So, a lot of Western tourists come to Turkey every year. I checked U.S. State Department's page about Turkey and I decided to write this take.
According to the page, there's a possibitility for US citizens to get attacked by terrorists in Turkey. This is not true. (Those Americans are paranoid about the terrorist stuff...) I can guarantee you will never ever face a terrorist in a developed city like İstanbul, İzmir, or Ankara. Terrorists are at the borders. I know of one act of terrorism that caused harm in İstanbul in recent years, it killed a police officer along with the terrorist woman and injured another officer. No one has anything against Americans. Those who people have something against:
1) Jews. Because of that Israel-Palestine thin people often thinks Jews as
a) Muslim-eating devils
b) secret Israeli agents who try to ruin our country (Conspiracy theories are quite popular here)
We have a synagogue in İstanbul, Neve Shalom. Though not the only one, it's the largest and has been attacked three times. So, if you're of Jweish descent and traveling to Turkey, be careful, especially if you're traveling to a lesser-developed area. That's same for everyone, actually.
2) Queers. I'll get to that.
3) Certain races. Not all, but racism against some nationalities is more common among Turkish people. Not counting the Kurdish as they're our largest minority, them being:
- Armenians. ''Armenian seed'' is used as a swear word.
- Arabs. Some Turks are extremely Arab-admiring, but some really despise them. What Westerners think Turks do (riding camels, eating with your hands) is what Turks think Arabs do.
Black people shouldn't worry when coming to Turkey because they're black. Especially older people still call them Arabs but I've never seen someone being racist to them. We're more curious towards them since not so many black people live in our country. If you're black, Turks can stare at you and may want to touch your natural hair, or simply want to talk because they find you interesting. Afro-Turks are out there, though not so many.
The main word used for black people is ''zenci'' which was derived from the Arabic word for ''black'', just like the N-word was derived from Spanish. Some people find it offensive and prefer saying ''siyah'' (modern word for ''black'') or ''siyahi'' (something that is black).
4) Women. Eh, raping tourists is not uncommon here. Since you can't teach them not to rape in 5 seconds, you'll have to know how to protect yourself. Dragging a male or two around with you (preferably a muscular one) will protect you from rapists even if you're walking around at 23:00 even if you're in a bikini. To be safer, never let anyone buy you a drink, walk around with a big group, don't stay out too late, try not to reveal much skin (wear jeans instead of mini skirts) and if you're doing one of those, don't do the others. If you're alone and it's late, carry a bottle of pepper spray. You can bring one from where you live (I heard they make ones that look like lipstick) or you can buy them here, it's totally legal. While using, stretch your arm as much as you can so your eyes don't get affected as well.
This part is important.
(I think I'm going too deep for someone who will just come to see Istanbul as a tourist, but those words need to be said.)
As far as I see, being yourself and every individual being entitled to their opinions and actions is the norm in Western countries. Turkey is not the same. Especially if you're outside the good parts of İstanbul (where people like Orhan Pamuk come from, like Marjane Satrapi was from the good parts of Tehran) you can't seek for personal space, you can't say ''It's my life''. Here, society is a whole, we are seen as a part of it, not as individuals who are free to live their lives in the way they want. There's something called ''public morality'', you can get arrested for going against it. Thoguh not imprisoned, the police won't treat you well. Peer pressure is everything. We Turks live thinking what will others say about us. If you're gay and others hear about this, you're bringing dishonor to your father. They will make fun of him at kahvehane. Neighbours won't talk to your mom.
Ever wondered why all those Indian and Pakistani and other Asian students in your country are studying either Engineering, Medicine, Law etc. and never Women's Studies or Liberal Arts? This is an Eastern thing. Those are the careers that will bring you the $$$ and bring honor to your family, make them proud. It's never about you. No one asks if you're happy with it. Is it respectable? Does it pay well? Go for it. Who cares if you don't want to spend your life doing something you hate?
Rumi once said ''Appear as you are, be as you appear.''. We tend to share this quote on the internet a lot, but what we do is the opposite of that. You can be very unhappy on the inside, but you don't let it show. If you're gay, you marry a woman, find a good job and have children, hoping it will pass soon, making everyone happy—except for yourself. This is the part you chase after trans prosititutes (which is the only career option for trans people here) and secretly watch gay p*rn while your wife is sleeping, maybe even join some gay dating sites and think you're not gay because you're on top.
People have sad lives like that. I think those are the alternative scenerios:
1) You come out to your family and get, well, killed.
Family honour: cleaned.
2) You come out to your family and you're homeless now. In this situation:
a) You somehow get yourself killed.
Family honour: cleaned.
b) You become a prostitute.
Family honour: dirty.
c) You have the goods, the brains or both to take your shit together and get the hell out of the country, preferably to the Netherlands, maybe even with your partner. Congrats, here's the number of my aunt in Maastricht, call if you need anything.
Family honour: dirty, but at least you can send your nieces and nephews Belgian chocolates now.
3) You come out to your family and they accept you. Wow, how lucky you are.
Anyway, as an open gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans, you don't expect to find a job (and maybe not even finish your education), have a happy marriage (marriage is defined between a man and a woman by Turkish law, and you can't ask him/her to ''Civil union'' you either). Your life is not here.
So, if you're planning to stay in the most touristic places, you shouldn't be attacked, but for your safety, don't hold hands with your boyfriend.
Wow, this take has a scary aura. But don't let those keep you from coming here, there's a lot of historical and natural stuff to see. Have a good holiday.