Is Istanbul safe for tourists?

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Is Istanbul safe for tourists?

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A man sleeps in Gezi Park in Istanbul's Taksim Square early on Wednesday, June 12, hours after riot police moved into the square in an attempt to push demonstrators out. Protests that began as a demonstration against the planned demolition of the park have grown into general anti-government dissent across the nation,


Municipal workers clean up a street in Taksim Square early on June 12, after police moved in to disperse protesters.


A protester prepares to throw a tear gas canister back toward police in Taksim Square on Tuesday, June 11.


Riot police fire tear gas canisters at protesters in Taksim Square on June 11.


People run from a tear gas cloud in Taksim Square on June 11.


People flee as riot police fire tear gas on Taksim Square on June 11.


Protesters run behind a barricade during clashes with police on June 11.


A protester throws a tear gas canister back toward police on June 11.


Photographers crowd around a protester posing in front of a riot police vehicle at Taksim Square on June 11.


Protesters seek shelter behind a barricade on June 11.


Protesters try to run from riot police on June 11.


Riot police aim a water cannon at a protester as others take cover behind a makeshift shelter in Taksim Square on June 11.


Police enter Taksim Square during clashes with protesters on June 11.


Protesters take cover behind a barricade in Gezi Park in Istanbul on June 11.


A protester uses a slingshot to throw stones at riot police on June 11.


Protesters take cover behind a barricade in Taksim Square on June 11.


A protester holds fireworks during clashes with riot police in Istabul on June 11.


Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse a crowd near Istabul's Taksim Square on June 11.


A protester throws a tear gas canister back toward police on June 11.


Riot police fire tear gas at demonstrators in Taksim Square on June 11.


Police fire a water cannon at protesters on June 11.


Protesters hold molotov cocktails in Taksim Square on June 11.


A protester throws a stone during clashes with riot police on June 11.


Protesters run from smoke as they clash with police in Istanbul on June 11.


Protesters take cover behind a barricade as fireworks go off nearby on June 11.


Medics carry Yasin Ayhan, 23, a protester who broke his leg in a raid early Monday, June 10, in Kugulu Park. Riot police doused thousands of protesters in Ankara with tear gas and jets of water for a second straight night.


Protesters sleep at Taksim Square in central Istanbul on June 10. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned protesters who have taken to the streets demanding his resignation that his patience has its limits and compared the unrest with an army attempt six years ago to curb his power.


A demonstrator is detained by police officers as protests resumed in Kizilay Square in Ankara on Sunday, June 9.


A demonstrator covers his face with a makeshift gas mask during protests in Kizilay Square in Ankara on June 9.


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and his wife, Emine, wave to supporters upon their arrival in Ankara on June 9. Erdogan told supporters that "even patience has an end" as he went on the offensive against mass protests that have consumed Ankara and Istanbul.


Erdogan addresses supporters from the top of a bus as police stand guard at Esenboga International Airport in Ankara on June 9.


Protesters gather during a demonstration at Taksim Square in Istanbul, on June 9.


A demonstrator runs toward police during clashes with riot police in Istanbul, on Saturday, June 8.


Demonstrators shout slogans as they gather at Kizilay Square in Ankara, Turkey, on June 8.


Women sing as people gather at Kizilay Square in Ankara on June 8.


Protesters rest in Gezi Park next to Taksim Square during a demonstration in Istanbul on Friday, June 7.


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the opening session of the Ministry for European Union Affairs Conference on June 7 in Istanbul. Erdogan said today his Islamic-rooted government was open to "democratic demands" and hit back at EU criticism of his government's handling of a week of unrest.


Supporters of Erdogan wave the Turkish flag upon the prime minister's arrival in Istanbul, on June 7.


Protestors dance at Gezi Park in Taksim Square on Thursday, June 6.


A man walks past damaged buses near Taksim Square on Thursday, June 6, in Istanbul, Turkey.


A mother and her daughter read notes placed by protestors on a destroyed car in Taksim Square on June 6. Thousands of striking union members joined the anti-government protests on June 5, marching in Istanbul and Ankara in a sea of red and white union flags, drumming and yelling for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to resign.


Protestors spend their day at Gezi Park on June 6.


Protestors demonstrate near the office building of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul early on June 6.


A municipal worker collects garbage set on fire by Turkish protesters in a restaurant district of Ankara on June 5.


A woman is wheeled away by paramedics during clashes on Kizilay Square in Ankara on Wednesday, June 5.


Protesters confront police forces during riots in a restaurant district of Ankara, on June 5.


Demonstrators run for cover as police use water cannons and tear gas on the crowd in Ankara on June 5.


Protesters gather in Taksim Square as they shout slogans while protesting on Tuesday, June 4, in Istanbul, Turkey.


Riot police fire tear gas at demonstrators in Istanbul on June 4.


Paramedics carry a woman injured during clashes between demonstrators and riot police in Istanbul on June 4.


Turkish police detain a demonstrator during clashes in Istanbul on June 4.


A protester looks on during clashes with Turkish police outside of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office, near Taksim Square in Istanbul on Tuesday, June 4.


Demonstrators wave their national flag on June 4, during a protest in Ankara.


Protesters cover their faces with plastic. After chaotic scenes in the streets Monday that continued late into the night and sent tear gas wafting through the air, the situation was relatively calm on Tuesday morning in Istanbul's central Taksim Square, near the park where the movement began.


A demonstrator takes cover at a road block between Taksim and Besiktas in Istanbul on June 4.


Protesters clash with riot police between Taksim and Besiktas in Istanbul on Monday, June 3.


Protestors pass bricks for building barricades during clashes with riot police in Istanbul on June 3.


Riot policemen unload tear gas during clashes in Istanbul on June 3.


Protesters throw riot police's tear gas back at them in Istanbul on June 3.


Protester wounds are treated during clashes in Istanbul on June 3.


Demonstrators set up road blocks between Taksim and Besiktas. Barricades remain up around the square, and Erdogan's opponents appear determined to continue the demonstrations despite the prime minister's comment on June 3 that he expects the situation to return to normal "within a few days."


A medical team tends to a protester. The Turkish Medical Association claimed that at least 3,195 people had been injured in clashes on June 1 and June 2. Only 26 of them were in serious or critical condition, it said.


Protesters stand atop a pile of rubble during clashes with Turkish police on Monday, June 3.


Turkish riot police fire tear gas canisters to disperse protesters near Taksim Square on June 3.


Police officers tend to a demonstrator during the violent clashes in Istanbul on June 3.


A protester waves the Turkish flag from a rooftop at Taksim Square on June 3 as large crowds continue to demonstrate below.


A protester wears a gas mask as smoke from a burned car fills the air at Taksim Square on June 3.


Despite Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's call for calm on Monday, June 3, protests continued in Istanbul. Protesters carry the Turkish flag and shout against the government in Gezi Park near central Istanbul.


After protests that lasted until the early morning, a protester sleeps in a damaged and vandalized vehicle in Taksim Square on June 3. Protests showed no sign of letting up on Monday, almost a week after a peaceful sit-in was met with a police crackdown, igniting the biggest anti-government riots the city has seen in a decade.


A tired protester rests in front of the graffiti-sprayed wall of an information booth at Taksim Square in central Istanbul on June 3.


Turkish protesters clash with riot police near the prime minister's office between Taksim and Besiktas early June 3.


Protesters drive an excavator toward Turkish riot police as they make their way to Erdogan's office on June 3.


During the clashes, volunteer doctors helped injured protesters in a mosque on June 3.


A protester is silhouetted by a burning car at Taksim Square during clashes in the early morning of June 3.


A protester covers his face on June 3 near Erdogan's office in Istanbul.


Protesters clash with riot police in Istanbul on June 3.


Protesters gather in Taksim Square in Istanbul on Sunday, June 2.


Riot police fire tear gas during a protest against Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party in central Ankara on June 2. Sparked by the events in Istanbul, general anti-government protests have sprung up in Ankara.


Demonstrators hide behind makeshift shields during clashes with Turkish riot police in Ankara on June 2.


Police use a water cannon to disperse protesters outside Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's working office in Istanbul on June 2.


Protesters cling to a police vehicle mounted with a water canon in Istanbul on June 2.


Turkish police detain a protester during demonstrations in Ankara on June 2.


A protester flashes a victory sign as he takes part in a demonstration in Ankara on Saturday, June 1 in support of the protests in Istanbul against government plans to demolish a park.


Protesters clash with riot police in Istanbul, Turkey, on Saturday, June 1.


Protesters clash with riot police near Gezi Park on June 1. Earlier this week, several dozen activists tried to stage a sit-in at the park, the last bit of green space left in Istanbul's Taksim Square, the city's transit and commercial hub.


Turkish protesters wearing gas masks face off against riot police near Istanbul's Taksim Square on June 1.


Riot police use tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd of demonstrators on June 1.


A man flees the clashes between Turkish protestors and riot police on June 1. On Friday, May 31, riot police stormed the growing camp in Gezi Park with water cannons and tear gas, pushing protesters into surrounding streets and triggering the clashes that have continued for more than 24 hours.


The clashes damaged surrounding businesses in Istanbul and forced them to close on June 1.


A man catches his breath behind the line where clashes are taking place on June 1.


A pair of tourists gasp for air as riot police use tear gas and water cannons the fend off the demonstrators. Turkish security forces allowed small groups of pedestrians to travel through the square.


Protesters buy gas masks from a local shop near the square on June 1.


Riot police fire tear gas into the crowd of protesters overnight on Friday, May 31.


Demonstrators set up barricades and build a fire as they clash with Turkish officers on May 31.


Friends carry an injured protester on May 31. More than a dozen people have been injured in the clashes.


Riot police use tear gas and water cannons to disperse a crowd at Taksim Square on May 31.


An activist wearing a gas mask is enveloped in a cloud of tear gas on May 31.


A crowd scatters during clashes on May 31, as one demonstrator throws back the tear gas canister that was launched by riot police.


Protestors brace themselves as they are fired upon with a water canon by Turkish police forces.


A large group of demonstrators gather to protest the demolition of Gezi Park in Taksim Square on May 31.


A Turkish riot policeman uses tear gas in Taksim Square on May 28.

















































































































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Demonstrations have many wondering if they should pull the plug on upcoming trips
Istanbul is among fastest growing tourism markets in world, receiving 11.6 million international visitors in 2012
Tourists report feeling neither threatened nor endangered
Istanbul's top attractions are located far from scene of protests



(CNN) -- Weather, airfare and upcoming local events are criteria that typically factor into travel decisions.
This week, however, far greater concerns are on the minds of potential visitors to Istanbul.
Ongoing local protests, government retaliation and related unrest in the city have many wondering if they should pull the plug on upcoming trips or make any new plans at all.
What began as a small, peaceful protest against a planned shopping mall in the city's Gezi Park quickly turned into what some protesters now call a "war zone," with police using brute force to quell demonstrations.
A worldwide audience has watched as police fired water cannons and tear gas at defiant protesters in Taksim Square.



Despite scenes such as this, many tourists around the city say they feel safe and welcomed.


Tourism crucial to Istanbul
According to the 2012 MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index, Istanbul is among the fastest growing tourism markets in the world, receiving 11.6 million international visitors and earning $10.6 billion in travel revenue in 2012.
The Turkish Statistics Institute reports the country's total tourism revenue for 2012 was $29.4 billion. According to an April report by TradeArabia, Turkey expects to receive 33 million international visitors in 2013.
Hünkar Akipek, a young professional who has taken part in the protests, tells CNN that protestors are aware of the possibility that recent events will harm Istanbul's reputation abroad.
"Sure we are worried," says Akipek. "I got so many emails, calls from my Turkish and non-Turkish friends abroad.
"I am careful to answer their question of 'What is going on there?' to not make any harm to Istanbul's reputation. This is where we live and where we want to go on living and raise our children. We do not want to damage our home."
"Istanbul, a city that has always been known as Turkey's cultural heart, is turning into a war zone," says Royce Yakuppur, a local who has been to Gezi Park several times in recent days. "Although the feeling of solidarity (among locals) should be applauded as a virtue, it is not enough to overcome the fears of tourists."
Unsurprisingly, local travel agencies report that some travelers have recently canceled trips to Istanbul or are having second thoughts about coming in the next few weeks. Yet "many" are still going ahead with their plans.
No statistics on cancellations are available.



Thousands gathered at Taksim Square after riot police cracked down on protests on June 12 in Istanbul.

Traveler's tales from a week of unrest
By and large, for visitors and locals alike, Istanbul feels safe.
Travelers across the city tell CNN that while they've had to modify some plans, they've felt neither threatened nor endangered.
Colombian tourist Juanita Pardo arrived in Istanbul on June 10. She says she didn't change her travel plans after learning of the protests, despite being warned by family members to avoid the area around Taksim Square.
"There was a lot of traffic, a lot of police, and (some) roads were closed so we chose to walk and couldn't go everywhere we wanted to," she says of touring the city in the midst of the protests. "We had to cancel some plans, like having dinner at Mikla, which is located in Taksim, where we didn't want to go.
"We couldn't see Istiklal Street, which we had heard a lot about."
Kevin Patnode, a 23-year-old New Yorker who has been spent the past four summers in Istanbul as a coordinator for an English language program, arrived in Istanbul on June 4.
"The protests made me want to come even more," Patnode tells CNN.
"Besides Taksim Square, the surrounding areas are untouched by the current situation," he says. "I even visited Gezi Park three times and never felt unsafe. Even though I speak no Turkish, I never felt out of place or that I was unsafe.
"The only change that has occurred has been my social life. Istanbul is a party city and Turks know how to have a good time.
"But after the protests, a lot of people find it inappropriate to be out and going to the bars and clubs surrounding Taksim. It is certainly not frowned upon for foreigners to go out and enjoy themselves, and I've been encouraged to go out and continue to enjoy Istanbul -- however I cannot expect my Turkish friends to come along and join me."
Most of Istanbul's top attractions, such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace, are located in Sultanahmet, far from Taksim Square.
Referred to as the "new Berlin" by some, Istanbul boasts a growing art scene, with contemporary galleries and museums, such as Salt Galata, Arter and the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art leading the field.
Contemporary Turkish cuisine also draws tourists to Istanbul.
The city's historic peninsula, funky cafes and bohemian neighborhoods feel as exciting -- and welcoming -- as always.
"Istanbul is as appealing as ever," insists one local. "Much like a beautiful woman, but with smudged mascara."

Source: Is Istanbul safe for tourists?
 

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