2017 Turkey

Turkey ranks #1 on the 2017 List of 10 Most Dangerous Countries for Women Travelers due to nearly continual terrorist attacks, a coup that has led to a rather uncertain environment for everyone and continuing harassment of women.  Let’s start with terrorism — in November 2016, there were eight attacks with a combined 22 fatalities, according to the ESRI database.  After an attempted coup in July, 2016, the government imposed a state of emergency that was extended on January 4; the Turkish government extended it through April 18, 2017 – an additional 90 days.

Rating:  Very Dangerous and Obnoxious

Terrorism is not Turkey’s only problem, either.  Turkey has fallen to 145 on the Global Peace Index (down seven slots) partly due to heightened conflict with its Kurdish population and deteriorated relations with Russia.  Additionally, after an alleged coup, President Erdogan has instituted destabilizing policies that have created unrest.

The US issued a travel warning on Turkey on January, 25, 2017 advising travelers to ‘carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time’ due to persistent threats of terrorism due to steady attacks in 2016.  Already in 2017, there was a mass shooting on January 1st in an Istanbul nightclub that killed 39, (including 15 foreigners), as well as an earlier bombing at a soccer stadium on December 10, 2016.  The US is concerned that attacks will occur at major tourist sites, major events, nightclubs, restaurants, etc. where tourists typically go.

The embassy directive from October 2016 that required US families of embassy staff to depart temporarily is still in effect (April 2017) and embassy staff has restrictions on travel to avoid the southeastern provinces and to avoid large urban centers near the Turkey/Syrian border. The embassy cautions those who do go to Turkey to avoid large crowds, any political demonstrations, the Turkish/Syrian border; stay at hotels with good security, and follow local media.

Likewise, the UK (FCO) advises against all travel to within 10 km of the border with Syria and to the city of Diyarbakir. It also advises against all but essential travel to:  the remaining areas of Sirnak, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Diyarbakir, Kilis and Hatay provinces; the provinces of Siirt, Tunceli and Hakkari.

The FCO notes a high threat from terrorism from a variety of terrorist groups, including Kurdish groups, Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) and far left organizations and warn that further attacks are likely and could be indiscriminate.

There is a heightened risk of terrorist attack against the aviation industry in Turkey.  Most terrorist attacks have taken place in the south and east of the country and in Ankara and Istanbul.  The FCO warns that attacks are most likely to target the Turkish state, civilians and demonstrations, but it is also likely that some attacks will target western interests and tourists from western countries, particularly in the major cities.

Additionally, President Erdogan continues to make women feel special by expressing opinions such as that women are incomplete if they don’t have children.  Not to mention his view that women are not equal to men. The fact that the President makes sexist remarks on a regular basis might be viewed as merely eccentric if it weren’t for the fact that 40% of Turkish women report sexual violence against them. The only bright spot in the landscape of Turkey is that proposed legislation that would forgive men of child sexual assault if they married the victim, failed after protests by women.

Sexual assault of native women and tourists has reportedly increased since the coup, but there has been a crackdown on women who want to discuss the issue, so it’s hard to get numbers on it.  Unfortunately, for travelers it’s not just the danger of assault, it’s also being harassed, stared at, pinched, and followed because of being female and traveling.  Unless you’re in Istanbul, cover up completely, which means the dress code includes ankle length skirts, long-sleeved shirts, and a head scarf.  Doesn’t that sound like fun in hot weather?

If you want to go to Turkey or must go:  It is best to go with companions, preferably male, to avoid harassment. Reputedly, Ephesus is still fairly safe because it is far enough away from high hazard areas; however this is based on anecdotal travel accounts and the fact that it is not on the to be avoided destinations in most countries’ travel warnings. Ephesus does have great ruins. Be sure to go early and take lots of water due to the heat. By the way, you don’t have to hire the drivers and shouldn’t unless you want to spend most of your time at the shops. Do not buy relics; it’s illegal! Troy also has terrific ruins. Remember, you need an E-Visa now to travel to Turkey!

Conclusion:  Perhaps you are thinking it would be better to go where a woman can travel freely and safely, if so, please refer to our 10 Safest Countries for Women Travelers, Best Countries in Africa, Best Places in Oceania, and Best Countries in South America.

Conclusion:  Perhaps you are thinking it would be better to go where a woman can travel freely and safely, if so, please refer to our 10 Safest Countries for Women Travelers, Best Countries in Africa, and Best Places in Oceania.

Cover Photo Credit: Ozan Kose, Getty Images, via The Telegraph

Description: Flowers laid to commemorate the dead of the New Year’s Day, 2017 attack in Istanbul

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