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Despite FCO advice, Turkey isn't safe right now
Posted on 20/07/2016


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As the UK Foreign Office continues to advise that travel to Turkey is safe, reports from Istanbul and other cities across the country tell a frighteningly different story.

"The situation in Turkey appears to be calming following an attempted coup overnight on 15-16 July." These words were taken straight from the UK Foreign Office's travel advice page for Turkey, as thousands of Brits with holidays already booked decide whether or not to travel to the country.

Vigilance advised

Vigilance advised

The UK is far from alone in showing little reaction to the attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government. In fact, countries all over Europe - Germany, Italy, France and Spain included - have made little changes to their travel advice.

They collectively advise that flights are returning to normal and that, in Istanbul and Ankara, it is enough to "avoid public places and stay well away from any demonstrations." Take this advice verbatim and plenty could be persuaded that Turkey is relatively safe.

But listen to the reports that are slowly leaking out from the Turkish capital and its second city, and the picture that begins to take shape is one of chaos.

The media so far talks of 6,000 soliders arrested, 85 admirals and general jailed pending trial, judges fired, 21,000 teacher licenses revoked, the resignation of university deans demanded and a total of 49,337 public sector workers having lost their jobs since Friday's coup. This, in itself, is cause enough for concern.

Dig deeper and the messages filtering out of Istanbul tell of a city bitterly and bloodily divided. Hotels raided, government officials shot and, on the streets, supporters of Erdogan's AKP party driving around in cars harassing 'western-looking people'.

They talk of 'covered' women riding in these cars, shouting insults at uncovered women. They talk of police stopping people on the streets to check their messages on social media and arresting dissenters and non-Turkish citizens. They talk of being afraid to step outside their own front door.

Zero tolerance

Back here, we saw soldiers stationed on the Bosphorus bridge surrendering to security forces. What we didn't see was the whippings and beheadings that followed, of soldiers who weren't even aware that they were participating in a coup. Who were the lowest-ranking soldiers, on obligatory military service, told that it was a drill and commanded to follow orders.

As the Foreign Office advises vigilance, the situation on the ground is no longer tolerant. 'If you're not one of them, they'll destroy you,' says one, whilst others talk of murder threats and a country now run by those who 'want to get rid of us'.

The resorts, says the Foreign Office, have so far been unaffected. But even here, the security situation is "potentially volatile". We are looking at a country on the brink of war with itself and doing very little to protect ourselves.


Is it still safe to travel to Turkey?