As an immediate disclaimer, I must state that I am far from au fait with Turkish politics. This article is not one which wishes to comment on the political situation there but to merely discuss whether travelling to the country, at this time, is sensible, safe or desirable.
Turkey has always been a country I have sought to visit and hearing only good things about Istanbul, I was keen to explore the city for myself. When we planned our long term itinerary, it was no surprise that Istanbul was on the list. With the recent events in the country though, I have been met with many messages on the premise of: “I take it you’re not going to Turkey now” and “you’re not still going to Istanbul”. Of course, seeing the events portrayed on the news, it would have been naive not to have looked into the safety of travelling to Istanbul but it must be added that our trip is not planned until around September time.
With many opposing responses from the biggest flight and tour operators, it’s easy to see why I have questioned visiting somewhere I have long waited to go. As of today (18th July 2016) British Airways has cancelled all flights to and from the country, while Turkish Airlines are reassuring passengers that the airport is reopened, safe and that it is “business as usual”. EasyJet are continuing to review the situation but are not changing their schedule and Thomas Cook is offering free amendments and cancellations.
In volatile times, such as this, it is no surprise that no one wants the responsibility of sending passengers into a potentially unsafe situation. We have been in a similar position at work, with musicians refusing to travel to Turkey and managers not wanting to recommend they do in case the worse was to happen.
Managing bands who tour worldwide, after the attack on Atatürk airport, one band cancelled their upcoming performance at a Turkish festival. This left many fans sorely disappointed and some angry at the decision. It must be noted that this decision was made before the attempted coup and was a reaction to the airport terrorist attack. Whilst now we can see that the instability of the political situation could be considered a valid reason to cancel, at the time it was a decision based on the terror attack alone. In light of this cancellation, fans reactions were perhaps understandable; questioning whether the band would therefore not be returning to Belgium, France and even the capital of their home country: London.
Terrorist attacks can and have happened in many countries, so why did the band cancel Turkey? As a band that spends a significant amount of time on the road, travelling the globe, surely you decide to travel or decide not to our and avoid all (or as much as possible) risk of terrorist attacks? Or perhaps they were heeding advice and avoiding the higher risk countries, of which Turkey is one?
Either way, travelling at a time of turbulence, leaves travellers with a tough choice.
In terms of terrorism I feel a sense of sadness, that it seems possible to be caught up in such acts anywhere in the world while going about our daily lives. It is this lack of predictability that causes a sense of unavoidability. As much as we can heed the advice of the foreign office, for example, I’ll be loathe to see these people prevent me from travelling.
The subject of Turkey is perhaps more significant to me now as my father lives and works in Istanbul at least two weeks out of every month. My most immediate concern is, obviously, his safety. If that means him remaining in England then that is what I would, of course, encourage him to do. However, I have to respect his views and decisions as someone who lives and works in the city (and as someone with a much better understanding of the political issues). My initial thoughts when I heard of the terror attack at the airport and the military coup were to get him out of there. On reflection, was that the correct reaction? I think that was the natural instinct for a daughter to have but will that protect him? Could he not be caught up in this trouble somewhere closer to home? London, perhaps?
Is Turkey at higher risk due to the political situation, rather than the threat of terrorism? At this current time, most probably. While I don’t think I would discourage someone from travelling to a country which had just suffered a terrorist attack (unless advice stated as such), I am more inclined to encourage a period of review before visiting a country that is in a state of internal political conflict. No doubt, this will settle but erring on the side of caution, perhaps a period of reflection should be taken before boarding a plane back to Turkey at the present time?
For me, in terms of the political situation in Turkey, I will reassess nearer to my departure and make a decision with the advice of people I know and trust. In terms of terrorism, unless I am party to intelligence of an impending attack, I will not live in fear of these people. It could happen anywhere and I am not prepared to not travel at all, to avoid this. But I do travel with an awareness of the risks and will do what I can to seek advice and minimise them.
I cannot rule out never cancelling a trip if the risk is high or the advice is strongly against travelling, but we cannot live, or travel, in fear. In the same week as the terrorist act in Nice and the military coup in Turkey, there was a serious train crash in southern Italy. It is as easy to be caught up in this accidental tragedy as it is in the aforementioned acts. All are unpredictable. Again, we can be given information of places to avoid but we can never know for certain that today’s trip isn’t going to be our last. That isn’t meant to sound as disheartening as it may appear, it is meant with the intention that we should make the most of our lives because despite these bigger terrorist or political threats, we could as easily be hit by a car crossing the road.
In answer to the question of whether I will be going to Turkey, yes I will. Would I go tomorrow? Probably not. But I will not cancel my future plans today.