Population and ethnicity
Turkey has a population of 64 million, 20% of whom are Kurds.
The political situation in Turkey is a direct hangover form Ataturk's secularisation of the country in the early 1920's. Since then there has been continual friction between those who want the country to remain secular, backed by the all important weight of the National Security Council, and the rising tide of fundamentalism. Hence the theory that Turkey has a democratic multiparty system is questionable.
Turkey 's main political issue, at least as far as the international media is concerned, is 'the Kurdish situation'. Since 1984 thousands of Kurds have been killed in a civil war attempting to establish their own autonomous homeland in the south-east of Turkey. The party behind the Kurdish movement is the PKK, who suffered a serious blow when their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was caught in 1999 and sentenced to death. This has forced the PKK to rethink their strategy and they now seem to be searching for a more peaceable solution.
The international spotlight also focuses on Turkey 's relationship with their westerly neighbour, Greece. Since the partition of Cyprus in 1974 into a Greek south and a Turkish north relationships between the two countries have been decidedly frosty, with Greece continually blocking Turkey 's attempts to join the European Union.
As a tourist visiting Turkey it won't be long before you notice the high rate of inflation. Hence if you're staying for some time, or intending to work, it pays to change only a little money at a time. Tourism is a big earner of foreign exchange, as is the production of Iron, steel, oil and textiles.
Turkey 's population is almost exclusively Muslim. While Sunni's form the bulk, the rise in fundamentalism is reflected in a growing Shiite population. There is also a small heterodox Alawite community.
In rural areas curiosity and hospitality border on the overwhelming and it's not uncommon to be invited into someone's home for a meal. The most likely first point of contact tourists have with Islam is when visiting a mosque. Women must cover-up, including their heads(the lager mosques in Istanbul provide scarves at the entrance for this) and men and women are required to remove their shoes. Mosques should be visited outside of prayer times and it's customary to leave a donation. One figure you'll become familiar with is Ataturk, the man responsible for transforming the country from a Sultanate to the secular democracy that it is today. As a conversational topic he's best avoided, unless you really know your stuff. Muslims are sensitive about having their photograph taken, and should be asked first. It's also forbidden to take photographs of military installations and government buildings