Tag Archives: Istanbul

French Missions Close in Turkey Over Security Fears

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On 13 July, French diplomatic missions in Turkey’s two main cities closed until further notice and cancelled planned events to mark France’s 14 July National Day due to security concerns.

The French consulate general in Istanbul had been due to hold a reception on Wednesday evening to mark national Day, while French mission in Ankara and the Aegean coastal city of Izmir had planned to hold events on Thursday. However on Wednesday, a statement issued by the French Embassy in Ankara disclosed that “for security reasons, July 14th receptions planned in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir are cancelled,” adding that it had informed the Turkish authorities of the decision and was in close contact with them. The statement also indicated that “the embassy of France in Ankara, as well as the consulate general in Istanbul will be closed from Wednesday July 13, 1 PM (1100 BST), until further notice.” Earlier in the day, the consulate general in Istanbul indicated that there was information suggesting a “serious threat against plans for the celebration of the July 14 national holiday in Turkey.”

Turkey is facing multiple threats, including from militants belonging to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group, who have been blamed for a triple suicide bombing at Istanbul’s main airport several weeks ago, which killed 45 people and wounded hundreds. The attack was the deadliest in a series of bombings that have occurred this year in the NATO member state.

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US Consulate Targeted in Turkey

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On Monday (10 August), the United States Consulate in Istanbul was targeted by two women, with at least nine people killed in a series of separate attacks, which has raised fears that Ankara’s decision to launch a crackdown on the Islamic State (IS) group as well as Kurdish and far-left militants will trigger more violence on Turkish soil.

At 1AM local time, a car carrying explosives struck a police station in Istanbul’s Sultanbeyli neighbourhood. Officials have reported that three policemen and seven bystanders were wounded in the incident, and that the attacker was killed. Less than six hours later, two gunmen opened fire on the same police station, setting off a gunfight, which resulted in the deaths of two attackers and one police officer. There was no claim of responsibility for either attack and so far, IS has not issued any statements about the police station assaults.

At 7AM on Monday, two women targeted the US Consulate in the Sariyer district. According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, there were no casualties, and one of the two women was captured. The news agency has reported that authorities have identified her as Hatice Asik, 42, of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). Turkey’s foreign ministry has condemned the attack, stating that security at US diplomatic missions were being tightened. On the ground sources have reported that police with automatic rifles cordoned off streets around the US consulate. Two years ago, the DHKP-C, which is designated a terrorist group by both Turkey and the US, killed a Turkish security guard and wounded several others in a suicide attack that targeted the US Embassy in Ankara. Monday’s attack came a day after the US sent six F-16 fighter jets and about 300 personnel to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, as part of coalition efforts to fight IS. Late on Monday, the DHKP-C claimed on its website that one of its female militants carried out the attack.

Elsewhere in Turkey on Monday, a roadside bombing in southeastern Sirnak province killed four policemen and wounded another. One soldier was killed when a military helicopter drew fire in the province in an attack that officials have blamed on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Since launching strikes on IS fighters in Syria and PKK militants in northern Iraq, Turkey, which is a NATO member, has been in a heightened state of alert. Authorities in the country have also rounded up hundreds of suspected militants.

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Protests Escalate in Turkey

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The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a travel advisory against
all but essential travel to Turkey. Demonstrations are taking place in cities across the country. Police are using tear gas and water cannons in response. Foreigners are advised to avoid all demonstrations.

Anti-government demonstrations have entered their third day as battles between police and protesters have spread to 48 cities in Turkey.

The protests initially began as a sit-in over a development project which threatened to redevelop Gezi Park, the last patch of green space in the commercial district of Istanbul. Demonstrators attempted to prevent workers from razing some of the 600 trees for the restoration of Ottoman-era military barracks which will be turned into a shopping centre.

Turkish police responded to the demonstrators by using electric shock batons and tear gas, sparking national protests against what opposition calls the government’s limiting of personal freedoms and an “increasingly conservative and authoritarian agenda”.

By Saturday, the protests had spread to over 90 separate anti-government demonstrations in 48 cities throughout Turkey. Thousands of Turkish residents in Istanbul marched on Taksim Square, chanting “shoulder to shoulder against fascism” and “government resign.” The protests mark the largest demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which were elected in 2002, and re-elected in 2007. Erdoğan has indicated his desire to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term.

As clashes escalated, demonstrators attacked police cars and destroyed property. Media in the region has been shut down or limited, further stirring anger among citizens. Turkish police report 26 police officers and 53 civilians had been hurt. Unconfirmed reports from Amnesty International claim that two people had been killed and over 1,000 injured. Police arrested and detained 939 people around the nation. Most have since been released; the remainder will be put on trial.

The harsh methods used by the Turkish police have sparked outrage worldwide. On Saturday, amid outcry from the UK, US, and Amnesty International, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on the police to withdraw from the demonstrations. Erdoğan admitted to the extremism in police response; however he maintains that the redevelopment of Gezi Park was an excuse for the unrest believing his main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), are responsible stirring tensions. Edrogan also offered to speak to the protesters, however there is no clear leader of the demonstrations. The Prime Minister pledged to continue with plans to redevelop Taksim Square.

On Sunday morning, despite isolated clashes, the atmosphere is relatively peaceful, however, the protests are expected to occur in the afternoons and evenings, and are suspected to be sustained.

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