SA family happy to be home after attacks in Nice and Istanbul

2016-07-18 08:10
Civilians in Istanbul posing with an abandoned tank. (Supplied: Lorenza Douwenga)

Civilians in Istanbul posing with an abandoned tank. (Supplied: Lorenza Douwenga)

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Johannesburg - A South African family who unwittingly experienced the attacks in Nice as well as the attempted military coup in Istanbul the following day, say they have not been put off travelling to either of the two countries.

Sjoerd Douwenga, who stays in Vereeening, Gauteng with his family, said they enjoyed every bit of their holiday but they are also glad to be home safe.

“It is much easier to manage people in your own environment than in a foreign environment,” Douwenga said.

Douwenga said despite everything that happened in Turkey, he has no fear of returning there again. 

“The company I work for allows me to travel to Turkey and Istanbul a lot. I enjoy the people and environment there,” he said.

Sjoerd, his wife Lorenza, and their two boys Willrich and Leander Douwenga, left the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, thirty minutes before a truck barrelled through and killed at least 84 people. 

“We had a flight back to Istanbul the following morning, so we wanted to show our two boys the fireworks before we went to bed,” Douwenga said.

Douwenga said they were fortunate that they were in their hotel room by the time the Promenade attacked happened.

A truck had reportedly ploughed into the crowd of fireworks spectators during Bastille Day celebrations, with President Francois Hollande describing it as a terrorist attack.

The family left Nice and travelled to Turkey. 

Family and a dog

On Friday night, Turkey's armed forces attempted to seize power in a coup, declaring martial law and a curfew throughout the country.

“We had view narrow escapes, when everything started happening in Istanbul we were in our hotel room in a very high building,” he said.

Douwenga described how his one son woke up when the military tanks passed their hotel room, adding that he remained calm. 

“I am not an emotionally guy, I remained calm for the sake of my family. I knew if I would panic, they would also start to panic,” Douwenga said.

Douwenga said it was quite strange to see a tank pass by with a family and a dog walking right next to it.

“From the outside it looked very violent, but not for once did it look like the military was going to kill the civilians,” he said.

He said the military was very respectful towards the people.

“The army had to respect the will of the people and the army realised they would not go against the will of the people,” he said.

He said at the end democracy was won by the people of Turkey. 

By Saturday morning, the Turkish government had regained control of the country.

Enjoyed their holiday

French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim as saying that 161 people were killed, with 2 839 soldiers now detained on suspicion of involvement in the coup.

The toll 161 did not include the assailants, he emphasised. Turkey's acting army chief Umit Dundar had earlier said 104 putschists had been killed.

In addition, 1 440 people had been wounded.

“What made me calm was to see the interaction between the people and the army.  It was clear that the army had already lost and would not use violence against their own people,” Douwenga said.

Douwenga said despite the eventful two days in Istanbul and Nice, his family would not mind going back.

The family enjoyed their holiday in both countries.

Read more on:    turkey  |  france  |  security

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