Please note – the views in the following feature are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Safe Travels Magazine. Before travel, we recommend that you always do your own research, read travel advisories and buy appropriate travel insurance.

James Collier at Three Corners Risk Consulting

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James is an expert in travel risk management, security concepts, threat and risk analyses, and training.  He has over 20 years international experience working on corporate, diplomatic and UN security assignments in Africa, Middle East, South America and Asia. James is specialised in protective security and training.

Turkey Security Summary

The security situation in Turkey has been volatile since the resumption of hostilities between the PKK and the Turkish government in the summer of 2015.  This has been exacerbated by the emergence of an Islamic State (IS) presence in Turkey as well as the attempted coup on July 15th 2016.  On January 3rd  2017 the parliament extended the state of emergency for a further three months.

The threat from terrorism should be regarded as high throughout Turkey, especially in major cities such as Istanbul and Ankara.  In addition there have been attacks in the popular tourist areas of Antalya and Adana.  Regular incidents occur in the predominantly Kurdish south eastern provinces.

IS attacks have been directed against foreigners as seen in the Atatürk Airport attack, the suicide bombings in Istanbul near the Blue Mosque and on Istikal Street and the Reina Nightclub shooting.  PKK attacks almost exclusively target Police or Military patrols or Government officials or offices, however the urban off-shoot of the PKK known as the Kurdish Freedom Falcons (TAK) has been responsible for a number of suicide bomb attacks which have caused significant civilian casualties.  The assassination of the Russian Ambassador by an off-duty policeman has raised many questions and has not been clearly attributed to any group.

Since the beginning of the year there has been a marked increase in police and military operations in many provinces, including “Güven ve Huzur” (Security & Peace) crackdowns where areas are flooded with Police and Jandarma and intensive checkpoints and searches are conducted.  In some locations curfews are also imposed.  In a January statement the Interior Minister predicted the PKK will “face destruction” after April.  This potentially implies a further significant expansion of security forces operations to come.

April also sees the referendum on the constitution amendment which would award the President significant autonomous power.  This could well be contentious despite the crackdown on many opposition figures including journalists, academics and members of the judiciary, in addition to the thousands of military and police personnel who have been detained due to alleged involvement in the coup attempt.  Opposition demonstrations could face robust police responses and could turn violent, as occurred in the Gezi Park protests in 2013.

Travellers to Turkey should have a robust travel risk management plan in place including pre-booking of airport transfers.

  • Any rallies or gatherings should be avoided.
  • If out and about, maintain a low profile and remain aware of your surroundings.
  • Obtain local advice on how to act at police checkpoints.
  • Ensure the emergency numbers of your Embassy or Consulate and any other security assistance contacts are pre-programmed into your phone.
  • Identify safe havens in advance and ensure you are familiar with all emergency exits wherever you go.
  • Training in how to respond in the event of an attack in your vicinity or immediate area should be considered.

Response drills, such as “Run-Hide-Fight!”  from the US FBI or the UK Government’s “Run-Hide-Tell” provide a good basis.

Recent Significant Terrorist Incidents

Date Location Type of Incident Attributed
12 Jan 2016 Istanbul, near Blue Mosque Suicide IED IS
17 Feb 2016  Ankara, Police Convoy VBIED TAK
13 Mar 2016 Ankara, Police Convoy VBIED TAK
19 Mar 2016 Istanbul, Istikal Street Suicide IED IS
28 Jun 2016 Istanbul, Atatürk Airport IED / Firearms IS
14 Oct 2016 Antalya, Marketplace Mortar TAK
24 Nov 2016 Adana, Governor’s building VBIED TAK
10 Dec 2016 Istanbul, Besiktas Stadium VBIED / Suicide IED TAK
01 Jan 2017 Istanbul, Reina Nightclub Shooting IS
05 Jan 2017 Izmir, Judicial housing block IED / Shooting TAK
20 Jan 2017 Istanbul, Police HQ RPG DHKP-C

Significant Dates 2017

15th Feb – Anniversary of the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan, former leader of the PKK.

16th Apr – Constitutional Referendum.

15th Jul – Veteran’s Day and 1st Anniversary of attempted 2016 Coup.

30th Aug – Victory Day.

10th Nov – Atatürk Memorial Day.


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