Saudi officials warn citizens travelling to Turkey over passport robberies

The Saudi embassy in Turkey has warned Saudi citizens about Turkish gangs that are targeting Saudi tourists to rob them of their passports and money, pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported

The embassy said Saudis had been victims of pickpockets and robbers who had run off with their money and passports and urged citizens to secure their passports and precious possessions, especially in crowded areas.

Citing unnamed trusted sources, the newspaper said 165 Saudi passports had been stolen in the last four months in three tourist spots in Istanbul; Taksim, Ortaköy, and Beşiktaş. 

“The thefts and pick-pocketing are not limited to Saudi tourists, but we have heard similar cases among Arab tourists,” Asharq Al-Awsat quoted Meshary al-Thyaby, an official at Saudi consulate in Istanbul as saying. 

According to the newspaper, the crimes have led to a huge drop in numbers of Saudi tourists in 2019 compared to 2018. The official figures show a 30-percent drop in the number of Saudis visiting Turkey in the first quarter of 2019. 

The rivalry between Ankara and Riyadh has ramped up in recent years, as the two states compete to extend their influence in the Middle East and North Africa. Saudi Arabia and Egypt accuse Turkey and Qatar of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

The relations between the two countries have further deteriorated since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in October in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.