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State Department: Turkey - Consular Information Sheet, July 20, 1999


Turkey - Consular Information Sheet
July 20, 1999

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Turkey is a moderately developed nation with a wide range of tourist facilities of all classes in the main tourist destinations. The capital city is Ankara.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Holders of tourist passports can purchase a sticker visa for $45 at the port of entry. For further information, travelers in the U.S. may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey at 1714 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone (202) 659-8200, or the Turkish consulate in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, or New York. Overseas, travelers may contact a Turkish embassy or consulate. Holders of official and diplomatic passports on official business must obtain a visa before arrival in Turkey from a Turkish embassy or consulate; those on private travel may receive a visa free of charge before arrival from a Turkish embassy or consulate, or obtain one upon arrival at the port of entry for $45. All travelers are advised to obtain entry stamps at the first port of entry on the passport page containing their visa prior to transferring to domestic flights. Failure to obtain entry stamps at the port of entry has occasionally resulted in serious difficulties for travelers when they attempt to depart the country.

DUAL NATIONALITY: Male U.S. citizens between the ages of 20 and 38, who are also considered to be Turkish citizens, may be subject to conscription and compulsory military service upon arrival, and to other aspects of Turkish law while in Turkey, particularly if they entered the country and are residing in Turkey based on their Turkish identity documents. Those who may be affected should inquire at a Turkish embassy or consulate to determine their status prior to traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. Dual nationals may be subject to Turkey's laws, which impose special obligations. For additional information, please see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for the Dual Nationality flyer.

SAFETY/SECURITY: For years, urban and rural acts of terrorism throughout Turkey have caused loss of life and injury to government officials and civilians in Turkey, including some foreign tourists. Turkish authorities conduct highly effective counter operations. Most incidents have occurred in eastern Turkey. However, a terrorist group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has occasionally targeted tourist sites and tourist-oriented facilities in western Turkey, as well, in an effort to inflict economic harm on the country. In recent years, several PKK bomb attacks, including some at Istanbul's most popular tourist attractions, resulted in the deaths of four people, including two foreign tourists, and 36 injuries. The PKK also was believed responsible for an explosion at Istanbul's Egyptian spice bazaar on July 9, 1998, which caused seven deaths and a number of injuries, including several tourists.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was convicted of treason on June 29, 1999 and given the mandatory death sentence. The decision is under appeal. Since his arrest in February, there has been an increase in the frequency of terrorist activity in Turkey. Events since then have included an attack on an Istanbul department store (generally patronized by Turkish customers), which left 13 dead; placement of a pipe bomb near a Burger King in Istanbul, which was defused in time; a suicide bomber who took her own life while attempting to attack a police bus in Istanbul's Taksim Square; and a bomb placed under a truck in Istanbul. In early summer 1999, Turkish police thwarted an attack planned by the DHKP/C (formerly known as Dev-Sol) on the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, and defused a pipe bomb outside a popular nightclub in Istanbul's Taksim area. Due to PKK bombings on local intercity buses, travelers may be subject to security baggage screening by the Turkish national police. Some terrorist groups have also targeted the personnel and property of organizations with official and commercial ties to the United States. American citizens visiting or residing in Turkey should carefully consider security precautions and whether to avoid places where large crowds congregate.

EASTERN PROVINCES: The PKK remains active in certain parts of southeastern Turkey, and travel to that region should only be undertaken with care and planning. The following provinces have been under a state of emergency since 1978: Van, Hakkari, Sirnak, Tunceli, Diyarbakir and Stirt. The following additional areas are considered "sensitive areas" or one level below state-of-emergency status: Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, and Bitlis. The provinces in Adana, Adiyaman, Antakya (Hatay), Elazig, Gaiantep, Kahraman Maras, Kilis, Malatya, Icel, Osmaniye and Sanliufra are not under a heightened state of alert. Mount Ararat is a special military zone and access is prohibited. In light of these security conditions, the U.S. military has advised its personnel to avoid all those regions under a heightened state of alert (both state of emergency and "sensitive status" provinces). U.S. Embassy and Consulate personnel travel to provinces under the state of emergency only for U.S. Government business.

During the summer of 1998, several incidents of terrorist activity were carried out by the PKK in the provinces under state of emergency. Turkish Hizballah, the Turkish Workers' and Peasants' Liberation Army (TIKKO) and rural elements of the DHKP/C group, formerly known as Dev- Sol, have carried out isolated actions in the following provinces: Agri, Amasya, Tokat, Sivas, Van, Trabzon and Rize. These attacks are directed not only against Turkish police and military installations, but also against civilian targets, including public ground transportation. While most attacks have been at night, daytime attacks have increased in the past year.

In August 1998, police thwarted a suicide bomb attack with the arrest of a would-be bomber in Adana. In July 1999, a suicide bomber attacked a police station in Adana, killing herself and wounding 17 people. In the past, the PKK has kidnapped foreigners in eastern Turkey to generate media attention for its separatist cause. A number of foreigners, including Americans, have been detained by the PKK and subsequently released.

Visitors to any part of the southeast are advised to travel only during daylight hours, and only on major highways. Travelers are cautioned not to accept letters, parcels or other items from strangers for delivery either in or outside Turkey. The PKK has attempted to use foreigners to deliver messages and packages. If discovered, individuals could be arrested for aiding and abetting the PKK, which is a serious charge.

A "Southeastern Turkey Briefing" is available on the Embassy Ankara website under "Security Matters" at www.usis-ankara.org.tr.

CRIME INFORMATION: Street crime is not a major concern in Turkey. However, as in other large metropolitan areas throughout the world, there is some crime against tourists, particularly in Istanbul, including pickpocketing, purse snatching and mugging. In 1998, more than a dozen American, Canadian and European tourists were robbed by English or French-speaking foreigners, who identified themselves as Tunisian, Moroccan, and Romanian. These persons befriended the tourists and then drugged them, using tea, juice, alcohol, or food. We have been informed that the two most common drugs are nembitol, known on the street as "sari bombasi" ("the yellow bomb") and benzodiazepine. In one case, an American died from the effects of the drug that had been intended to put him to sleep.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad" is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. The website is http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs. It provides useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad. An "Istanbul Street Crime Briefing" is available on the U.S. Embassy Ankara's website at http://www.usis-ankara.org.tr or from the Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov/turkey.html.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are available, but may be limited outside urban areas. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Uninsured travelers, who require medical care overseas, may face extreme difficulties. Travelers have found that supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including air evacuation, has proved useful. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Reported cases of cholera and other water- borne diseases in metropolitan Istanbul decreased in 1998. In the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, there are recurring outbreaks of dysentery, typhoid fever, meningitis and other contagious diseases.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers tel. 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), fax 1-800- CDC-FAXX (1-800-232-3299), or via their Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Turkey is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Roads in Turkey run the full spectrum from single lane country roads to modern, divided, trans-European motorways built to European standards. Highways in the southwestern, coastal portion of the country, which is frequented by tourists, are generally in good condition and well maintained. Further information is available on the Embassy's website, under "Driver Safety".

For specific information concerning Turkey's driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Turkish Tourism and Information Office in New York via the Internet at www.Turkey.org/Turkey, or write to 821 United Nations Plaza, New York, N.Y. 10017, tel. 212/687-2194, 687-2195, fax 212/599-7568.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Turkey's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Turkey's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at tel. 1-703-697-7288.

Domestic Turkish Airlines (THY) flights were hijacked in February and September 1998 by unstable individuals who each falsely claimed to have a bomb or weapon. Both incidents were successfully resolved without injury. Neither represented a breach of airport security. A THY flight was hijacked in October 1998. Turkish authorities successfully ended the hijacking with no injury to passengers or crew.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Unauthorized purchase or removal from Turkey of antiquities or other important cultural artifacts is strictly forbidden. Violation of this law may result in imprisonment. At the time of departure, travelers who purchase such items may be asked to present a receipt from the seller as well as the official museum export certificate required by law. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Turkey in Washington, D.C. or one of Turkey's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Turkey's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Turkey are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Y2K INFORMATION: U.S. citizens contemplating traveling or residing abroad in late 1999 or early 2000 should be aware of potential difficulties. They may wish to consider taking practical precautions against possible disruptions of services triggered by the Y2K computer phenomenon. Please monitor the home page of the Bureau of Consular Affairs for updates on Y2K issues at http://travel.state.gov/y2kca.html.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736- 7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living in or visiting Turkey are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey and obtain updated information on travel and security within Turkey.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara is located at 110 Ataturk Boulevard, tel. (90)(312)468-6110; the recorded American citizen and visa information is available on extension 2545; fax (90)(312)467-0019. The Internet address is http://www.usis-ankara.org.tr.

The U.S. Consulate in Istanbul is located at 104-108 Mesrutiyet Caddesi, Tepebasi, tel. (90)(212)251-3602, fax (90)(212)252-7851. Istanbul- specific information can also be accessed via the Consulate's website at www.usisist.org.tr.

The U.S. Consulate in Adana is located at the corner of Vali Yolu and Ataturk Caddesi, tel. (90)(322)453-9106, fax (90)(322)457-6591.

The U.S. Consular Agent in Izmir is located at Kazim Dirik Caddesi 13/8, Atabay Is Merkezi, Daire 805, Pasaport, Izmir, 35210, tel. (90)(232)441- 0072/2203, fax (90)(232)441-2373. The Consular Agency hours are 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The office is closed to the public, except for emergencies, on Fridays.

All U.S. Government offices in Turkey are open Monday through Friday, and closed on Turkish and American holidays.

A variety of information on visa procedures, American citizen services, road safety, etc. is also available on the U.S. Embassy's website: www.usis-ankara.org.tr.

* * * *

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated November 17, 1998, to update information on Dual Nationality, Safety/Security (areas of instability and eastern provinces), Medical Facilities, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Customs Regulations (other pertinent information), Criminal Penalties, and Registration/Embassy and Consulate Locations, and to add sections on Medical Insurance, Other Health Information, Y2K Information, and Children's Issues.

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