Sunday, February 3, 2013

Turkey: Update in the Murder of US Tourist Sarai Sierra in Istanbul, Tips for Travelers

According to CBS News and The Associated Press, and as a follow-up to my numerous postings concerning the murder of American tourist Sarai Sierra, 33, a married mother of two, who lived in Staten Island and who disappeared in Istanbul sometime after January 21, Turkish police report that upwards of eleven suspects in the case have been taken into custody in conjunction with their investigation.

COMMENT: Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin said earlier on Sunday (February 3) that forensic experts have not concluded their autopsy report on the victim, but that it was "clear" that Ms. Sierra died from a head injury. Her body was found yesterday (February 2) in a low-income section of the city.

According to authorities, Ms. Sierra's body was found not far from Galata Bridge, which spans Istanbul's Golden Horn waterway.

For young, inexperienced and elderly foreign travelers, often on their first trip abroad, as was the case with Ms. Sierra, the following is suggested:

1. As I have said in the past, traveling abroad, particularly alone, and for either gender, continues to be a risk-rich activity for those who are not well-versed in the security risks they will face internationally.

2. It is essential that solo travelers develop either through experience or through formal training on how to be a discerning traveler with a strong sense of security awareness and a healthy suspicion of others, as not everyone you encounter has your best interests at stake;

3. Register your foreign itinerary with your appropriate foreign affairs agency;

4. For US citizens on a first trip abroad, go to http://www.travel.state.gov before you leave home;

5. For all foreign travelers, consult your foreign affairs agency by going on-line to learn how citizens have been targeted in the past, as well as heeding any security-related guidance offered;

6. Subscribe to international medical treatment and evacuation coverage before departure. Without it, you may be forced to pay for treatment in advance if you become injured or ill. For information, go to: http://www.insuremytrip.com;

7. Always carry a photocopy of your photo page of your passport and your entry visa stamp on your person;

8. Always carry a mobile phone while abroad and type in local police emergency numbers and your nearest embassy or consulate into the phone's speed-dialer; and

9. Avoid leaving hotel reservations to the last minute and include in your on-line registration of your itinerary where you will be staying during your visit abroad. Not doing this will make it difficult for the authorities and your family if you disappear or become missing for any reason.