Wars A brief overview of political violence in Turkey and Kurdistan.
Personalities Some information on powerful (or interesting) people in the region.
Travel An alternative Guide to Turkey.
Media Links Links to political sites about Turkey and Kurdistan.
Political Links Some on-line media about Turkey and Kurdistan
Peoples & Creeds Some information about the ethnic groups in Turkey, where they live, their languages and their religious practices.Articles and Reports
Links to official reports on Human Rights, travel advisories and articles.E-mail the Author
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A Political Tour Guide to Turkey
Over three million holiday makers a year come to Turkey, almost all of them to enjoy the bright sun, splendid clear waters and the treasures of antiquity. Few are even aware of what is in the interior, much less the seething discontent in the land. These pages are to provide the more adventurous traveller with information about what is going on now, where and why. Those who are not in the mood for adventure go here .
Outside of the heavily touristed areas especially East of Ankara communications become difficult; the roads deteriorate, the quality of transport (and driving) drops, and fewer and fewer people speak any European languages. In some areas few people will speak Turkish. Travelling around out in the bush in Anatolia requires a lot of patience, endurance and flexibility.
Knowing at least some Turkish will make your life a lot easier; not only will it make it easier to get information, it will also open many doors. Anatolian hospitality is justifiably famous, and as a foreigner you will be an item of considerable interest. This may lead to invitations to go on journeys, stay with people at their homes or perhaps just an offer of tea. Take these invitations. The only risk you will run is overeating.
Away from the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts, Turkey becomes a very different country. A common cliché is that Turkey is really seven countries: Thrace, the Aegean coast, the Mediterranean Coast, the Black Sea, Inner Anatolia, the East and the Southeast. These seven divisions are undoubtably too few. Nevertheless I will use these divisions as the basic organising principle of this guide. To do otherwise would lead to confusion.
In Anatolia especially away from areas of tourist contamination you are almost entirely safe from crime. In Sultanahmet (Istanbul) and the touristed areas of the Aegean and Mediterranean it pays to take care. Anyone who comes up to you and says "Hello my friend!" isn't. Most likely he will just try and flog you a carpet, but cases of harassment (sexual or otherwise) are common, especially in Sultanahmet, Kusadasi, Bodrum, Marmaris, Antalya, Selcuk, Side and Alanya. In general the worst places are on the Medierranean coast and Sultanahmet in Istanbul. These people are almost never a real threat; they are primarily nuisances, and normal Turks have no time for them.
When faced with a pest, do not be afraid to be rude. This generally works if you are emphatic enough. If someone touches you in an irritating manner, give them a good solid push and shout loudly. It may be necessary to give street kids selling packets of tissues a swift kick in the pants to move them on. I have heard many reports of women being harassed in these tourist areas. This does not really happen elsewhere. There is a sort of female tourist who comes to Turkey especially to have sex with Turkish men, and the stories have got around the beaches that all foreign women are whores.
If you are worried about this, there are some simple precautions you can take, precautions which will not diminish your ability to enjoy your holiday. First look at how Turkish women behave in public. Note how they dress, how they walk. Stand straight, don't stoop. While there is no need whatsoever to cover your hair or wear skirts, do not go around wearing shirts which expose your shoulders or shorts outside of beach areas. Avoid eye contact while walking. Take sure, firm steps, and above all look in control. Don't walk around carrying a water bottle. In other words, do everything you can do to blend in. If you are a woman staying in a room alone, be sure to lock your doors at night. As long as you do not assume that you can act just as you do in your home country you will be a lot better off. If you are ever trully frightened, make a scene and attract as much attention as possible. People will appear from nowhere to come to your aid, like magic. Who needs the cops?
Actually, you will have a lot less to worry about as far as crime goes in Anatolia than in Europe or North America. Most likely the worst thing you will encounter is petty chiselers trying to swindle you. Out it the bush even this is not really much of a worry. If you are lucky, you may go days at a time not having to spend anything if local people take a liking to you. One of the wonders of Anatolia is it is possible to travel here with almost no money at all, if you have nothing against sponging off people who are most likely a lot poorer than you are.
A last warning: avoid dealing with the police. They can't help you and may make thing more complicated for you.
Another point of safety has to do with the ongoing civil wars in the country. In the relevant sections I will do my best to explain what is and has been happening in these regions. You will hear a lot about "terrorism" in Turkey, but this is mostly an Orwellian misuse of the term. Most of the terrorism in Turkey is carried out by the security forces and their underworld associates. This is not to let groups like the PKK off the hook, but there is no likelihood that you will be singled out for attack as a foreigner.
This does not mean that you are safe from being caught in political violence as a bystander. In the past few years in Istanbul there have been numerous bombings by various guerrilla groups (some in Sultanahmet), hundreds of demonstrations which have turned into police riots, and numerous gangland shootings. Out in the Emergency Rule area of the South East and in a few other places, it is advisable to get local information about security conditions on the roads. In some places travel only during daylight hours and only on the main roads is advisable. There are some places, such as Dersim, Hakarri and Sirnak where even visits to the towns may be inadvisable or impossible. In Kurdistan there is a major mine problem. If you do decide to play cowboys and indians, be sure to get a local guide (preferably a Kurd) to take you in and show you around. If you encounter a chanting crowd (especially in Istanbul) make sure you are not between them and the police.
There really are no major health risks for travellers anywhere in Turkey. In Istanbul don't drink the water out of the taps (none of the locals do), but generally speaking, the smaller the town the better the water. Food poisoning is rare. In winter there are epidemics of flu, and these may make you wish you were dead. Also in winter sinus problems are common due to the damp and heavy coal smoke. However, there is really no need to take special precautions.
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