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Terror threat leaves ‘everyone scared’ in Istanbul

(London Post – DW)   After closing its embassy, Berlin has now closed its consulate and two German schools in Istanbul due to a terror warning. The continued terror threat has rattled the city, says the head of a German political foundation.

DW: The German embassy in Turkey warned tourists on Tuesday about potential terror attacks in the Turkish capital Ankara. Now the embassy has been closed and the threat level for Istanbul, where you are based, has also been raised. How have you experienced all of this?

Felix Schmidt: I live close to the German consulate general. From there I could see the increased security measures: an armored vehicle is parked in front of the building. But of course it is clear that in a huge city like Istanbul everyday life continues. Many people from Taksim Square in the center of the city have to walk directly by the consulate on their way to work. Everyday life has to continue in a city of 16 million people – despite a terror warning.

Almost every month in the last half-year there has been a deadly terror attack in Turkey, most recently last Sunday in Ankara. In January, German tourists were killed in a suicide attack in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. What effect has this had on the city?

Felix Schmidt Leiter der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in IstanbulFelix Schmidt heads the Istanbul office of the Friedrich Ebert foundation

Everyone is nervous, everyone feels distressed, everyone is scared. In that sense the last attack in Ankara really achieved what probably was its intended effect – to make people feel more insecure. Especially among the international community, many now ask themselves whether it is worth continuing to live here under these difficult circumstances or whether it would be better to move elsewhere.

The latest terror alert for Turkey focuses on German institutions in Ankara and Istanbul. Why do you think that German institutions in Turkey have become potential terror targets at this point in time?

The most obvious assumption would be that it is connected to the EU-Turkey summit which begins today and continues tomorrow with Turkey’s Prime Minister Davotoglu. Perhaps there is a feeling that Chancellor Angela Merkel has gone too far to get an agreement with Turkey over the refugee crisis. This could be a potential cause – but of course this is pure speculation.

How does the German community in Istanbul view the security situation in Turkey, is there a sense that enough is being done to keep people safe?

The German government can’t do more than issue travel warnings, as has been done now. The Turkish side has done a lot. The security measures around German institutions have been increased drastically. But that still cannot prevent a terror attack. The threat is still there.

Felix Schmidt heads the Istanbul office of the German political foundation the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. His office is located in the Besiktas district close to the center of Istanbul. Schmidt has asked his staff to stay home as a consequence of the terror threat.

The interview was conducted by Vera Kern.

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