South Coast couple caught in Turkey coup

Bawley Point’s Liza Butler and Barrie Curtis were caught up in the attempted Turkey military coup just days after arriving in the country. 

Although safe now, the pair did not get much sleep throughout the coup on Friday night and Saturday morning Turkey time. 

The takeover bid by rebel elements of the army crumbled after crowds answered President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call to take to the streets to support him.

All I could think of was how I was going to break it to the children that bombs were being dropped in close proximity to where we were. Ironically, they were thinking 'how am I going to tell Mum that bombs are being dropped'.

Liza Butler

Ms Butler and Mr Curtis were woken by continuous calls for prayer echoing over the city, followed by explosions, tanks in the street below and fighter jets flying past their room.

“It was actually all a bit surreal and there was absolutely nothing we could do,” Ms Butler said.

“At 2.00am all mosques in Istanbul put out the call to prayer. This was a bit unsettling as we knew the times that this was normally done, and it was never at 2.00am in the morning.  

“We found out the next day that this was done to get as many men out and onto the streets as possible.

“I think the worst experience was at 5.45am when jets were flying very low overhead and a bomb went off. 

“The whole building shook and we just looked at each other and thought 'what now'. While we had heard numerous explosions during the night, at one stage about six at once, this was by far the biggest and loudest.  

“All I could think of was how I was going to break it to the children that bombs were being dropped in close proximity to where we were.  Ironically, they were thinking 'how am I going to tell Mum that bombs are being dropped'.”

Ms Butler said Friday was nothing out of the ordinary and they spent the day walking the streets of Istanbul. 

“Istanbul was no different to the previous few days that we had been there,” she said. 

“We walked the city all day and then went out to dinner near our hotel, which was about a five-minute walk from the Blue Mosque and close to the water where we had a view of the Bosphorous Bridge.  

“The people we spoke to showed no indication that they had any idea of what was about to unfold.

“We arrived back at our hotel at 10.30pm. At 11pm the first jet plane flew very low overhead, followed by the sound of large helicopters. We wondered what was going on and then went to sleep.”

It wasn’t until a friend called the pair at midnight from Australia that they found out what was happening on the streets outside their hotel room. 

“Just after midnight Turkish time, a friend phoned from Australia to ask if we knew what was happening and to make sure we were okay. Whilst on the phone, more jets were flying very low overhead,” Ms Butler said. 

“At this point, Facebook had already been shutdown and soon after we lost connection to CNN Turkey.

“We kept connection to a small group of family and friends in Australia via What’s App so we could keep abreast of what was happening. 

“They were fantastic, they had set up a mini control centre for us. Without them we had no idea of how good or bad the situation was.”

On Saturday morning, they were advised not to go far from their hotel. All transport out of the city had been cancelled. 

The pair walked up the street to the centre of Istanbul to ensure they had sufficient cash on them. 

“The Turkish citizens were in shock and really didn't know what to do. We were advised to not go very far from the hotel,” Ms Butler said. 

“The usually busy streets were absolutely deserted. The Grand Bazaar was closed.”

It was then they decided they would hire a car and drive to Gallipoli. 

“There were no cars available in the city, so we ended up getting a taxi to the airport to see if we could hire a car there.  We had checked online and it looked promising,” Ms Butler said. 

“The trip to the airport was an experience - one that we don't want to do again. There were abandoned tanks with police guards, signs of struggle and Turkish men with flags as their only weapon everywhere. 

“The freeway was lined with parked cars that were sticking out into the lanes. People had driven their cars and left them where they could so that they could help defend their country.

“To get into the airport was a nightmare, every car was checked, boots opened and luggage searched.  It took about an hour to drive one kilometer.

“Eventually we found an office and hired a car.”

As they navigated their way out of the city, Ms Butler said they passed tanks and crowds of men holding guns and waving the Turkish Flag.

“We passed tanks that had been taken back under control driving down the freeway with men hanging out of the top of it waving the Turkish Flag and their guns. Cars were stopping and honking their horns in support,”she said. 

“We eventually made it to Eceabat which is the closest town to Gallipoli. We were then informed that our accommodation had been cancelled due to the attempted coup and that all other tourists had cancelled their bookings.

“We ended up in lovely accommodation without any problems.”

Ms Butler said the Turkish people were willing to do anything they could to help. 

”The very sad part about the latest events in Turkey is that it came from within and the Turkish people are extremely sad and bewildered by it all,” she said. 

This story South Coast couple caught in Turkey coup first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.