When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

After The Coup, Why I Left My Beloved Home In Turkey

Walking in the streets of Istanbul
Walking in the streets of Istanbul
Lisa Morrow


Until last year I lived in Istanbul with my husband. We're both from Australia and we taught English at local universities. We had a great life, with wonderful Turkish friends like Hasan and Nurhan (not their real names.) On Friday nights in the summer, we went out to dinner with them.

On one such outing, we shared an enormous meal of fresh calamari and sea bass on the terrace of a secluded restaurant in Fenerbahçe, a neighborhood on the Asian side of the city. We could hear the sound of water lapping against a stone wall. As was our tradition, Hasan and I shared dessert. We were arguing over the last spoonful of kazandibi when Nurhan received a text message on her phone. It contained a single word. Darbe. Coup. It was 10pm.

Within minutes we were caught up in a throng of people trying to get home. Stuck in slow moving traffic, we listened to the car radio in fear and confusion as we heard that the coup was the work of a faction within the security forces. Outside the local military base I've passed by numerous times before, where I've seen soldiers get married and families picnic, heavily-armed soldiers with tanks stood guard. Our phones vibrated with hundreds of anxious messages, posts and tweets.

The coup was quickly crushed. But the transformation of my life in Turkey had just begun.

In the week after the attempted coup, I stayed close to home. I darted in and out of local shops only when necessary. Long conversations comparing the merits of different olives and cheese at the grocery store were replaced by quick exchanges of money and minimal eye contact. When I ventured out on one of the few buses that were still running, passengers were unusually polite. City residents, who typically had little regard for personal space, held themselves at a distance from each other. The relaxed banter of strangers was replaced by a watchful silence.

In the cosmopolitan neighborhood of Kadıköy, where I usually meet friends, grab dinner, and buy books, the streets were empty. Most stores were open but no one lingered in doorways, smoking cigarettes or laughing with friends and customers as was usually the case. My reserved and courteous butcher sported a mysterious black eye and refused to say how he'd acquired it. My spice merchant only shook his head in despair when I asked him how he was.

A state of emergency was declared. The government announced that Fethullah Gülen, a former imam from Turkey who lives in the U.S., was the mastermind behind the coup. Thousands suspected of plotting it were arrested in Turkey. Anyone who had worked at Gülen's schools or universities were either detained or placed on a blacklist, limiting their employment prospects elsewhere. Suspects were held without charge, newspapers were shut down and journalists were arrested. Despite the purge, people came out in droves to support the reinstatement of democracy. Every night, enormous rallies across the country celebrated the suppression of the attempted coup.

Our Friday night dinners with friends were abandoned. Communication was limited to cryptic messages on social media out of fear that an innocent remark might be taken out of context, leading to an unwelcome knock on the door. My husband and I were supposed to apply for jobs in the new academic year but dismissals in the education department meant all applications by foreigners were put on hold.

Suddenly, all the things I'd loved about living in Istanbul now seemed like liabilities. The passionate nature of Turks and the joyous spontaneity of living your life according to ‘inşallah" — the belief that it's up to Allah how things turn out — had lost its charm for me.

Even before the attempted coup, you could recognize the smell of tear gas in Istanbul. I'd become adept at analyzing when to walk in a different direction and when to run. I knew that anything I said in private could, and would, be used against me in ways I'd never previously imagined. But, cocooned in my comfortable life with wonderful friends, it was easy to ignore. Now that was no longer possible.

A month after the attempted coup, I left my apartment and my friends in Turkey, a country I'd lived in for nearly 10 years, to start all over again somewhere else.

I'm now in Portugal. It's quiet and peaceful here but moving hasn't been without difficulties. I'm in the process of finding a place to live, getting a job and making new friends. Loud noises still make me jump. When I see a police vehicle, I look for the nearest escape route.

I still long for my old life in Istanbul, despite everything that happened after the attempted coup. I know I'm lucky. I'm alive and, unlike many, I'm still able to choose what happens to me next.

This is Worldcrunch"s international collection of essays, which includes pieces written in English and others translated from the world's best writers in any other language. The name for this collection, Rue Amelot, is a nod to the humble address in eastern Paris that we call home. Send ideas and suggestions to info@worldcrunch.com.

Lisa Morrow is a Worldcrunch iQ contributor. Sign up to iQ here.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Why The World Still Needs U.S. Leadership — With An Assist From China

Twenty years of costly interventions and China's economic ascent have robbed the United States of its global supremacy. It is time for the two biggest powers to work together, to help the world.

Photograph of Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden walking side by side in the Filoli Estate in the U.S. state of California​

Nov. 15, 2023: Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden take a walk after their talks in the Filoli Estate in the U.S. state of California

María Ángela Holguín*


BOGOTÁ — The United States is facing a complex moment in its history, as it loses its privileged place in the world. Since the Second World War, it has been the world's preeminent power in economic and political terms, helping rebuild Europe after the war and through its growing economy, aiding the development of a significant part of the world.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

Its model of democracy, long considered exemplary around the world, has gone through a rough patch, thanks to excessive polarization and discord. This has cost it a good deal of its leadership, unity and authority.

How much authority does it have to chide certain countries on democracy, as it does, after such outlandish incidents as the assault on Congress in January 2021? The fights we have seen over electing a new speaker of the House of Representatives or backing the administration's foreign policy are simply incredible.

In Ukraine's case, President Biden failed to win support for the aid package for which he was hoping, even if there is a general understanding that if Russia wins this war, Europe's stability would be at risk. It would mean the victory of a longstanding enemy.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest