US upgrades Turkey’s security level in travel advisory for US citizens

US upgrades Turkey’s security level in travel advisory for US citizens

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
US upgrades Turkey’s security level in travel advisory for US citizens

The U.S. State Department on Sept. 5 decreased Turkey’s security threat warning for American travelers from a Level 3 to Level 2.

“This change puts Turkey in a similar category with other major European countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom,” a U.S. Embassy spokesperson in Ankara told Hürriyet Daily News on Sept. 6.

The spokesperson said the upgrade was “based on our evaluation of the improving security situation in Turkey for U.S. travelers.”

Despite the overall improvement, the country’s southeast region remains at Level 3, and the areas sharing a border Syria and Iraq are still at Level 4.

The advisory warned U.S. citizens visit regions close to Turkey’s border with Iraq and Syria because of the “terrorism” risk.

“Do not travel near the Turkey/Syria and Turkey/Iraq borders due to the continued threat of attacks by terrorist groups, armed conflict and civil unrest. Terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, ambushes, car bomb detonations and improvised explosive devices, as well as shootings, and illegal roadblocks leading to violence have occurred in these areas,” said the advisory.

The statement advised U.S. travelers to “reconsider” visiting to specific areas in eastern and southeastern Turkey where the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. These areas are the provinces of Batman, Bingol, Bitlis, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Hakkari, Hatay, Kilis, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Siirt, Sirnak, Tunceli and Van.

The advisory noted that terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Turkey. 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, said the statement, noting that terrorists have also previously targeted Western tourists and expatriates.

“Security forces have detained tens of thousands of individuals, including U.S. citizens, for alleged affiliations with 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 demonstrations not explicitly approved by the Government of Turkey, as well as criticism of the government, including on social media, can result in arrest,” the advisory also said.