Syrian Forum

Founded in 2011 and monitored by the KPMG, the secular Syrian Forum is a consortium of six organizations that addresses the immediate needs of Syrians in crisis while preparing for a future Syria. The Syrian forum gives individuals tools to navigate and lead their communities today in order to help form a decentralized democratic society tomorrow. The tools and training provided by the Syrian Forum empower Syrians to participate in the political process and build economic and political self-sustainability.

Syrian Islamic Council

Since its founding in 2014, the Syrian Islamic Council (SIC) has sought to coordinate Syrian religious scholars and authorities (ulama) in order to serve the religious needs of the diverse Syrian landscape.


In the past year, the umbrella organization has grown to include 40 Islamic institutions and 160 members of a general assembly, who together help provide religious guidance in the struggle against the Assad regime as well as extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. The council also provides advocacy and education resources for Syrians in residing in Turkey and is recognized as their representative religious authority.


Projects include the creating of advocacy centers with ulama, the preparation of chaplain and preachers, and the continual proliferation of a moderate Islam against extremism and militancy.

Principles guiding the execution of these actions include the necessity of moderation, recognition of the rights of minorities, and political pluralism. The latter refers to ensuring of the rights of citizenship for all Syrians, who are equal partners in the revolution for a free Syrian state regardless of religion, ethnicity, and sect.  

Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi Vakfi

Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi Vakfı was established in 1985 with the aim of helping the poor. It is based around compassion and helping others. The foundation is rooted in responsibility for all human beings, regardless of class or religions. We as human beings are responsible for one another. It is now one of the top humanitarian organization providing aid to Syrian refugees in Turkey. The organization provides essentials to families such as food and cleaning supplies. One of the biggest problem facing the Syrian refugees is shelter. The Aziz Mahmud foundation provides the refugees with money for apartments, facilitating the transition process.  The organization is built around the idea of brotherhood between the Turks and the Syrians. It is the idea of unconditionally helping one another. The organization references the Hijrat from Mecca to Medina of the prophet Muhammed and his followers in order to motivate and encourage people to help each other. Religion is a way to defuse tension between cultures, reminding people to be kind, and inspiring compassion and trust.



IHH is a humanitarian relief organization based in Turkey that works as first responders in conflict regions, impoverished regions, and areas hit by natural disasters. Beginning with Bosnia in the early 90s, IHH has provided refugees with basic needs as well as worked to maintain the dignity and rights of people regardless of race, religion or gender. IHH's mission statement relates to the fulfillment of humanitarian needs, to advocate for the people, and to provide humanitarian diplomacy. They are unique in this case, as NGOs rarely target all three of these goals.

In regards to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, IHH has been involved since the very beginning. Apart from distributing packages across the border, IHH also provides amenities and shelter though field offices on the Turkish side of the border.Although IHH is an emergency-response organization, they have started to make long-term plans for Syria regarding education, shelter and economic stability.In order to combat the growing threat of a “lost generation” of education for Syrians, IHH recently built a boarding college for 1,500 students in Reyhanli, Turkey.

Kim Se Yok Mu is a faith-based non-profit organization housed in Istanbul, Turkey. Their name comes from the Turkish phrase that literally translates to “Is anyone there?”—Inspired from what a distressed person would say when in need of help. This organization was established in 2002 and since then has had over 3 million donors. Their international aid efforts include immediate disaster relief, food provision, water well development, and cataract surgery. In response to a questioner asking why they did cataract surgery for those in need, a representative of Kim Se Yok Mu said, “they are waiting in a dark place (in blindness)...you open their windows (vision) and their minds.” This organization has also established five hospitals in different nations. Kim Se Yok Mu is a Hizmet- affiliated non-profit.


Kim Se Yok Mu

International Blue Crescent Relief and Development Foundation

The International Blue Crescent Relief and Development Foundation (IRB) was established in 2000 with the intention of alleviating poverty, hunger, and illiteracy by providing humanitarian relief, education, and healthcare to populations affected by disasters both human and manmade. Originally established in response to the plight of refugees from Kosovo, the IBC has most recently expanded its efforts to provide for the humanitarian and educational needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey, with offices in Kilis, Gaziantep, and Urfa. The IBC currently provides for over 2.500 Syrian children in its educational programs, which provide schooling for children ages 6-18 in accordance with their regular Syrian curriculum. Additionally, the IBC provides vocational training to adult refugees in their offices in Kilis and Gaziantep in areas such as computer skills and translation, which are geared towards preparing them for participation in the job market. The IBC also employs over 100 doctors and nurses in its healthcare program, which has field locations in Turkey as well as five locations within the Syrian borders stretching as far as Aleppo.

Islamic Relief

Founded in 1984, Islamic Relief is an NGO that is inspired by the Islamic faith to empower communities, provide relief and recovery, promote development and support marginalized populations through the values of justice, compassion, sincerity, custodianship and excellence. IR operates in 47 countries around the globe with programs in emergency relief, development, faith inspired projects and orphan, children and family relief. IR’s main focus is to provide emergency relief, which includes food security, healthcare, shelter and non-food items, and WASH.



Now that the Syrian crisis is looking to continue for many more years, IR has added medium-long term aid to its agenda. The main sectors of aid, in addition to emergency relief, are education and psychosocial support, protection and resilience. Such projects include women empowerment, ending child labor, creating harmonious communities between the host country and displaced peoples, vocational training and financial management. In regards to the Syrian crisis, IR is providing assistance to the displaced populations in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and within Syria itself, a total of approximately 52 percent of the Syrian population.


More information on the work IR is doing regarding the Syrian crisis can be found in their Syria Emergency Response report.

Deniz Feneri

Deniz Feneri is a Turkish non-governmental organization that provides international multi-faceted aid programs in response to natural disasters, poverty-stricken communities and social crises. Deniz Feneri serves the poor, while offering those who wish to make a difference the opportunity to donate and volunteer. This is why they have chosen the lighthouse as their symbol - to reflect the objectivity of their work and their desire to serve regardless of differences in religion, race or political belief.  The organization started from a Turkish television program in 1996 that sought to raise awareness and donations for those in need; the current institution evolved from 2000. Their short term disaster relief program includes providing immediate access to food, makeshift shelters and immediate medical relief. The Istanbul office site includes a warehouse of immediate relief items that can be deployed at any time, as well as a storage and sorting area for material donations, and a “shop” where families can come and pick out the clothes and shoes they need but cannot afford.


Many of Deniz Feneri projects vary in scale, as some of the most widespread programs are geared at medium and long term aid for specific communities, like the Water is Life project which has built deep water wells in multiple countries in Africa like Niger, providing clean and safe drinking water to those without. Deniz Feneri has responded to need around the world - delivering food donations to 21,000 families of Pakistani earthquake survivors, as well as collecting funds for post-tsunami educational support for students in Indonesia and building prefab houses for civilians in Gaza. Deniz Feneri has been able to expand successfully and efficiently by partnering with other international relief and aid organizations to create self-sustaining institutions such as schools, orphanages, and renovated hospitals. They provide vocational training courses, medical assistance units, ritually sacrificed meat during Ramadan, free cataract surgeries in many African countries, and incubators in under-equipped hospitals.

Local Administration Council Unit

Local Administration Council Unit (LACU) is a Syrian civil society organization specializing in empowering the concept and methods of good governance for local administrative councils in Syria. LACU provides support for local councils through activities such as conducting needs assessments, developing and implementing local projects, and even conducting local elections.




ORSAM is a Turkish think tank researching strategic policy concerning politics, security, and geopolitical coordination in the Middle East, especially concerning Iraq and Turkmens. By conducting field research on specific countries, non-state actors, and international coalitions, the organization seeks to publish high quality research and analysis as well as effective policy solutions. By bringing together academics, statesmen, bureaucrats, businessmen, journalists, and NGO representatives, they create a space to promote a healthier and more holistic understanding of international policy issues.



SETA, or the Foundation for Political, Economic, and Social Research, is a Turkish think tank and research institute that provides analysis and policy recommendations relating to local, regional, and international issues. Its target audience includes decision-makers in public policy, civil society, and the business sector, as well as the Turkish public. SETA aims to provide contextual, nuanced, and current information and analysis to these actors, allowing them to make informed decisions in their respective sectors of society. SETA is also affiliated with the academic journal Insight Turkey, which publishes a range of academic material relating to Turkish domestic and foreign policy, as well as analysis of political and cultural developments in the Middle East, the Balkans and Europe, and the Caucasus. SETA is based in Ankara, with smaller offices in Washington, D.C. and Cairo.



Syrian Emergency Task Force

The International Center for Terrorism and Transnational Crime (UTSAM) consists of a specialized team of researches producing policy research, evaluation, and suggestion in various fields of security, including Turkey’s foreign and domestic policy concerning the Syrian crisis. Alongside published research, the think tank organizes conferences directed to enhance both national coordination as well as international cooperation. It is hosted under the Department of Research Centers at the Police Academy in Ankara.

The Syrian Emergency Task Force began in 2011 as an advocacy organization for the Syrian armed opposition. In addition to its lobbying efforts, SETF offers many projects including equipment training and local council work. SETF also has a strong peacebuilding focus, aimed at creating and maintaining civil society.

Ankara Strategic Institute


The Ankara Strategic Institute is an independent Turkish think tank that was established in 2011 with the intent to collect, analyze and reproduce information that is accessible to policy decision makers, non-state actors and the public alike. The organization has united academic experts from a number of Turkish universities to conduct research in three fields: law, economics and politics. Focusing on the intersection of these three pillars, the purpose of the organization is twofold; first to produce and publish content such as quarterly journals, articles, policy briefs and newspaper op-eds, and second to organize events and programs such as conferences, networking events, debates, panels and academic workshops.

Founded in 1998, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is a leading emergency response organization of the Syrian crisis. Despite the recent dangers of crossing Syrian borders, SAMS still and only operates inside Syria. In addition to providing medical services such as mobile clinics and dialysis centers, SAMS also conducts training for medical professionals. Physicians and medical professionals from various medical backgrounds and nationalities risk their lives in order to serve the Syrian people.

Sanliurfa STK

Sanliurfa Sivil Toplum Kuruluslari Insani Yardim Platformu, known as Sanliurfa STK, is an umbrella management organization that consists of 60 non-profit organizations that operates a mere 30 miles north of the Syrian-Turkiah border. Coordinating the work and resources of Turkish NGOs in the region like Deniz Feneri and IHH, Sanliurfa STK focuses on the needs of urban refugees who receive none of the benefits of the govt-funded camps nearby. With a primary focus on food security for the 500,000 refugees living in Urfa and its suburbs, not living in the camps, Sanliurfa STK organizes delivery trucks with aid packages straight to the hands of those in need. To date, STK has delivered 518 aid trucks in and around Urfa, as well as 203 aid trucks across the border to help those stuck in Syria without food. 

Sanliurfa STK also manages a clothing "shop" with a model similar to that of Goodwill- individuals donate clothes and shoes and then refugees and their families come through and pick out what they need, free of charge. Other organizations that fall under the umbrella include the Coeliac food supply. This group provides gluten-free bread and alternative food substitutes for refugees, particularly children, who cannot eat the basic staple diet of bread and other carbohydrates -- often a disease that can lead to social stigma and ill will. 


Ihsan for Relief and Development

Ihsan for Relief and Development is a component of the Syrian Forum, focusing both on immediate humanitarian aid and long-term development projects to aid refugees and the internally displaced. Their aid projects focus on relief in health, shelter, and food security for those in Syria without the capability to provide for themselves. As the conflict has lengthened, development projects have been started in areas with enough security to begin investments. IHSAN emphasizes gaining participation from beneficiaries with projects such as agricultural initiatives whereby the internally displaced are supported to begin growing their own food once again. Started in 2012, IHSAN represents part of the Syrian civil society that has arisen out of the conflict.


Founded in 2011 and monitored by the KPMG, the Syrian Forum is a consortium of six organizations that addresses the immediate needs of Syrians in crisis while preparing for a future Syria.  One of the six organizations is Bousla, which specializes in providing training and development programs for Syrian civil society associations.  There educational track prepares teachers to provide an education in line with international standards of educational quality. 

The Hope Foundation for Fighting Cancer

The Hope Foundation for Fighting Cancer (جمعية الأمل لمكافحة السرطان) is a housing facility for Syrian cancer patients receiving treatment in Turkish hospitals. Founded by Dr. Abdur-Rahman Zayno in 2005 in Damascus with branches in Homs and Aleppo, the organization has been housed in Gaziantep since 2012. They have facilities to accommodate 30-50 people and a cafeteria that provides breakfast and dinner. Medical treatment (chemotherapy, radiation, and additional testing)  is paid for by the Turkish government but direct overhead costs of the facility reach approximately $20,000/month. Such costs include rent and food as well as staff, counselor, and nursing salaries. Despite current conditions, The Hope Foundation provides transportation for patients to and from all areas in Syria and abides by a strict non-discrimination and apolitical policy.



Located in the building of one of the oldest and largest Mevlevi Sufi lodges just outside the historic city walls of Istanbul, the Alliance of Civilizations Institute exists as a microcosm of diversity in action. This program is housed at Fatih Sultan Mehmet University and derives from a UN initiative seeking “to galvanize international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural, and interreligious dialogue and cooperation,” specifically concerning Western and Islamic relations.With fifty percent of the admitted masters and PhD students come from outside of Turkey, there are over 25 countries represented in the student body taking a range of multidisciplinary courses focused on generating global perspectives. Languages used for instruction include Turkish, English, Arabic, and Spanish.

Alliance of Civilizations Institute

Istanbul Şehir University opened for the 2010-2011 academic year with financial support from the foundation Bilim ve Sanat Vakfı (BSV). The university currently operates two campuses and offers undergraduate and graduate programs in law, humanities, business, islamic studies, and other disciplines. Students met with professors Helin Sari Ertem, Huseyin Alptekin, and Berdal Aral about Turkey's current objectives and policies in its relationships with key neighbors the Middle East, Central Asia, and Russia.


Istanbul Sehir University

Founded in 1997, Kadir Has University offers degrees in five faculties: Law, Engineering and Natural Sciences, Economics, Administrative Sciences, and Fine Arts. With their low student body population of 5,000 students, the university is able to provide an intimate space of learning. The university’s open, beautiful campus is housed in an artistically restored 19th tobacco factory situated on top of a 6th century Byzantine cistern and 16th Ottoman bathhouse; this restoration earned Kadir Has the Europa Nostra Award in 2003.


Kadir Has University



Panorama 1453 was established on January 31st, 2009- 562 years after the conquest of Istanbul.  It is located across the walls of Topkapi and Edirnekapi, where the Anatolians first breached the city walls and entered the city. The visitors witness a scene of the Fall of Constantinople, in particularly the moment the Ottoman troops broke the Byzantine defense of the city.


Eight artists hand-painted the Panorama for three years. The project coordinator, who also came up with the Panorama idea, is Hasim Vatandas. Among other artists are Ramazan Erkut (background), Yaşar Zeynalov (figures), Oksana Legka (artist), Ahmet Kaya (storyboard), Hasan H. Dinçer (computer application), Atilla Tunca (model) ve Murat Efe (computer application). The painting has 10,000 figures with some very detailed descriptions.

Panorama 1453

Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam

Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam opened on May 24, 2008. The museum is in Gulhane Park (Rose Garden), which includes beautiful scenery for a relaxed day adventure. The museum houses originals and replicas of Islamic achievements in astronomy, geography, chemistry, medicine, and physics.




Mevlana Museum

Anıtkabır serves as a monument to the founder of the Turkısh Republıc, Mustafa Kemal Paşa. The monument park ıs sıtuated above Ankara provıdıng panoramıc vıews of the cıty. Constructıon of the sıte was staged ın four phases lastıng a decade (1944-1953). Anıtkabır ıs annually vısıted by mıllıons of people and dıgnıtarıes wıll pay theır respects when vısıtıng the capıtal of Turkey. Vısıt Anıtkabır on May 19th for a unıque experıence, Turkısh Natıonal Day.

Rumi’s tomb housed in Mevlana Museum in Konya has been a pilgrimage site for Sufi Muslims as well as popular tourist destination. Rumi was a 13th century sufi mystic, jurist, theologian, and poet, who is regarded as the most popular Muslim poet in the contemporary west. Rumi’s work inspired the Sema, a well known religious festival featuring whirling dervishes steadily resolving in order to bring themselves into harmony with God and nature. Along with Rumi’s tomb, the Mevlana Museum features exhibits about the process of educating dervishes, an adjoining mosque, and a display of antique koans and prayer rugs.


This website is simply a classroom project that uses a conventional study abroad trip, student talent, and faculty expertise to fill an important information gap concerning Turkish politics and the Syrian crisis. Overseen by faculty mentors Dr. Abbas Barzegar and Dr. Rashid Naim of Georgia State University, advanced graduate students and undergraduates from various disciplines were placed in small working groups tasked with explore key subject areas. They did this by conducting research before their trip and interviewing experts. During their three-week trip they continued this process as they visited NGOs, think tanks, and cultural sites. Every day they documented their experiences through the content material that can be found on this site. See this brief article about the project for more information.





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