U.S. Mission Turkey Suspends All Non-Immigrant Visa Services Over Latest Arrest of Local Employee

Posted: 2:01 am ET
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On October 8, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced the suspension of all temporary visa services for the embassy and consulates in Turkey. The statement says that “recent events have forced the United States Government to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel.” This development follows the arrest of U.S. Consulate General’s Metin Topuz, a locally hired employee in Istanbul this past week (see Turkey Arrests U.S.Consulate General Istanbul Local Employee Metin Topuz on “Terror Charges”). There was also the prior arrest of the U.S. Consulate Adana local employee Hamza Uluçay, arrested in March on charges of “being a member of a terror organization” and who remains in jail to this day.

Hamza Uluçay has worked for the U.S. Consulate in Adana for 36 years, and according to Hurriyet Daily News was arrested as he left the consulate building for “allegedly attempting to direct the public to provocative activities in the southeastern province of Mardin.” Back in March, Hamsa Bey was reportedly referred to a local court in Mardin’s Kızıltepe district but he was later released on probation. The prosecutor objected to the release and he was detained for the second time on charges of “being a member of a terror organization.”  According to Hurriyet, the searches at Hamsa Bey’s residence includes seizure of $21 U.S. dollars with B, C, D, F, G, K and L series on them.

An AP report in April 2016 previously notes that Turkish  authorities are citing U.S. banknotes, specifically $1 bills as evidence that people are followers of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating the coup. Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag reportedly told the A Haber television channel, “There is no doubt that this $1 bill has some important function within the Gulenist terror organization.” The AP report citing the Aksam daily, says that one theory is that F designates a high-ranking soldier or police chief; J and C represent low-ranking soldiers; E and S are for instructors and academics in Gulenist schools and B is for students.

In July,  Henri J. Barket wrote about Hamsa Bey in The Atlantic’s Erdogan’s Anti-Westernism Picks Up Speed:

One particularly absurd case is that of Hamza Uluçay, a 37-year employee of the U.S. consulate in Adana, who was picked up on “terrorism” charges. He is a foreign service national, a local hire who helps U.S. diplomats arrange meetings and navigate the local political and social scene. I have known Hamza for 25 years—I first met him in the 1990s in Adana during a research trip. When I saw him last in March 2016, I joked with him that he ought to never retire because Consulate Adana, notwithstanding his American colleagues, could not function without him. These audacious charges amount to nothing less than sticking a thumb in America’s eye.

Local employees including those in small posts like Adana provide not only bridges with local host country nationals and officials, they also provide continuity for posts so our diplomats are able to do their jobs. The U.S. Consulate in Adana covers a consular district that encompasses 22 provinces, including Turkey’s borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran. Its district includes the major cities of Mersin, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, and Van that have large Kurdish population. One diplomat told us that “Hamza Bey in Adana is one of our finest.” Local employees do not freelance, or go rogue; the calls and contacts they make in their own countries are connected to their jobs, and are done on behalf of their American supervisors, and consequently, on behalf of the United States. Unlike American diplomats who have diplomatic and consular immunity (PDF), local employees do not have such privileges and immunities.

The second, and latest local employee arrested by Turkish authorities is Metin Topuz “on charges of espionage and links to FETÖ, the group blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 249 people in Turkey.” According to the Daily Sabah, a Turkish pro-government daily, the indictment for Metin Bey includes “contact with a number of police chiefs in Istanbul where he worked” and all those police chiefs involved in the 2013 coup attempts were FETÖ members in the judiciary and law enforcement.” The indictment reportedly also charged that he is a liaison between members of FETÖ and its leader, Fetullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania.”

The Daily Sabah previously reported this arrest as “US consulate linked to another alleged FETÖ conspiracy.” The newspaper citing a report by the Akşam newspaper says that “M.T. assisted FETÖ-linked police chiefs in handing over documents regarding the 2013 police operations to Preet Bharara, a former New York attorney who conducted an investigation into Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish national who is being held in the U.S. three years after being included in a 2013 probe involving people close to the government in Turkey.”

We understand that Metin Bey works for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Istanbul. Contacts with members of the local judiciary or law enforcement would certainly be part of his job, a fact lost on the Government of Turkey.  Turkey watchers notice that government-affiliated press is ramping things up. U.S. Mission Turkey’s October 5 made reference to leaks, and an attempt to try Metin Bey in the media rather than in the court of law.

It is probably not an accident that the local employees arrested are long-term employees of the U.S. Mission in Turkey. The question is if this is now open season for all Turkish nationals working for the United States in Turkey. If the Turkish Government can go after employees at the U.S. consulates, how long before they’re going to go after the Turkish nationals working for the U.S. Military in Turkey?

According to turkeypurge.com which monitors President Erdogan’s purges since July 15, 2016, our NATO-ally Turkey has now arrested over 60,000 individuals, detained over 127,000 people, arrested over 300 journalists, shut down 187 media outlets, and sacked over 146,000 state officials, teachers, bureaucrats, and academics who were dismissed by government decrees.

And now this — Turkey’s MFA copy/pasted the official USG statement, and has now issued a reciprocal suspension of visa services at all Turkish diplomatic facilities in the United States. It addition to its embassy, Turkey has seven consulates in the U.S.: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.

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@StateDept Terminates Evacuation Orders For U.S. Mission Turkey

Posted: 1:51 am ET
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On September 23, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Turkey urging American citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel in the country. The notice also informs the public of the termination of the evacuation orders for family members of USG employees posted in Turkey:

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the  country. The U.S. Department of State is updating this Travel Warning to reflect the September 23, 2016 decision to end the authorization for the voluntary departure of family members of employees posted to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, which was made following the July 15, 2016 attempted coup. In addition, effective September 24, 2016, the Department of State is ending the ordered departure of family members of U.S. government personnel posted to the Consulate in Adana and family members of U.S. government civilians in Izmir. The Department of State will authorize employed adult dependents (21 year or older) of employees to return to Adana.

U.S. citizens should still carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time. The Department continues to monitor the effects of the ongoing State of Emergency; recent terrorist incidents in Ankara, Istanbul, Gaziantep, and throughout the Southeast; recurring threats; visible increases in police or military activities; and the potential for restrictions on movement as they relate to the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens in Turkey. Delays securing consular access to U.S. citizens detained or arrested by security forces, some of whom also possess Turkish citizenship, continue.

Just a couple of days  prior to the Travel Warning, the US Embassy in Ankara issued a security message saying that there were reports of a police investigation into a terror cell in Gaziantep.  The information suggests the terrorists are possibly targeting shopping centers, Starbucks, Big Chef Restaurants and or other businesses catering to Western customers.   U.S. citizens in Gaziantep are advised to exercise caution when patronizing these sorts of businesses and to avoid them if possible.

 

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@StateDept Extends Evacuation Status of Family Members of USG Employees in Turkey Through September 23

Posted: 3:49 am ET
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The State Department has issued an updated Travel Warning for Turkey. The warning dated August 29 announced the extension of the authorized departure status for family members of employees at US  Embassy Ankara and USCG Istanbul through September 23. It also extends the ordered departure status of family members of U.S. Consulate Adana employees and family members of U.S. Government civilians in Izmir province until September 23, 2016. Below via state.gov

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey. On August 23, 2016, the Department of State extended voluntary departure of family members assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul through September 23, 2016.  The decision to authorize departure followed an attempted coup and the subsequent declaration of a 90-day state of emergency by the Turkish Government.  The decision to approve voluntary departure status was taken, in part, to allow the Department of State to monitor the effects of the July 15 coup attempt and subsequent declaration of a state of emergency on the security situation in the country.  The Department continues to monitor the effect of these developments as well as recent terrorist incidents in Ankara, Istanbul, and Gaziantep, recurring threats, a visible increase in police or military activities, and the potential for restrictions on movements.  U.S. citizens should carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time.  In addition, we have recently experienced delays securing consular access to U.S. citizens, some of whom also possess Turkish citizenship, detained or arrested by security forces.

Foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations in Turkey. As stated in the Worldwide Caution dated March 3, 2016, extremists throughout Europe have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, aviation services, transportation systems, and public venues where people congregate as well as religious sites and high-profile events. Most recently, they have threatened to kidnap Westerners and U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens are reminded to review personal security plans, monitor local news for breaking events, and remain vigilant at all times.

U.S. Government personnel in Turkey remain subject to travel restrictions in the southeastern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazig.  U.S. citizens should avoid areas in close proximity to the Syrian border.

The Department of State is also extending its March 29, 2016, ordered departure of family members of U.S. Government personnel posted to the U.S. Consulate in Adana and family members of U.S. Government civilians in Izmir province until September 23, 2016. The U.S. Consulate in Adana remains open and will continue to provide all routine consular services.

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U.S. Mission Turkey Now on “Authorized Departure” For Family Members in Ankara and Istanbul

Posted: 2:08 am ET
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The State Department updated its Travel Warning for Turkey on July 26 announcing the “authorized departure” of U.S. Mission Turkey family members from the US Embassy in Ankara and the Consulate General in Istanbul.

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey. The U.S. Department of State is updating this Travel Warning to reflect the July 25, 2016, decision to authorize the voluntary departure of family members of employees posted to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey. The Department of State made this decision following the July 15 attempted coup and subsequent declaration by the Turkish government of a 90-day State of Emergency. The Department continues to monitor the effect of these developments on the overall security situation in the country and advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Turkey at this time. During this period, U.S. citizens in Turkey may see an increase in police or military activities and restrictions on movement.

Read the updated warning here.

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The State Department has already extended its March 29, 2016 mandatory evacuation order for family members of U.S. Government personnel posted to the U.S. Consulate in Adana and family members of U.S. Government civilians in Izmir province through July 26, 2016.  We expect to hear further extension of that order now that the two other posts in the country are now on authorized departure  following the declaration of a 90-day State of Emergency. See @StateDept Extends “Ordered Departure” Status for Consulate Adana/Izmir Prov Through July 26, 2016.

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@StateDept Extends “Ordered Departure” Status for Consulate Adana/Izmir Prov Through July 26, 2016

Posted: 4:33 am ET
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The State Department issued a new Travel Warning for Turkey:

  • The Department of State extended its March 29, 2016 ordered departure of family members of U.S. Government personnel posted to the U.S. Consulate in Adana and family members of U.S. Government civilians in Izmir province through July 26, 2016.  The Department of State terminated its March 29, 2016 ordered departure declaration for Mugla province. The U.S. Consulate in Adana remains open and will continue to provide all routine consular services.
  • U.S. Government personnel in Turkey remain subject to travel restrictions in the southeastern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazig.  U.S. citizens should avoid areas in close proximity to the Syrian border.
  • U.S. government employees in Turkey are permitted to leave their residences and hotels, but advised to do so during daylight hours given calls for sustained pro-government rallies in public spaces and the possibility that demonstrations and protests could ensue or turn violent with little notice.
  • The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey.    In light of the July 15 coup attempt and its aftermath, we suggest U.S. citizens reconsider travel to Turkey at this time.

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@StateDept Designates All Posts in Turkey as Danger Pay Posts: Adana 25%, Ankara 15%, Istanbul 15% … More

Posted: 6:55  pm ET
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On April 3, 2016, the State Department’s Office of Allowances (A/OPR/ALS) has determined that danger pay is in effect for three diplomatic and consular posts in Turkey: Ankara (15%), Istanbul (15%), and Adana (25%).  Seven other areas in Turkey (including the Embassy Branch Office in Gaziantep) as well as “other” have also been designated as 25% danger pay locations.

via state.gov

via state.gov

The State Department terminated the “authorized departure” status of the U.S. Consulate in Adana, Turkey on February 29, 2016 (see @StateDept Terminates ‘Authorized Departure’ Status for Adana (Turkey) and Bamako (Mali)).

On March 29, the State Department announced the “ordered departure” of family members of USG personnel posted to U.S. Consulate in Adana, as well as family members of USG civilians assigned in Izmir and Mugla provinces. The evacuation also included military dependents from Incirlik AFB in Adana (see U.S. Consulate Adana and All DOD Dependents in Incirlik, Izmir, Mugla, Now on Ordered Departure).

Last year, when the State Department revamped its danger pay designations, Gaziantep located in the southeastern Anatolia, some 185 kilometers east of Adana and 97 kilometers north of Aleppo, Syria was one of the newly designated 25% danger pay differential posts worldwide, and the only location designated as such in Turkey. Until now. (See New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status).

 

Related posts: 

 

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Car Bomb Targets Turkish Capital, Ankara: Explosion Kills 32, Injures 100+ in Kizilay Area

Posted: 5:40 pm EDT
Updated: 6:58 pm EDT
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Media reports says that a huge explosion hit the Turkish capital of Ankara on March 13, killing 27 people and wounding at least 75 others. The blast happened just before 6.45 pm local time at Kizilay Square near Guven Park.   Latest reports put those killed at 32 people and the wounded at over a hundred individuals. Several vehicles were also reportedly destroyed or damaged in the explosion, which took place in the Kizilay area of Ankara, about 25 minutes walk from the U.S. embassy.  This is the third bombing in the country, and the second one in Ankara this year alone. On February 27, 2016, a car bomb targeting the Turkish military in Ankara also killed 29 people.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara has sent out an emergency message informing all U.S. citizens of “a bombing near Kizilay Square.”  It says it is working to gather more details and urged citizens “to avoid the Kizilay/Ulus area and follow media reports for the latest developments.” Embassy Ankara previously issued a security message to Americans in Turkey warning of a potential terrorist threat in the Bahcelievler area of Ankara.

 

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And an important note, given speculations about the prior warning issued by the embassy:

 

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US Embassy Turkey Cancels Public Services For Dec 14 and 15 Due to Security Threat

Posted: 1:56 am EDT
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Due to a possible security threat against the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the Embassy will have limited consular services available on Monday, December 14 and Tuesday, December 15, 2015.  Public services, including visa appointments and non-emergency American Citizen Services appointments for December 14 and 15 are cancelled and will be rescheduled for a later date. Please note the Embassy’s operating status may be subject to change as the security situation evolves. The Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid the Embassy on those dates.  U.S. Consulate General Istanbul, U.S. Consulate Adana and Consular Agency Izmir will operate normally.

We strongly encourage U.S. citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster your personal security.

The cancellation of services follows the previously announced security threat against the U.S. Embassy in Ankara on Sunday, December 13 where Embassy Ankara urged U.S. citizens to avoid the Embassy until the afternoon of Monday, December 14, 2015. ‎

Previously on December 5, Embassy Ankara also warned of a possible security threat against posts in Turkey.

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Snapshot: State/OIG Reports Summarized in the Classified Annex to the Semiannual Report to the Congress, 4/1/2015–9/30/2015

Posted: 12:25 am EDT
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  • AUD-IT-15-42 |  Audit of the Information Security Program for Sensitive Compartmented Information Systems at the Department of State (9/2015) (PDF – 1 page)
  • AUD-SI-15-37 | Audit of the Department of State Implementation of the Vital Presence Validation Process (8/2015) (PDF– 1 page)
  • MA-15-02 | Management Alert: Evacuation of Embassy Tripoli (7/2015) (PDF – 1 page unclassified summary)
  • AUD-CGI-15-38 | Management Assistance Report: Residential Security Concerns at U.S. Embassy Ankara, Turkey  (7/2015) (PDF– 1 page)
  • AUD-CGI-15-31 | Audit of the Construction Contract Award and Security Evaluation of the New Embassy Compound London (7/2015) (PDF – 49 pages)
  • AUD-CGI-15-29 | Management Assistance Report: Residential Security Concerns at U.S. Embassy Manila, Philippines (5/2015) (PDF-1 page)
  • AUD-IT-15-27 | Management Assistance Report: Department of State Security Program for Wireless Networks (5/2015) (PDF-1 page)

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American Embassies and Consulates Around the World Celebrate Thanksgiving Day

Posted: 2:35 pm EDT
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 🍗 Happy Thanksgiving Day everyone!   Thank you for your continued support this year. I am grateful for your making this blog a part of your day. To our champions, I am here because you were there for me. I am grateful for your unending encouragement. Thank you all for making this year possible!

Below is a round-up of Thanksgiving Day celebrations around the Foreign Service. Giving thanks to the men and women representing America at our diplomatic missions around the world. They have in the past, served meals at community centers, served meals to local embassy and consulate staffers, hosted Peace Corps volunteers away from their homes, and more than a few have cooked/brought meals to Americans incarcerated overseas during the Thanksgiving holidays.  — D

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US Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

Ambassador Mark Gilbert and staff hosted the traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the Downtown Community Ministry in Wellington.

 

US Consulate General Mumbai

 

US Embassy Madrid, Spain

 

US Embassy Panama, Panama

 

US Embassy Singapore

Ambassador Kirk Wagar with embassy staffers served dinner to more than a hundred elderly guests at the AWWA Senior Community Home in the city.

 

US Embassy Prague, Czech Republic

 

US Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia

American diplomats served typical Thanksgiving dishes to their media colleagues in Jakarta.

 

US Embassy Berlin, Germany

US Embassy Muscat, Oman

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US Embassy Ankara, Turkey

DCM and Mrs. Larry Mandel served the traditional Thanksgiving meal to embassy employees at the cafeteria in Ankara.

 

US Consulate General Istanbul, Turkey

Consul General Chuck Hunter and American colleagues cooked and served a Thanksgiving luncheon to the staff at the Consulate cafeteria in Istanbul.

U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

Ambassador Glyn T. Davies hosted 41 Peace Corps volunteers for Thanksgiving.  Bravo!

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Related posts:

Ninety-Five Years Ago, We Tried to Export American Thanksgiving Day Around The World

Thanksgiving Day 2012: Foreign Service Roundup

Thanksgiving Day 2011: Foreign Service Roundup

Thanksgiving Roundup: Around the Foreign Service

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