US reiterates Turkey travel warning, citing detention risk

The United States on Thursday warned its citizens against travelling to Turkey, citing a nationwide crackdown that has led to the arrest of thousands of people, including US passport holders.

“Reconsider travel to Turkey due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions,” the State Department said, retaining a travel warning already in place.

US citizens had also been subject to travel bans that prevented them from leaving the country, the State Department said on its website. “Under the State of Emergency, security forces have detained tens of thousands of individuals, including US citizens, suspected of affiliation with alleged terrorist organizations based on scant or secret evidence and grounds that appear to be politically motivated,” it said.

“Do not travel to the areas along the Turkey-Syria border and the southeastern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Şırnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Muş, Mardin, Batman, Bingöl, Tunceli, Hakkari, and Bitlis due to terrorism,” added the statement.

It also noted that the US government has very limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens traveling in southeastern Turkey, as the US government restricts its employees from traveling to the region.

“Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Turkey. Terrorist organizations explicitly target Western tourists and expatriates for kidnapping and assassination,” it added.

The Islamist government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has intensified a crackdown on its opponents since a controversial military coup in July 15, 2016. American Pastor Andrew Brunson is among those jailed on charges of terrorism and supporting the Gülen movement. He vehemently denies the allegations, based in part on the testimony of a secret witness.

The Travel Advisory of the Department of State for Turkey on Thursday replaces the previous Travel Advisory that was issued on January 10, 2018.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The full text of the new Travel Advisory is as follows:

“Turkey – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel to Turkey due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do not travel to:

Areas along the Turkey-Syria border and the southeastern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, and Bitlis due to terrorism.

Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Turkey. Terrorist organizations explicitly target Western tourists and expatriates for kidnapping and assassination. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.

Under the State of Emergency, security forces have detained tens of thousands of individuals, including U.S. citizens, suspected of affiliation with alleged terrorist organizations based on scant or secret evidence and grounds that appear to be politically motivated. U.S. citizens have also been subject to travel bans that prevent them from departing Turkey.

Participation in gatherings, protests, and demonstrations not explicitly approved by the Government of Turkey can result in detention or arrest.

The U.S. government subjects its personnel in Turkey to certain security restrictions that are subject to change.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Turkey:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners, particularly at popular tourist locations in Istanbul.
  • Avoid demonstrations and crowds.
  • Stay at hotels with identifiable security measures.
  • Monitor local media and adjust your plans based on new information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for Turkey.
  • S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Southeast Turkey and the Syrian Border – Level 4: Do Not Travel

Southeastern Turkey, including the provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, and Bitlis, is vulnerable to terrorist activities. Terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, ambushes, car bomb detonations, improvised explosive devices, as well as kidnappings for ransom, shootings, roadblocks, and violent demonstrations have occurred in these areas.

Do not to travel to the large urban centers near the Turkish/Syrian border due to the continued threat of attacks by terrorist groups based in both Turkey and Syria. The government of Turkey prohibits border crossings from Syria into Turkey, even if the traveler previously entered Syria from Turkey.

The U.S. government has very limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens traveling in southeastern Turkey as the U.S. government restricts its employees from traveling to the region.”

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