Department of State warns of continuing threats from terrorist groups in Turkey

WASHINGTON (Sept. 28, 2017) – The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the continuing threats from terrorist groups in Turkey. Due to the persistent threat of terrorism, the U.S. government restricts travel by U.S. government personnel to certain areas in southeast Turkey and limits the activities of U.S. government personnel and their family members while in Istanbul and Adana. We recommend U.S. citizens carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time, and avoid travel to southeast Turkey. This replaces the travel warning dated March 28, 2017.

In 2016 and 2017, numerous coordinated and spontaneous terrorist attacks involving shootings, suicide bombings, and vehicle-borne bombings in tourist areas, public spaces, private celebrations, sporting events, and government, police, and military facilities throughout Turkey resulted in hundreds of deaths.  Examples from 2017 include:  A fatal attack on a Turkish National Police officer in Istanbul Aug. 13; a bombing of a police facility in Diyarbakir April 12; an attack against a courthouse in Izmir by two armed assailants Jan. 5; and a mass shooting at an Istanbul nightclub Jan. 1.

Additional attacks in Turkey could occur without warning at major sporting and/or cultural spectator events, tourist sites, restaurants, nightclubs, commercial centers, places of worship, and transportation hubs, including aviation services, metros, buses, bridges, bus terminals, and sea transport.  Terrorist organizations in Turkey have explicitly targeted U.S. and other foreign tourists and expatriates for kidnapping and assassination. Heightened anti-American rhetoric has the potential to inspire independent actors to carry out acts of violence against U.S. citizens. We remind U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans including communications preparedness/connectivity; monitor local news for breaking events; remain vigilant at all times; and check in with loved ones after an attack or security incident.

Following a failed coup attempt in July 2016, the government of Turkey declared a state of emergency, which remains in effect.  Under the state of emergency, security forces have expanded powers, including the authority to detain any person at any time. The Turkish government has, at times, restricted internet access, restricted political gatherings, and blocked media content. Turkish authorities have detained U.S. citizens without granting access to lawyers or family members. Several U.S. citizens who were not physically detained have been either deported or legally banned from departing Turkey; most of those prevented from departing Turkey also possess Turkish citizenship.

Delays or denial of consular access to U.S. citizens detained or arrested by security forces have become more common, and U.S. Mission Turkey does not have consular access to arrested U.S. citizens who also possess Turkish citizenship. U.S. citizen employees of some non-governmental organizations in Turkey have also recently experienced increased scrutiny and denials of their residence permit applications. The Department continues to monitor the security environment for potential impact on the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens in Turkey and urges U.S. citizens to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) on travel.state.gov to stay informed. For questions about aviation security enhancements, such as the types of electronic devices allowed on U.S.-bound flights, please contact your air carrier and the Department of Homeland Security.

Under state of emergency provisions, authorities have regularly prohibited public events, especially those of a political nature. Under the current state of emergency, participation in unpermitted gatherings, protests, and/or demonstrations can result in detention or arrest. The Department recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all gatherings, protests, or demonstrations in Turkey, regardless of their purpose, due to the potential for violence or personal injury.

U.S. government personnel and their family members residing in or visiting Istanbul are restricted from congregating or traveling in large groups and are not permitted to visit these Istanbul locations without prior approval from the Consulate:

  • Large, crowded areas such as shopping malls and houses of worship frequented by expatriates, entertainment complexes, nightclubs, public sporting/cultural performance venues, and crowded pedestrian thoroughfares
  • Tourist destinations throughout Istanbul, to include historical sites, monuments, large bazaar markets, and museums

U.S. government personnel living in or visiting Turkey continue to require approval from the U.S. Embassy to visit the  southeastern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazig. Travel within Adana by U.S. government personnel may also be subject to restriction. Furthermore, the U.S. Embassy may prohibit movements by personnel, including those at U.S. Consulates, to these areas on short notice for security reasons. Due to recent acts of violence and the potential for reprisal attacks by terrorist groups due to continued Turkish military activity in Syria, we urge U.S. citizens to defer travel to large urban centers near the Turkey-Syria border. U.S. citizens should also be aware that the Government of Turkey has closed its border with Syria. The Government of Turkey prohibits border crossings from Syria into Turkey, even if the traveler entered Syria from Turkey. Turkish authorities may consider permitting the passage of individuals seeking emergency medical treatment or safety from immediate danger on a case by case basis.

For your safety:

  • Avoid travel to southeastern Turkey, in particular to large, urban centers near the Turkey-Syria border.
  • Stay away from large crowds, including at popular tourist destinations.
  • Exercise heightened vigilance and caution when visiting public areas, especially those heavily frequented by tourists.
  • Stay away from political gatherings and rallies.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities in an emergency.
  • Stay at hotels with identifiable security measures in place.
  • Monitor local media.

For further detailed information regarding Turkey and travel:

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