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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Rattled Qatar residents return from Turkey after coup attempt

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Crowds wait to leave Turkey
Crowds wait to leave Turkey

With reporting from Reem Saad

Hundreds of Qatar residents vacationing in Turkey flew out of the country last night after major airports in the capital reopened.

Following Friday’s failed coup by the military, Qatar’s embassy in Turkey announced that two planes would be transporting nationals from Istanbul to Doha via Sabiha Gökçen International Airport and Atatürk Airport.

Many locals and expats alike boarded the flights at the urging of their relatives and out of fear of any further instability in Turkey.

Some 160 people died in the violence on Friday.

Turkey’s government has come down hard on dissenters, detaining some 2,839 military personnel. Additionally, some 2,745 judges were dismissed on Saturday, Turkey’s state news agency said.

Waiting to leave

Despite the crackdown, Abdulaziz Alkhanji said he was heading back to Qatar after being rattled by the weekend’s events.

Turks protest military coup
Turks protest military coup

Speaking to Doha News while flying home last night, Alkhanji said that he and his friends were in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square on Friday night when “things started to get suspicious.”

He continued:

“We heard loud gunshots and people started to panic and run around. We took the closest chance to run for our lives as we had nothing to protect us but God.

Once we finally arrived at the hotel, we couldn’t sleep, just stayed awake to watch the news and waited…”

As he and his friends worried that the coup would succeed and that the airports would be closed indefinitely, they got a message from Qatar’s foreign ministry about the flights home.

“It was a relief to us,” he added.

Safety concerns

Meanwhile, Qatari Hamad AlMarri told Doha News that he and his family flew into Istanbul just as the coup was taking place.

After spending the whole night at the airport, AlMarri said he was disturbed by the “lack of safety” in Turkey:

“We were caged in there (the airport,) with no one telling us what was happening during the coup. The only thing we did hear were shot guns, watched windows crash and witness old people collapsing on the floor with not even a water bottle served to them,” he said.

For 18-year-old Razan Elkahlout, it was more about not knowing whether the airport would close again later on.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Elkahlout told Doha News she had already been scheduled to fly out of Istanbul yesterday, and thought it best to stick to that plan.

Recalling last month’s attack on Ataturk Airport, she said:

“It felt like the problems in Turkey have become more frequent because before that they were mostly happening around once a month.

It’s worrying when the airports start closing. We have lives to get back to, and (there’s) no insurance you can get back whenever you want to come back.”

However, she added that she knew some families decided to stay as normalcy returns to Turkey.

Tourism hurt

Still, travel agents in Qatar have reported an uptick in calls over the past two days from people who wish to leave Turkey as soon as possible.

Speaking to Doha News, a Regency Travel and Tours consultant said:

“Many either wanted to cancel their trips to Turkey or reschedule for an earlier flight or go for the shortest route… Basically everyone just wanted the easiest and fastest solution.”

Some travelers are also canceling future vacations to the country and even considering rerouting flight plans amid the uncertainty.

More broadly, the country’s economy is expected to take an overall hit from falling tourist arrivals, analysts told the National.

“For an economy that depends on external savings to plug its current account deficit, a military coup makes the nation even more vulnerable to economic shocks at a time it can do without one,” said Ketaki Sharma, founder and chief executive of regional company Algorithm Research.

Does the coup attempt make you think twice about vacationing in Turkey? Thoughts?

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