Cape Town teen’s horror during Turkey coup
A Cape Town schoolgirl cowered in the kitchen of a coffee shop in Istanbul Airport along with several other travellers and listened in horror as gunshots rang out nearby and people screamed.
Sobbing and terrified, Robyn Fabian, 17, a pupil at Westerford High School in Newlands, phoned her worried mother who was in the UK at the time and told her she loved her.
About two hours later the teen again had to run for cover in the airport.
”There was this huge loud boom sound and the windows shook. There was a low-flying fighter jet… I hid under the table when the booms went off.
“Then downstairs in the arrivals area the military walked through. The (Turkish) president (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) landed and made a speech,” Robyn said.
She was one of several South Africans caught up in the dramatic events in Turkey where there was an attempted military coup this weekend.
Robyn had been on a history tour with a group from Westerford High School but instead of returning to Cape Town with them, she travelled to Scotland to join her parents and visit her grandmother.
She was returning alone to Cape Town via Istanbul where she landed at 10.30pm on Friday.
”I was sitting at a Starbucks around midnight. In the airport one Starbucks is elevated overlooking the area… I was sitting at a table with a group of strangers,” she said.
”All of a sudden people started running and shouting. There were gunshots. I didn’t know where it was coming from.”
She ran into the kitchen along with other travellers and staff from the restaurant.
”We hid in there for about 10 or 15 minutes.
”When things went quiet they emerged and tried to see what was happening.
”There was military outside the airport. Then protesters arrived,” the teenager said.
On Saturday Robyn’s mother, Danielle Guignet, was preparing to leave the UK and was staying in contact with her daughter via text messages.
Guignet said she had panicked when her daughter was out of wifi range for more than an hour and then contacted her in the early hours of on Saturday morning .
”She called me to say she loved me and sobbed,” Guignet told Weekend Argus.
Guignet had been so distraught that while Robyn was on her cellphone, she used a landline to contact her daughter’s history teacher Gordon Brookbanks, who had headed the Westerford tour group.
He advised Guignet on what to say to her daughter and later contacted police Major-General Jeremy Vearey, who had guest-lectured at Westerford and whose son had been part of the initial tour group, in the hope he could assist.
On Saturday when the situation had calmed down, Robyn desperately tried to get a flight out of Istanbul, but said there were no Turkish Airlines staff on duty.
By Saturday evening Robyn had been booked on a flight home.
International Relations Department spokesman Clayson Monyela said while several South Africans were in Turkey, reports received indicated none was killed or wounded.
”There’s a bit of a delay with airlines authorising flights,” he said.
Monyela said eight of the South Africans in Istanbul were attending a Unesco World Heritage Committee event.
National Heritage Council spokesman Danny Goulkan was one of those eight.
He took to Twitter on Friday night saying he was “terrified of the gunfire” and gunshots were going off just one street away. At one point he tweeted: “A second missile just went off now.”
On Saturday he said the delegation felt safe “after a sleepless night of gunfire and panic”.
According to the Associated Press and Reuters at least 161 people – including many civilians – were killed, more than 1 400 people wounded and nearly 3 000 arrested after a faction of the armed forces tried to seize power using tanks and attack helicopters. Some strafed the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and the parliament in the capital, Ankara, and others seized a major bridge in Istanbul.