At the Heart of the Coup

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SUMMER nights are notoriously hot in Ankara and the night of July 15, 2016 was no different – clear, calm, but stiflingly warm.

Nineteen-year-old Eleanor Beattie was on her way back from babysitting when events in the Turkish capital that night began to change.

“My mum was house/dog sitting for the ambassador at the embassy residence and I had been babysitting for another family about a 10-minute taxi-ride away. On my way back, I noticed a few low-flying, relatively loud jets but kind of thought nothing of it.

“I joined my mum for tea and we heard and saw a few more jets and both noted that it was quite strange. We brushed it off, but by the time we were climbing into bed I had a bad feeling about it and so insisted on staying in my mum’s room until my dad got back.”

A few blocks away, in the Gaziosmanpasa district, Eleanor’s father, Colonel Christopher Beattie, the military attaché to the British embassy, was enjoying a night at the Ruhi Bey Bar with his son, Tom, watching fellow diplomats perform in their jazz band, Funk Congress.

A similar sight greeted the colonel as he stepped outside, urged to do so by an aide – F-16 fighter jets circling ominously in the Anatolian summer sky.

Having served in Bosnia, Sierra-Leone and Iraq, he knew all too well that something was not as it should be. “As I walked on to the pavement to the deafening roar of low flying jet aircraft, I sensed it wasn’t going to be a normal weekend,” he said.

His senses were correct. Turkey was in the chokehold of a vicious military coup d’état. Continue reading