US Embassy in Turkey warns its citizens on Nevruz, updates travel warning
ANKARAThe U.S. Embassy in Ankara has warned its citizens over the upcoming Nevruz celebrations in the country, citing increasing terrorist attacks and threats in Turkey.
“[The] U.S. Embassy Ankara informs U.S. citizens that in light of recent events and the upcoming Nevruz holidays, citizens should be mindful of their security precautions. Nevruz celebrations are anticipated in various locations throughout Turkey on March 17-21. Local authorities have banned large gatherings during select dates over the Nevruz period citing security concerns. Celebrations in Ankara, Istanbul, [the Aegean province of] İzmir, and [the southern province of] Adana are expected to take place Sunday, March 20. The celebration in [the southeastern province of] Diyarbakır, traditionally the site of the largest Nevruz festivities, is currently scheduled for March 21. The entire period is expected to see festivities that could be large and/or spontaneous,” the U.S. Embassy said in its security message for U.S. citizens which was posted on the official website of the embassy on March 17, days after a suicide car bomb ripped through Kızılay Square in central Ankara on March 13, killing at least 35 people and wounding 125, in the latest deadly attack to hit Turkey.
“Nevruz has political as well as social connotations, and in some recent years has been a flashpoint for spontaneous demonstrations. Demonstrations and large events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. We advise U.S. citizens to continue to avoid political gatherings, protests, and demonstrations and to exercise caution if you are in the vicinity. Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings and local events, monitor local news stations for updates, and follow local authority instructions,” the embassy said. “The U.S. Embassy also reminds individuals that terrorist organizations have targeted transportation hubs, Turkish government facilities, and public spaces in the recent past,” it noted.
The Diyarbakır Governor’s Office approved a Nevruz celebration in the city on March 17, while celebrations planned in other provinces in the country’s east and southeast were banned due to security reasons.
Nevruz celebrations have been banned in many provinces amid security forces’ operations against militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the country’s eastern and southeastern region including Erzurum, Erzincan, Muş, Batman, Bingöl, Tunceli, Şırnak, Kars, Hakkari and Mardin.
In the Turkish capital Ankara, Nevruz celebrations have been also banned between March 19 and March 21.
The Istanbul Governor’s Office also did not approve the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) event registration for Nevruz celebrations in Istanbul on March 16.
Nevruz marks the first day of spring and is celebrated across much of central Asia on March 21.
The U.S. Embassy also updated its travel warning on March 17.
“The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey. Due to threats from international and indigenous groups, U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling throughout the country,” the Embassy said.
“Travel restrictions remain in place for U.S. government employees to southeastern Turkey for the provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Şırnak, Diyarbakır, Van, Siirt, Muş, Mardin, Batman, Bingöl, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazığ. Additionally, the following neighborhoods in Adana: Şakirpaşa, Gülbahçesi, Dağlioğlu, Barbaros, Anadolu, Ondokuzmayıs,” it said.
The March 13 attack was the third to strike Ankara in five months, in an area close to the prime minister’s office, parliament and foreign embassies, as Turkey grapples with twin security threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the PKK.