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An American in Istanbul: ‘We can hear people praying, and it’s not prayer time’

Kat Cohen was having a late dinner with her boyfriend at a restaurant atop Istanbul’s Marmara Taksim Hotel when word came that a coup was underway.

“As soon as the first tweet went out, we got up,” she said. “No one else in the restaurant seemed to know what was going on. We walked up to the place to pay the bill, we didn’t even wait.”

A New York security consultant who she works with alerted Cohen with a text, saying, “If you’re not in your hotel, get back.” Out in the streets, she said, crowds were “running frantically.”

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“As soon as they said there was a curfew, everyone was trying to get somewhere,” she said.

The couple joined them.

“We were running through the streets to get back to the hotel because everyone said just go to the hotel, not the embassy,” she said. “We tried to stop multiple cars just to hail a ride.”

I’m hearing gunshots right now. Listen, it sounds like fireworks – pop, pop, pop. It’s literally right next to us.

— Kat Cohen

After about a half hour, a Turkish man agreed to take them to the Four Seasons Hotel a few minutes away, where they are staying. When they offered to pay him, he refused. Cohen described the scene in Istanbul’s tourist district by phone from outside the darkened hotel early Saturday morning.

“We can hear people praying, and it’s not prayer time,” said Cohen. “I’m hearing gunshots right now. Listen, it sounds like fireworks — pop, pop, pop. It’s literally right next to us. There’s been gunshots since this whole thing happened.”

Cohen and her boyfriend, Spencer Ostrander, tried to contact the local U.S. Embassy, but were not able to get through by phone and had gotten no official word on the status of the coup attempt. An education consultant based in New York, Cohen was in Istanbul for business.

“People who are outside right now are all on their phones trying to get more information,” she said.


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