Country Profile: Turkey

This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Republic of Turkey (Turkiye Cumhuriyeti), based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under Turkey's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) has no legal status. 

Country Background

Turkey is located in the Middle East/Southeastern Europe. It is bounded by Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Syria, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Iran. The capital of Turkey is Ankara. The official language is Turkish. The country's population in 2017 was approximately 80.8 million. Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country. Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world, including over 2.8 million Syrian refugees (2017 est.). Turkey is a member state of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Constitution & Legal Structure

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, the Republic of Turkey was formed in 1923. Today, Turkey is referred to as a parliamentary republic, in which sovereignty belongs to the people and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The current Constitution was adopted in 1982. The system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legal system of Turkey is a civil law system based on various European legal systems, most notably the Swiss civil code. Contrary to Anglo-American law, in Turkey, jurisprudence is not considered one of the main sources of law. However, decisions made by the Supreme Court do impact the decisions of lower courts. 

Constitutional Status of Islamic Law

Although historically sharīʿa was a primary source of law in the Ottoman Empire, Islamic law has no constitutional status in Turkey today. The trend toward secularization began in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, the Republic of Turkey was formed in 1923. In 1924, the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished, marking the end of the last Sunnī Islamic caliphate and the beginning of Turkey as a secular nation.

Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law

Islamic law has no official jurisdiction of operation in Turkey. 

Dominant School of Islamic Law

Turkey has no official school of Islamic law. About 75% of Turkey's Muslim population is Sunnī. The most popular school is Ḥanafī, which was also the school supported by the Ottoman rulers. The remaining 25% of Muslims are Shīʿī, including a substantial Alawite minority.

Sources of Law for Legal Research

Official Publications

Unofficial Databases

  • FAOLEX: Turkey (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) database of national laws and regulations on food, agriculture, and renewable natural resources.
  • NATLEX: Turkey (International Labour Organization) database of national laws on labor, social security, and related human rights.
  • RefWorld Legal Information: Turkey (UNHCR)
  • WIPO Lex: Turkey (World Intellectual Property Organization)


For an extended list of legal resources for this country, see the Library of Congress’s Research Guide, and for a narrative review, see the GlobaLex Foreign Law Research Guide (most updated version, where available). The Constitution is available in the LOC Guide in its original language and at Constitute in English and Arabic translation. For full versions of past constitutions, amendments, and related legislation, see HeinOnline World Constitutions Illustrated or Oxford Constitutions of the World [subscription required for each].