A Toronto man in Istanbul says the Turkish coup attempt left him shocked and scared as he watched protesters climb tanks and confront soldiers amidst loud booms and public chaos.
Paul Bocking was dining with his fiancé late Friday night when they heard that two main bridges in the city had been blocked by members of the military.
They rushed back to their apartment near Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul. There, he saw TV footage of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan using his iPhone to announce the overthrow attempt and call on citizens to take to the streets in opposition.
Bocking, a 32-year-old PhD student, heard shouting and looked through his window to see crowds of protesters heading to the square, the site of clashes between civilians and soldiers.
He followed them down, stunned at the unrest.
“It was surprising. It was shocking. None of it made any sense… that there was a coup unfolding totally out of the blue,” Bocking told Global News via video chat Saturday.
Bocking, who doesn’t speak Turkish, said he tried to make out what was being said on the streets, as people frantically checked their phones.
Admitting he was “scared and nervous,” Bocking said that while international TV reports made it appear the country was gripped by mass violence, he saw only isolated clashes and didn’t feel his life was threatened.
“I didn’t feel danger during the course of it,” he said, adding it appeared the attempt “was pretty quickly reversed.”
He watched as “large angry crowds” confronted soldiers and pulled themselves up on tanks, before heading back to his apartment as what sounded like the sonic booms of fighter jets exploded overhead.
Forces loyal to Erdogan quashed the coup attempt, which killed over 250 people and injured some 1,400. Thousands have been arrested as Erdogan vowed that plotters “will pay a heavy price for their treason.”
Meanwhile, Global Affairs Canada has issued an advisory against all travel to Turkey “as the security situation has deteriorated significantly.”
Bocking said he is in Turkey with his fiancé and fellow York University PhD student Pelin Asci to visit her family before their marriage there later this summer — a plan he doesn’t want the failed coup to stop.
“Like everyone else we’re going to try and see what happens next. We hope it doesn’t affect our wedding.”
With files from The Associated Press