Sunday, April 30th 2017

Is East of Turkey safe to Travel?

– Is it safe to travel through the Eastern Turkey?

While travelling in Turkey you very often will see reports about terrorists attacks in the East. The name “PKK will be in all of them. That is a Kurdish party which is fighting for getting the Kurdish part of Turkey independent. When we were telling Turkish people that we are going to Mardin, Sanliurfa, Van, Diyarbakir all of them where telling us that it is dangerous. Strangely different sources named different cities as safe or dangerous. In one case Van was fine, but Mardin – dangerous, in the other: Van was dangerous, but Mardin was fine, but the road connecting Diyarbakir & Mardin was very dangerous. Even Kurdish guys (we hitchhiked with) told us that the road is very dangerous exactly when we were going on this road.

Despite all warning we still decided to visit the Eastern Turkey for several reasons. While being there we kept seeing TV reports of blown cars, army vehicles, killed soldiers, troops deployed in certain areas close to the Iraq border, air strikes at some hills where terrorists were hiding, and so on, and so forth.

Diyarbakir looks like a half-fortified police or military base, with fences decorated with barbed wire, machine gun nests and armored police vehicles. Dogubeyazit welcomed us with some protests dedicated to funerals of some PKK members recently killed by the Turkish army. The streets were full of armored police vehicles, water cannon trucks and police in full riot gear with tear gas & rubber bullet guns.

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Streets of Dogubeyazit looked like this

Although nothing serious happened, it gave a strange feeling of being in a hot spot. Mardin looked calmer from the beginning but later showed its fangs with riot police guarding some areas. Van seemed fine as well till Friday protests and central streets full of full riot police entourage with tear gas guns, water cannons and probably rubber bullets loaded & ready.

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Typical armored police vehicle patroling the Eastern Turkey

Present situation at the Syrian border is not very favorable  Besides the Turkish parliament has just approved cross border military operations on the Turkish-Syrian border. When we were in the village of Harran, some 20km from the border we could hear explosions. I don’t it is very good idea to get close to the area of possible military action, provided that you don’t want to risk your life and well-being.

Frankly it gave a feeling of being in a military or war zone. We have not seen serious fights with police or people being killed. It was all on TV. But I must admit strangely I felt more securer and safer once we crossed the border to Iran.

People say & I saw  on TV that the terrorists target only soldiers and police, which  makes sense for them to target civilians. But as you know there are always civilian casualties: a minibus following a military jeep, a casual by-stander or passer-by. You can be on this minibus, or this passer-by.

Of course, it is up to you to decide whether to visit the East of Turkey or not. In my opinion, it is not worth going further than Gaziantep, Sanliurfa or Mt Nemrut unless you travelling to hike Mt Ararat or plan to cross the Turkish Iranian-border.

Have you been in the Eastern Turkey? Please share your impressions with us.

 

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