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OSAC Crime and Safety Report: Istanbul

Europe; Europe > Turkey

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Istanbul is a city of approximately 13 million people spanning two continents. As with any city this size, crime and safety are important concerns. The overwhelming majority of crime is nonviolent in nature. While the threat of terrorism remains high in Istanbul, the most significant threat to safety comes from vehicular accidents.

Political Violence

Istanbul is the home of some sixty different terrorist organizations. A number of them, such as the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and MLKP (Marxist-Leninist Community Party) are anti-western and anti-American as well as being anti-Turkish government. Over the past year, these groups have been active in Istanbul. The DHKP/C is suspected in several bomb attacks against Turkish authorities, while MLKP is believed responsible for a number of shock/sound bombings against political party offices, consulates, and businesses. The Kurdish Worker's Party (AKA: PKK, KADEK) is primarily anti-Turkish Government and, while active in other parts of the country, remains relatively quiet in Istanbul.

Of the terror organizations, radical Islamic groups like al-Qaida pose the most significant threat to Americans and American interests in Istanbul. On 15 November 2003, such a group targeted two synagogues in Istanbul with car bombs. Again, on 20 November 2003, the group used car bombs to strike at the headquarters of HSBC Bank and the British Consulate. A total of 61 deaths and over 750 injuries resulted in the bombings. Despite numerous arrests, such groups remain a concern in Istanbul.

Post Specific Concerns

In August 1999, a massive 7.2 earthquake struck outside Istanbul resulting in as many as 40,000 deaths. Istanbul sits on a major fault line and experts believe that within the next 25 years a major earthquake will strike the city. Most buildings in the city do not meet Western standards and would likely collapse in the event of major quake centered in Istanbul.

Cultural Issues

Turkish law forbids disrespectful behavior toward Turkish political figures and institutions, particularly with regard to the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It is a crime in Turkey to make insulting comments about Ataturk or to deface statues or images of him.

Police Response

If you become the victim of a crime, immediately contact the police and the American Consulate. Most police do not speak English and the Consulate can provide translation assistance 24-hours a day. In the event you are arrested or detained by the authorities in Istanbul, immediately ask to contact the Consulate at 212-335-9000 (press 0 for the 24-hour operator). Although some believe that the Turkish National Police do not meet western standards of professionalism, they remain generally responsive to needs of American citizens and businesses in Istanbul.

Medical Emergencies

- 112 is the country-wide number for emergency medical service.

- American Bristol Hospital Istanbul Valikongi Cad/Guzelbache Sokak Nisantasi 80200, Telephone: 0212-311-2000

- German Hospital (Alman Hastanesi) Siraselviler Caddesi No: 119 80060 Taksim, Telephone: 0212-293-2150

- International Hospital Istanbul Caddesi, No: 82, 34800 Yesilkoy Telephone: 0212-574-7802

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Crime Victim

As in any major city, Americans should exercise caution and good judgment while traveling throughout Istanbul. In tourist areas pick pocketing and purse snatching remain a threat, and travelers should take appropriate precautions to combat these types of crimes. Vehicle burglaries are common. Travelers should park in well-lighted areas and lock their valuables in the trunk.

Avoid nightclubs that specialize in adult entertainment. Patrons are often billed exorbitant amounts for their drinks and face the threat of assault in lieu of payment.

In the event of a traffic accide