Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Ankara does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ANKARA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Turkey-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
There was an increase in crime levels from the 2016 reporting year; much of this rise is accredited to an increase in the Syrian refugee population in Ankara. The vast majority of crime (robbery, burglary, vehicle theft/burglary) in Ankara occurs among Turkish citizens. Although violent crimes (sexual assault, rape, murder) do occur, they are infrequent/unreported, and they have not had an impact on the U.S. Embassy community in Ankara. Crime statistics provided by the Turkish National Police (TNP) for the Ankara province for 2016 are: burglary (6,313), robbery (3,644), vehicle break-in (5,132), vehicle theft (3,347), and homicide (238).
The RSO received one report of an Embassy personnel being a victim of a crime in 2016; the individual’s vehicle was broken into while parked at a shopping mall. The Embassy’s American Citizen Services (ACS) unit documented 20 instances of crimes reported by U.S. citizens in the Ankara Consular District. Some of these may have been dual nationals and/or residents of Turkey. The crimes reported included: 10 stolen passports, 1 sexual assault, 6 cases of domestic violence, 1 murder, and 2 hate crimes committed against members of the LGBTI community.
There have been reports about the use of sedatives throughout Turkey in sexual assaults by spa employees (masseurs) in private spas and hotels.
U.S. citizens sometimes report a particular kind of confidence game in Turkey, mainly in Istanbul, that targets lone, male tourists. The con induces unsuspecting men to patronize certain establishments where the costs for food and beverages are hyper-inflated. An inside person, usually another unassuming male, will befriend a target and invite him to visit a bar that he knows. Once at the bar, drinks are brought to the table, and the target is usually joined by one or more females and others who work there. The target is unaware of the costs of food and drinks that are either ordered or simply delivered until the bill arrives. Since the prices are not clearly marked in menus, patrons generally have little recourse but to pay the final bill, no matter how outrageously high. Those who refuse to pay are intimidated and sometimes forcibly taken to an ATM to withdraw money. When dining out, patronize well-established restaurants, and when off the beaten path, always ask to see a menu before ordering.
There have been several reports in 2016 of financial Internet scams victimizing U.S. citizens who transfer sums of money to a supposed friend in Turkey. These scams include fraudulent awarding of diversity (lottery) visas, fronts for Internet dating/romances, and scams about purchasing pets. There has been an increase in cases of foreigners establishing contact with U.S. citizens online and over several months building a romantic interest. After purporting to run into an accident, arrest, travel emergency, intention to visit, or other situation, they request funds. Be very careful about suspicious requests for deposits and various types of registration fees. The State Department’s International Scams webpage has a section detailing some of the more common scams.
Other Areas of Concern
For travel into the eastern and southeastern parts of Turkey and borders with Syria, Iran, and Iraq, extra security precautions should be taken. U.S. government employees need prior approval before traveling to these areas.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Road safety continues to be an issue, and driving can be a challenge. Although the Turkish government is attempting to enforce traffic laws through the use of automated, camera-based traffic fines, drivers are renowned for their antagonistic driving and frequent disregard for basic traffic regulations. Rain/snow exacerbates the aggressive driving problem with slippery road conditions, which are aggravated by driver overconfidence and the use of marble supplementing street surface aggregate. During snow storms, main arteries are typically salted and maintained, but side roads can be impassible. Commercial vehicles are required by law to use winter tires.
Public Transportation Conditions
Taxis are prevalent and relatively inexpensive. Drivers are generally honest; however, most do not speak English. Licensed cabs are metered, so negotiation is generally not required. Drivers do not carry a large amount of change and do not expect a tip, but they will routinely round the fare up to the closest whole number.
Ankara’s airport is modern and located about 35 minutes from the city center. Airport security is not always to U.S. standards, but it includes three levels of screening, and there are limitations on the entrances to terminals. The first checkpoint is at the airport’s perimeter where vehicles are randomly screened by either the National Police (TNP) or the Jandarma. The second screening areas are at the entrances to the departure and arrival halls. The third screening area is at the entrance to the departures lounge. On July 15, 2016, a failed military coup led to a temporary fourth passenger screening area, inside the departure lounge just beyond the security screening, where TNP officers checked passenger identification against a list of conspirators. This additional screening still occurs on a random basis.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ANKARA AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There have been violent attacks in Turkey (including against the U.S. Embassy in 2013 and against the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul in 2015). Threats to U.S. citizens and interests from both transnational and indigenous groups remain high. Domestic and transnational terrorist groups have targeted Turkish nationals and foreigners for more than 40 years. Terrorist groups include: Kurdish separatists, Marxist-Leninists, pro-Chechens, and al-Qa’ida and affiliates. Since July 2015, ISIS has conducted a number of suicide attacks. A majority of actual and thwarted attacks were conducted by radicalized Turkish nationals belonging to domestic groups and ISIS.
Turkey shares porous borders with Syria and Iraq and has a contiguous land border with mainland Europe. This had provided almost unrestricted movement and access for foreign terrorist fighters to transit into/out of theaters of operation. Extremist groups and affiliates are in Turkey and have access to a supply of weapons and explosives from Syria and cached in Turkey, enhancing the potential for attacks targeting U.S. and Western interests.
On December 20, 2016, a lone gunman, while shouting anti-U.S. slogans, discharged a shotgun on the street in front of the U.S. Embassy. TNP determined the gunman had a history of mental illness.
- On December 19, 2016, the Russian Ambassador was assassinated at an art gallery in Ankara by an off-duty police officer. It is unknown whether the assassin had any terrorist affiliations.
Both indigenous and international terrorist groups operate in Turkey. The majority of attacks in 2016 occurred in the southeast, targeting TNP and government institutions. Attacks have also occurred in Ankara and Istanbul, some which were near tourist areas. The majority of the attacks were committed by Turkey’s most active indigenous terror group: the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (also known as Kongra Gel, KGK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, PKK) and its affiliate the Kurdish Freedom Falcons (TAK). The PKK is the most active terrorist organization in Turkey. It almost exclusively targets the Turkish government and security forces, although the possibility of collateral damage to U.S. or Western personnel cannot be ignored. The U.S. government has designated the PKK and its splinter group, the TAK, to be foreign terrorist organizations. The PKK’s terrorist acts over the last three decades have resulted in more than 40,000 deaths. In 2015, a two-year ceasefire between the government and the PKK broke down. This resulted in the PKK resuming attacks, primarily in the southeast, and a sharp increase in Turkish military action against the group in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq. Terrorism and violence emanating from other sources remain steady or are on the rise.
- On October 8, 2016, two suicide bombers detonated during a raid by TNP in southern Ankara. The bombers were believed to be linked to the PKK.
- On March 13, 2016, the PKK conducted a VBIED attack at a bus embarkation point in Kizilay. At least 37 people were killed and 125 injured.
- On February 17, 2016, the PKK conducted a VBIED attack during the evening rush hour on a convoy of shuttles carrying civilian and military personnel working at the military headquarters. At least 30 people were killed and 60 injured.
The Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), in contrast, attacks U.S. targets as well as Turkish government interests.
- On February 1, 2013, a DHKP/C suicide bomber attacked the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, killing a security guard and causing structural damage to part of the compound.
- An August 2015 shooting attack against the TNP booth at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul resulted in minor damage to the Consulate’s perimeter wall and the apprehension of one DHKP/C attacker.
While DHKP/C has pledged to continue its attacks on U.S., NATO, and Turkish targets, Turkish law enforcement actions have weakened the organization, but it remains capable of operations.
Since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, anti-American rhetoric, already a feature of many Turkish media outlets, has become more pronounced. However, heightened anti-American sentiment has not manifested in violent demonstrations and/or the targeting of U.S. official or private sector interests.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ANKARA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Turkey’s political stability was challenged during the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Despite Turkey remaining politically divided with some support remaining for the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the end result coup demonstrated that most Turks want a civilian government. Several thousand members of the military and police services were purged, but when reviewed within the overall context of the size of Turkey’s security forces, these purges have not degraded their readiness or effectiveness – especially in the realm of counterterrorism.
Turkey’s legislative assembly continues to take steps toward a constitutional referendum to potentially expand the powers of the presidency. A popular vote to decide on Turkey’s system of government is scheduled to take place in April 2017, and violent protests remain a possibility.
Since the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, Turkey has enacted legislation to inflict harsher punishment for illegal/violent protests. Covering one’s face during a protest can result in a prison sentence of up to 25 years. Since the failed coup, Turkey has been under a state of emergency, allowing security forces to hold someone without charge for up to 30 days.
Turkey remains tolerant of its religious and ethnic minorities and, in Istanbul and Ankara, provides increased levels of security support around non-Sunni Islamic places of worship (churches, synagogues, Alevi mosques), as these locations remain locations of concern related to ISIS operations.
Especially in the immediate aftermath of an attack perpetrated by Kurdish terrorist groups, widespread ultra-nationalist sentiment can manifests in violent attacks against Kurdish businesses, restaurants, and/or neighborhoods.
Turkey is in an earthquake prone region.
- On October 23, 2011, a 7.2 earthquake occurred in Van province; more than 600 people were killed, and thousands more were injured.
Many buildings are not built to Western seismic standards. Visitors should be cognizant of hardened cover in the case of a seismic event.
Some counterfeiting of luxury items does occur in certain areas of Turkey. Do not buy counterfeit/pirated goods. Not only are bootleg copies illegal to bring into the U.S., purchasing them is against local law.
Personal Identity Concerns
Although Turkey’s laws generally protect individual rights and liberties, and some elements of society are open-minded, visitors should avoid drawing unnecessary attention to themselves in public settings. There have been instances of intolerant reactions to some lifestyles (same-sex marriages). Other groups have protested elements of U.S. foreign policy (Middle East).
Turkey is a transit country for a substantial amount of illegal drugs from Central Asia and Afghanistan. The PKK is engaged in trafficking and marketing of drugs. The PKK has an established infrastructure and network to produce, transport, and traffic opiates and cannabis throughout Europe. Moreover, material evidence and intelligence sources have shown that the PKK is also engaged in laundering money from human/drug trafficking. The Turkish government believes that there should be a unified front in the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism, as the illegal proceeds generated from the illicit drug trade directly support terrorist organizations.
ISIS has specifically threatened to target American citizens and Westerners for abduction. American citizens are advised to be aware of their surroundings, avoid large crowds, tourist areas, and places where Westerners congregate.
The Turkish National Police is a professional police force generally responsive to crimes committed against foreigners. Although only some police officers speak English, operators will generally try to locate an English speaker in an emergency.
Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code makes it illegal to insult the Turkish state, Turkish ethnicity, Turkish government institutions, the founder of modern-day Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, or the Turkish President. Penalties include fines and imprisonment for up to two years. Foreigners are not exempt.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
If you are a U.S. citizen and are detained or harassed by the police, contact American Citizen Services at +90-312-455-5555 or via email at Ankara-ACS@state.gov.
Crime Victim Assistance
Individuals involved in a traffic accident should call the traffic police at 154.
For more detailed information regarding victim assistance, please refer to the Embassy website.
There are various police/security agencies within the country.
Employing almost 228,000 sworn police officers, the Turkish National Police (TNP) is one of the largest public sector organizations in the country. TNP is the leading law enforcement organization and provides professional police and security services to the general public.
The Gendarmerie is a para-military police force, providing law enforcement services outside of major cities and in rural parts of Turkey. They can be reached by dialing 156.
The emergency number for medical services is 112.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
High quality medical service is available at several hospitals in Ankara. For a complete list, refer to a list on the Embassy website.
Available Air Ambulance Services
London Medevac Centre
** Coordinate care thru London HU **; RMO London: Dr. Mark Cohen, MD
O: +44-20-7894-0506; C: +44-315-664-6275; E: CohenMJ@state.gov
REGA Air Ambulance Service
CH-8058, Zurich, Switzerland
24/7 O: +41-333-333-333;
Ops O: +41-58-654-3980;
Admin O: +41-44-654-3311;
Airframe – Challenger CL-604
Red Star Aviation
34912 Kurtkoy, Istanbul, Turkey
Ops O: +90-216-588-0216
F: Fax: +90-216-560-0770
Configs: Jetstream Super 32, Learjet 45; on-board medical crew
O: +44-208-762-8133 x1
F: +44-20-8762-8125; E: TricareTLN.top@InternationalSOS.com
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Visitors should only drink bottled water and not from the public water supply. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “I’m Drinking What in My Water?.”
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Turkey.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is currently no active Country Council in Ankara. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Ankara or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Ankara
110 Atatürk Boulevard, 06100, Kavaklidere
Working Hours: 0830-1730 (closed on American and Turkish holidays)
Embassy Contact Numbers
Telephone: (90) (312) 455-5555
Emergency after-hours telephone: (90) (312) 455-5555
RSO Turkey: (90) (312) 457-7014
Marine Security Guard Post One: (90) (312) 457-7221
Consulate Adana: http://adana.usconsulate.gov/
Consular Agency Izmir: Izmir@state.gov
Consulate General Istanbul: http://istanbul.usconsulate.gov/
U.S. citizens should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure that they receive security messages and notices from the U.S. Embassy. Registration allows the Embassy or Consulate to more easily locate U.S. citizens in the case of an emergency.
Turkey Country Information Sheet