Nova Scotia

Former Nova Scotian describes 'very scary' Turkey coup attempt

A 23-year-old man who grew up in Halifax fled an Istanbul coffee shop last night as a military coup attempt took place in Turkey.

'The entire safety of the city has been disturbed,' said Alan Radi from Istanbul

Alan Radi and his father were enjoying a quiet dinner on this street in Istanbul when they received word of the coup. (Alan Radi)

A 23-year-old man who grew up in Halifax fled a coffee shop last night in Turkey, his phone ringing with family telling him to stay safe.

"I didn't know what was going on. All of a sudden people said there was a military coup," Alan Radi said from Istanbul Saturday morning.

As of Saturday morning, Turkey's president said at least 161 people are dead and around 1,400 injured after his government fought against a military coup attempt overnight Friday. Thousands have been detained as the government cracks down on the attempted coup, with a local broadcaster reporting a purge of the judiciary is underway.

People surround a Turkish army tank in Ankara, Turkey. (Tumay Berkin/Reuters)

Calm to chaotic

Radi moved to Canada from Damascus, Syria as a child, settling in Nova Scotia with his family, all of whom are now Canadian. Radi left the province and studied in the Middle East, eventually choosing Istanbul to launch three startup businesses. 

The future of those projects is likely in jeopardy, he said, after what he describes as a night of confusion, fear and little sleep, one hour turning the calm city into chaos.

Alan Radi, 23, runs businesses based in Istanbul. He once lived in Halifax with his family, all Canadians. (Alan Radi)

'Like an action movie'

Around 10 p.m., Radi and his father were having dinner when they noticed people leaving in a hurry from the street full of coffee shops. They tried to drive home, only to encounter a military checkpoint near their house, about 10 minutes from downtown. Soldiers were stopping traffic and staring at the cars, he said. 

"It was a little like an action movie where I had to U-turn right in the middle of the street and go back to find another way to reach home," Radi said.

"I didn't know I had those driving skills."

A policeman stands atop of a military armored vehicle after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul. (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

'Walls were shaking'

There were gunshots, he said. One man holding a gun, suddenly became aggressive and was pushing people who were trying to pass, he said. Another holding a weapon moved between the cars. 

The night became "very scary." They finally made it home.

But "the walls were shaking, the sounds were very loud. We couldn't sleep all night," Radi said.

"All of a sudden you don't know what's the system, what is the situation."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged people to take to the streets to protest. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

'Bring peace to our country'

Radi and his father could hear calls from the mosques saying, "God bring peace to our country. God bring peace to our land."

"It was terrible," Radi said. "It was like we were in the middle of a war zone, but today there is nothing."

Now, his family is trying to decide how to go forward: whether to stay in Turkey, to return to Canada or find another place to settle and what they should do with their business.

People react near a military vehicle during an attempted coup in Ankara, Turkey early on July 16. (Tumay Berkin/Reuters)

'Entire safety' disturbed

Turkey is a NATO member with the second biggest military in the Western alliance. The coup attempt could serve to destabilize one of the most important allies of the U.S. in the fight against ISIS, CBC News reports. The country is essential because of its location bordered by Iran, Iraq and Syria. 

Right now it is not clear how much of the military was involved in the failed coup attempt.

"The rise in violence, it's not operated by the people. People over here are very peaceful," Radi said. "But when it comes to their country, there was someone lying in front of the tank ... because he doesn't want to see something going wrong in Turkey.

"In one hour, the entire safety of the city has been disturbed."

With files from Carly Stagg, Blair Sanderson, CBC News