Turkey Turns Tables With Warning U.S. May Be Unsafe for Tourists

  • Foreign Ministry issues travel warning for anti-Trump protests
  • Says citizens should be on alert for racist attacks in U.S

Riot police stand guard during a protest against Donald Trump in Los Angeles on Nov. 13.

Photographer: Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning for the United States, citing dangers linked to protests and possible assaults by racists following the election of Donald Trump.

Turkey has more often been on the receiving end of such communiques over the last two years, a period when foreign tourists have been among those targeted by a series of terrorist attacks in major Turkish cities. It’s lashed out at the U.S. and other allies for issuing pronouncements about risks to their citizens on Turkish soil, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying earlier this month that Istanbul and Ankara are just as safe as any U.S. state.

The notice on the Foreign Ministry’s website advises Turks living in or considering travel to the U.S. to take precautions by avoiding areas around the protests, which it noted were taking place in "different cities across the country" including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle and Oakland. It tells them to increase security measures and to “remain calm and apply to local police in the face of any possible xenophobic or racist attacks.”

The statement, which echoes some of the stern language the U.S. used to describe what’s happened during previous demonstrations against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, describes the demonstrations against Trump in Portland, where clashes turned violent, as an "uprising." On Oct. 29, the U.S. ordered family members of its consular staff in Istanbul to leave, and the most recent statement from the U.S. embassy in Ankara said it had intelligence that "extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent."

Trump Talk

Fear of such attacks has contributed to a record stretch of declines in tourist arrivals to Turkey, hurting one of the Turkish economy’s most important industries and reducing revenue from abroad that it relies on to plug its current-account deficit. In September, the most recent month for which there’s tourism ministry data, the number of American visitors dropped 60 percent versus the same month last year.

Disagreements over such warnings add to the list of issues straining the U.S.-Turkish relationship in recent years, which includes U.S. criticism of Turkey’s human rights record as well as U.S. support for Kurdish forces battling Islamic State to the south of Turkey’s border. Turkey’s also demanding the extradition of the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who’s been in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1997 and whom Erdogan accuses of masterminding the botched coup against him in July this year. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials weren’t convinced by the evidence Turkey submitted.

Retired Army Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, a top military adviser to Trump and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote an op-ed on the day of the election in which he argued for Gulen’s removal from the U.S.

"We need to see the world from Turkey’s perspective," Flynn wrote. That would signal a new chapter in Turkish relations: after previously accusing Trump of Islamophobia, last week Turkish officials took a different tone, welcoming the president-elect and expressing hopes for a deepening in U.S.-Turkey cooperation. The two leaders held a phone conversation on the day Trump’s election was confirmed, in which Trump told Erdogan that his daughter Ivanka was a "huge fan," according to the Diken news site.

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