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Fearful Turks Abroad May Skip Summer Trips Home

FILE - People run shortly after a rocket projectile fired from Syria landed in Kilis, Turkey, April 19, 2016. Turks abroad are hesitant to visit their homeland due to terror attacks and political uncertainties.
FILE - People run shortly after a rocket projectile fired from Syria landed in Kilis, Turkey, April 19, 2016. Turks abroad are hesitant to visit their homeland due to terror attacks and political uncertainties.

As Turkey reels from terror attacks, the fallout of Syria's civil war, and political and economic uncertainties, Turks abroad are thinking hard about taking traditional summer holidays back to their homeland.

"I have not made a decision yet," said Doga Eralp, who teaches conflict resolution at American University in Washington, D.C. "There are political developments happening outside my will. I will decide accordingly. But I know at least two Turks who will not go to Turkey this summer."

Nadya Uygun
Nadya Uygun

Nadya Uygun, an Armenian born in Turkey who lives in Naples, Florida, says that the combination of pressures on Turkish citizens make her reluctant to visit.

"I no longer go there due to many reasons including my safety concerns, the rising racism in Turkey and my Armenian background," she said. "I am an outspoken Armenian, so I often find myself in trouble in Turkey. But I used to visit there once or even twice every year."

More than 5 million Turkish citizens live outside the country, according to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Going home

Basaran Ulusoy
Basaran Ulusoy

2016 may reverse the trend, but there has been a steady increase in the number of Turks visiting home in recent years, according to Basaran Ulusoy, president of the Istanbul-based Association of Turkish Travel Agencies.

Ulusoy says returning Turks spent $5.8 billion when they visited in 2015, up from $3.8 billion in 2004.

For many Turks living outside of Turkey, family ties in Turkey lure them home in summer.

"But if I did not have family there, I would not go there — that is certain" said Sinan Ciddi, a visiting professor at Georgetown University. "I am worried about my family every day."

Halis Cadirci
Halis Cadirci

Halis Cadirci, a restaurant manager in Washington, D.C., says visiting Turks will be wary of traveling to cities along the Syrian border.

"I will be staying in Istanbul, where the war or violence is not felt so intensely," said Cadirici, who plans to visit for two months. "But if I was to visit cities like Kilis, Gaziantep, or Maras, where IS activities are reportedly high, then I would have more doubts about whether I should go or not."

Lezdar Kaplan, a post office employee in Stockholm, said there is a difference between visiting Turkey as a citizen of Turkey versus being a tourist. Kaplan grew up in Diyarbakir, a mostly Kurdish enclave in eastern Turkey where Turkish police are battling Kurdish insurgency.

Lezdar Kaplan
Lezdar Kaplan

"It is my homeland," said Kaplan, who visited the region recently. "And I will go again on the first opportunity. But if I was to go there as a tourist, I too could have been scared."

The threat of IS terror, though, is not only found along the border of Syria but in urban centers of Istanbul and Ankara where IS claimed responsibility for bombings in the last year.

Kemal Ozmen, a financial adviser in Bucharest, Romania, says that staying away from places where jihadist violence is widespread can be difficult.

"Islamic State activities clearly threaten everyone's safety in Turkey," said Ozmen, who may skip Turkey this year for another destination. "My biggest concern is the security of my family, so I would rather choose a holiday destination where I will feel my children are safe and sound."


Tourism to Turkey has plummeted after a series of bombing attacks claimed by Islamic State (IS) and insurgent Kurds. Visitor traffic fell by a record 28 percent to 1.75 million in April, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Turkey is grappling with more than three million refugees, most of whom fled the civil war in Syria. And continuing diplomatic disputes with Russia have led to a crippling drop in trade.

Meanwhile, political rows over the hard-line policies of the Turkish president — including a crackdown on freedom of expression — are gripping the nation.

Countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and Russia, have advised their citizens to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey. The U.S. Department of State has warned its citizens to avoid traveling, particularly to the Turkish cities near the Syrian border.