Expat experiences during the attempted Turkish coup

Published:  12 Sep at 6 PM
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The night of July 14 will remain in the memories of expats in Turkey as a time of frightening uncertainty underlined by the realisation they could abandon the country if necessary.

The bloody, thankfully unsuccessful coup began on the evening of an average working day, just as citizens and expats were settling down for a normal evening’s dining, socialising with friends and relaxing. The first inclination of disaster ahead came at 10pm, with police blocking Istanbul’s two famous bridges and fighter jets filled the skiers over Ankara, adding to the confusion by creating sonic booms.

One Australian expat, resident in Turkey for four years, was enjoying a hen party with her friends prior to her wedding the following day. After contacting invitees to the ceremony, the bride and her friends rushed to follow events on Turkish TV and were appalled when martial law was declared by a newsreader with a gun pointed at her head. By the following morning, the coup had been defeated and the country’s president had reassured everyone with a TV speech.

Kenny Laurie, working in Istanbul as a copy editor, was in Taksim when the news reached him via missed calls on his phone and text messages confirming a military coup was underway. His initial reaction was shock and disbelief, followed by a rush of excitement at being caught up in a unique experience. He later told the media he’d felt a kind of immunity as he believed he could have simply gone back to the UK and watched the chaos unfold from a safe distance.

American Peter Klempner was socialising with friends when he heard the scary news, with the group staying up all night envisaging the possible outcomes of the coup either succeeding or failing. Anti-American prejudice and airport closures preventing expats from leaving were their main concerns. Another American expat, resident in Istanbul with her Turkish husband for 11 years, was amazed by the sight of unarmed civilians facing down guns and tanks in the name of democracy. She will never forget the bravery shown that night.
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