly defies global human rights institutions like the Council of Europe and flatly rejects calls from allies like the United States to restore the rule of law and return to a path of democratization. The deterioration of Turkey’s ties with key transatlantic democracies and institutions, coupled with the rise of nationalism in Turkish politics, has brought new challenges to Western support for Turkish civil society. Turkey’s worsening economic crisis and growing political uncertainty will make the terrain for international support for democracy and human rights more complex.

Yet despite these difficulties, the United States and European democracies can and should play a valuable role in advancing democratic values and human rights in Turkey, especially at a pivotal time for the country. Please join the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) for an event examining why the United States and Europe should do more to help Turkish democracy and human rights and assessing the best ways to do so.




  • Osman İşçi
    International Affairs Secretary, Human Rights Foundation (İHD), Turkey
  • Merve Tahiroğlu
    Turkey Program Coordinator, POMED, Washington, D.C.
  • Özge Zihnioğlu
    Lecturer in Politics, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom


  • Amy Hawthorne
    Deputy Director for Research, POMED, Washington, D.C.

Speaker Bios:

Osman İşçi is the International Affairs Secretary of the Human Rights Association (İHD), one of Turkey’s oldest and most prominent independent human rights organizations, and President of the Human Rights Academy, an İHD initiative. A leading human rights defender, Osman is a member of the EuroMed Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and a member of the World Organization Against Torture’s general assembly. Osman has worked with numerous rights groups in Turkey. In 2017, he was awarded the Human Rights Award by the Austrian League of Human Rights.


Merve Tahiroğlu is POMED’s Turkey Program Coordinator. Prior to joining POMED in September 2019, Merve was a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where she focused on Turkey’s domestic politics, foreign policy, and relationship with Washington. She has authored several monographs and published articles in outlets such as Foreign Affairs, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, Politico, and Huffington Post.


Özge Zihnioğlu is a lecturer at the University of Liverpool’s Department of Politics. Her research focuses on Turkish civil society, activism, EU-Turkey relations, and EU civil society support. She is the author of EU-Turkey Relations: Civil Society and Depoliticization (Routledge, 2020) and European Union Civil Society Policy and Turkey: A Bridge Too Far? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). She is a member of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Civic Research Network, and an executive committee member of Turkey’s Young Academy Working Group.


Amy Hawthorne (moderator) is POMED’s Deputy Director for Research. Before joining POMED in 2015, Ms. Hawthorne was a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. In 2011-12, she served as Senior Advisor and then Egypt Coordinator in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau at the Department of State. Her other previous positions include executive director of the Hollings Center for International Dialogue in Istanbul and Washington, D.C., fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and senior program officer for the Middle East at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.