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State Department: Turkey - Consular Information Sheet, October 24, 1996

Turkey - Consular Information Sheet
October 24, 1996

Country Description: Turkey is a moderately developed nation with extensive tourist facilities of all classes in the main tourist destinations.

Entry Requirements: A passport and visa are required. For further information, travelers in the U.S. may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey at 1714 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, tel: (202) 659-8200, or the nearest Turkish consulate in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, or New York. Overseas, travelers may contact the nearest Turkish embassy or consulate.

Areas of Instability: For years, urban and rural acts of terrorism throughout Turkey have caused loss of life and injury to government officials and civilians, including some foreign tourists. While most incidents have occurred in Eastern Turkey, one terrorist group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has targeted tourist sites and tourist-oriented facilities in western Turkey in an effort to inflict economic harm on Turkey. In 1994, PKK bomb attacks at some of Istanbul's most popular tourist attractions, including St. Sophia and the Covered Bazaar, resulted in the death of two foreign tourists. In July 1995, a leftist youth group took control of the Galata Tower restaurant in Istanbul which was occupied by a number of foreign tourists, including three Americans. All were released unharmed after a brief time. In August 1995, several bombings in Istanbul resulted in two deaths and 36 injuries.

Intermittent terrorist bombings have also occurred elsewhere, including Ankara, causing loss of life and damage to property, and PKK leaders have threatened suicide attacks. The first confirmed instance of such an attack was the June 1996 bombing in Tunceli Province which killed nine and wounded 35 Turkish soldiers. 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.

Eastern Provinces: With the exception of the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts, travel to southeastern Turkey is hazardous. Terrorist acts by the PKK continue throughout the eastern provinces. These attacks are not only against Turkish police and military installations, but also against civilian targets, including public ground transportation. While most attacks have been at night, day-time attacks are increasingly frequent. Since 1984, 22,000 Turkish civilians and security personnel reportedly have been killed in terrorist attacks. The PKK has kidnapped foreigners in eastern Turkey to generate media attention for their separatist cause. A number of foreigners, including Americans, have been held by the PKK and eventually released. In 1995, Mount Ararat was declared a special military zone and access is now prohibited. In light of the dangerous security conditions for travelers in eastern Turkey, the U.S. military has advised its personnel to avoid all tourist travel to this region. U.S. Embassy and Consulate personnel travel to eastern Turkey only for essential U.S. government business. The following provinces in the southeastern part of the country have been under a state of emergency since 1978: Van, Hakkari, Sirnak, Batman, Tunceli, Diyarbakir, Siirt, Bitlis, Bingol, and Mardin. The provinces of Elazig and Mus are considered "sensitive areas" and are designated one level below state of emergency status. Travelers are cautioned not to accept letters, parcels or other items from strangers for delivery to the above areas. The same advice applies to requests to take items out. There are indications that the PKK terrorist group has attempted to use foreigners for this purpose. If discovered, individuals could be arrested for aiding and abetting the PKK - a serious charge.

Medical Information: Medical facilities are available, but may be limited outside urban areas. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. The reported number of cases of cholera and other water-borne diseases in the metropolitan Istanbul area has decreased. In the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, there are recurring outbreaks of dysentery, typhoid fever, meningitis and other contagious diseases. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Travelers have found that in some cases, supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage has proven to be useful. Further information on health matters can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers' hotline at (404) 332-4559 or by visiting the CDC Home Page on the Internet,

Crime Information: As in other large metropolitan areas throughout the world, there is some crime against tourists, including pickpocketing, purse snatching and mugging. In Istanbul, some tourists have been robbed by English or French-speaking foreigners who first befriend them, then drug them using tea, juice, alcohol, or food. 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. It provides useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad.

Public Safety: Travel by road in Turkey can be hazardous since local drivers do not always obey traffic rules or take appropriate safety measures, such as using headlights at the onset of darkness. Turkey has a very high rate of accident fatalities and injuries to pedestrians. It is imperative to drive defensively and to avoid driving at night, especially in rural areas. Driving conditions off the main highways and in remote areas are particularly dangerous. In the eastern provinces, the incidence of terrorism and military countermeasures pose additional risks for road travelers. Turkish authorities expect travelers to cooperate with travel restrictions, security check points, and other security measures. The U.S. Embassy has a Turkey-specific driver safety briefing available on request.

Dual Nationality: U.S. citizens who are also considered to be Turkish citizens may be subject to compulsory military service and other aspects of Turkish law while in Turkey. Those who may be affected should inquire at a Turkish embassy or consulate to determine status prior to traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. government efforts to provide protection abroad.

Drug Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. In Turkey, the penalties for possession, use, and dealing in illegal drugs are extremely strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

Other Pertinent Information: 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.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As a result of an assessment conducted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in March 1995, the FAA found the government of Turkey's Civil Aviation Authority to not be in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Turkish air carrier operations. While consultations to correct those deficiencies are ongoing, Turkish air carriers are permitted to conduct limited operations to the United States, subject to heightened FAA surveillance. The FAA is not providing heightened surveillance for Turkish air carriers' operations to destinations other than the United States. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation at 1-800-322-7873.

Registration/Embassy and Consulate Location: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy or one of the U.S. consulates and obtain updated information on travel and security in Turkey.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara is located at 110 Ataturk Boulevard, telephone (90)-(312) 468-6110.

The U.S. Consulate in Istanbul is located at 104-108 Mesrutiyet Caddesi, Tepebasl, telephone (90)-(212) 251-3602.

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

There is a Consular Agent in Izmir at the Turkish American Association, Sehit Nevres Boulevard, No. 23, Alsancak, telephone (90)-(232) 421-3643/3644.

No. 96-180

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated November 24, 1995, to update information on areas of instability, eastern provinces, public safety, and aviation oversight.

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Wednesday, 30 October 1996