A Toronto-area MP in Turkey during the failed coup attempt says he was moved as he watched thousands of overjoyed demonstrators celebrate the survival of democracy in the country.
Ahmed Hussen was with his family on vacation in Istanbul when a rogue faction of the military entered the city late Friday, blocking off two key bridges and clashing with anti-coup protesters.
Hussen, a Liberal representative for the riding of York South-Weston, told Global News that from his hotel he saw crowds of people marching towards the city centre against the coup.
“Most of last night people were making a lot of noise, cars were honking and people were coming out in support of the government.”
A helicopter buzzed “very close” to the hotel and he watched as fighter jets maneuvered in the night sky, Hussen said.
As he saw the shocking events unfold out his window, Hussen said his mind went to the civil strife he witnessed as a boy in Somalia.
“As someone who went through that it was a very bad feeling, just briefly, to see that a country could go down that road,” said Hussen, who came to Canada as a refugee.
“For a couple hours there it was very concerning,” he added.
Hussen said he was worried about his mother, brother and himself being trapped in Turkey, and the group spent Friday night safely in their hotel.
Early Saturday evening, after things had settled, he ventured out and took in the spontaneous celebrations of the coup’s failure, with Turkish flags being proudly flown from cars and businesses.
Hussen also witnessed two large pro-democracy demonstrations involving thousands of people, flags held high, and stopped to take a video of one of the protests.
“It was quite a sight,” he said.
The experience reminded him of the power of democracy, Hussen said.
“It really makes you not take it for granted.”
“The preservation of democracy is very important and to witness regular people — students, workers, regular folks in Istanbul — come out in the thousands and peacefully defend democracy and also celebrate the preservation of democracy was quite special to me,” said Hussen.
“I had never seen anything like that.”
WATCH: Full video coverage of attempted coup in Turkey (WARNING: video may depict graphic content)
Hussen said that he won’t cut his trip short, but will be staying indoors the next few nights.
Global Affairs Canada has issued an advisory against all travel to Turkey due to the security situation, and cautions against going out after sunset.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said in a statement Saturday that Ottawa “is relieved that democracy has been preserved and that the democratically elected government remains in power.”
Forces loyal to Turkey’s president quashed the coup attempt in a night of explosions, air battles and gunfire that left more than 250 people dead and over 1,400 wounded.
With a file from The Associated Press
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