‘Freedom Fleet’ members cross border at Naqoura
By Wassim Mroueh and Mohammed Zaatari
Daily Star staff
Thursday, June 03, 2010
BEIRUT: Four Lebanese passengers of an aid fleet bound for Gaza were released by Israeli authorities on Wednesday.
Lebanese activists Hussein Shukor, Hani Sleiman and Al-Jazeera journalists Abbas Nasser and Andre Abou Khalil entered the Lebanese territories via the Naqoura border crossing.
On Sunday night, Israel’s navy stopped six ships dubbed “The Freedom Fleet” ferrying 700 people and 10,000 tons of supplies toward Gaza strip. A Turkish vessel was attacked by Israeli commandos, killing at least nine activists. The captured vessels were escorted into Israel’s port of Ashdod.
The passengers who came from different states are being deported by Israeli authorities. Six Lebanese passengers were aboard the “Freedom Fleet.”
Issam Zaatar, a carrier of a Lebanese-Belgian dual nationality, had left Israel for Brussels Tuesday morning.
Reports said Nabil Hallak, a Lebanese who holds an Irish passport will be deported by the Israeli authorities to Ireland.
Nasser, meanwhile, has been working for Al-Jazeera television since 2004.
The 34-year-old journalist has served in Al-Manar and Al-Alam TV stations along with Bahrain radio station.
As for 61-year-old Hani Sleiman, the lawyer was injured during the Israeli attack on the Turkish ship. He was also among the passengers of the “Lebanese Brotherhood” vessel that tried to break the Israeli siege on Gaza in February 2009.
The ship was held by the Israeli authorities and its passengers deported to their countries. Sleiman occupied senior posts in the Baath Party between 1966 and 1974 and has joined a number of associations. Sleiman is married and has three children.
Hussein Shukor lost his wife and four children when his home was hit by Israeli jets in 2006 summer Israeli war against Lebanon.
He also planned to join the “Lebanese Brotherhood” vessel but failed to do so.
Israel’s step drew waves of criticism from many states and international organizations.
Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan urged the immediate lifting of “the inhumane embargo on Gaza” on Tuesday.
“Israel’s behavior should definitely, definitely be punished,” Erdogan told a meeting of his parliamentary deputies, adding: “The time has come for the international community to say enough.”
Meanwhile, rallies protesting the Israeli storming of the “Freedom Fleet” continued in Beirut on Wednesday.
A sit-in was held by various Lebanese political parties along with Palestinian factions near the ESCWA headquarters in downtown Beirut.
The gathering was called by head of Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt.
The sit-in was attended by members of March 8 and March 14 camps, two rival political groups.
Participants in the sit-in decided to forward petitions conveying their united stance against the aggression to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Arab League Chief Amr Moussa and ambassadors of member states in the Security Council.
PSP official Sharif Fayyad outlined to the crowds the content of a petition that was handed to UN Media Center Director Bahaa Al-Qousi. The letter slammed “Israeli aggressiveness” calling it a “natural product of the racist Zionist culture.”
The demonstrators urged the Security Council to deter the ongoing Israeli aggression against civilians that “didn’t spare volunteers from different races trying to deliver aid to Palestinians besieged by Israel.”
They also called upon the Security Council to lift of the blockade on Gaza, impose sanctions on Israel and force it to pay compensations for the “humane and social” disasters it provoked.
Also, around 5,000 individuals gathered Wednesday afternoon near Fatima gate in the border village of Kfar- Kila protesting Israel’s aggression on Gaza’s aid fleet.
The Hizbullah-arranged gathering was attended by the party’s MP Ali Fayyad and Baaath Party MP Qassem Hashem along with a number of local figures.
Reports said the demonstrators remained near the Israeli-Lebanese borders until the Lebanese passengers were released.
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
Kenza Isnasni, 23, has seen her parents die. Their crime: being foreigners. Her fight: never allow that.
On May 7, 2002, a racist crime shook the Belgian public.The murderer is an active member of the Vlaams Blok, the extreme right party in BelgiumThe victims were a couple of Moroccan immigrants.They leave behind five children. She was their only daughter. Kenza Isnasni was 19 years old then.Since then she has continued to campaign against xenophobia and differences, in memory of his two parents, victims of intolerance of some and the silence of others.
Kenza is a “third generation” as we used to say.His grandfather and his father, born in Belgium, moved to Europe in search of Eldorado. Like many, his father went to his mother’s side of origins. “My parents had nothing cliche classic North African immigrants.. They were open and dreamed for us high school, “she summed up simply.Arriving in Belgium, her mother took literacy classes and passed his driver’s license. . As for his father, he works as it is supposed to do, open the walls and do not ask questions. . Do not deny that for his children are entitled to a different school than “guettos, decent housing …” We live in a very cosmopolitan, but nice people, nothing to do with the warm Parisian suburbs.The only problem was our apartment, too small and mostly unhealthy. That was why we moved to a nearby town. A common right and even the extreme right, which will be the scene of a brutal murder, a dark epilogue history and prelude to a struggle that is far from won.
BETTER LIVING TOGETHER
“I finished my studies in pediatric nurse and it was nearly two years and the regional housing Belgium we had found an apartment. It was a kind of welfare that we have been waiting five years. ” . They move and get to know their neighbor, “Belgo-Belgian,” as she says, but more remote.. The months pass and people start to speak. Many households have left that apartment in recent years. The neighbor in question is an outspoken racist and does not take long to exercise the tare. In the silent contempt after verbal attacks that become front. Police and Housing Branch, alerted several times, throw the hot potato and is the drama.”He entered the apartment, shot my two little brothers who took refuge in my parents’ bedroom where he followed them while pouring gasoline on the floor and walls. I heard my mother make a final prayer, then another shot and nothing more. ” The flames ravage the apartment. “This is another neighbor who came to get me on the balcony. Outside, the crowd gathered and the police did not know what to do.. My father died instantlyMy mother was shot several times. The affair caused a stir. The entire Belgian political and Moroccan officials are present. Kenza Isnasni greet his parents in front of thousands of people gathered for an official funeral. A discourse without anger but forgiveness. . “That day, I grew up. I do not want the death of my parents is the subject of any recovery of anyone. She says, without being quiet serene, his eyes misty but without a tear, pain and struggle. “I left my nursery nurse training and began studying communications and create an association that will soon emerge and be headquartered in the same apartment where my parents were murdered. Broken the game interviews as that of memory, his ideas are clear: “The crime begins with the words and Racism kills.There has been progress since then but the road remains long. I will spend my life. “
1983 : Birth of Kenza Brussels
2000 : She started studying childcare
2002 : Her parents are murdered by their neighbor Belgium
2003 : She chose the path of activism and started to study communication
2006: The Association called “Better Living Together”
06.06.10 – 19:04 06.06.10 – 19:04
The last two Belgians who were aboard a boat in the fleet humanitarian arraisonnée by Israel arrived Sunday afternoon at around 17:00 in Belgium. A welcoming committee of over a hundred people waiting at the Brussels Airport.
The two young women took a flight from Istanbul, where they spent several days with the families of Turkish victims.
“”I am very excited to see all this mobilization and I thank everyone who supported us,” said Kenza Isnasni in tears. Still reeling from the events, the two young women do not want to talk about what they saw and experienced there. “We did not expect at all that happened, things happened so fast and we did not stand back and to put words to everything. It’s very difficult for us to manage all these emotions, “said Fatima El Mourabiti.
Very emotionally affected on the two Belgians have nevertheless retained their fighting spirit. “. “This is just the beginning, the beginning of the end, and things are just beginning. I hope to see many things change. The world knows now who was to do,” Fatima El Mourabiti yet indicated.
In total, five Belgians were on the ship boarded by Israeli forces.
*Why did you prefer to join the Gaza Freedom Flotilla?
Perween Yaqub: The reason why I wanted to be a part of this flotilla was to contribute the humanitarian aid that was being taken for the people of Gaza, and to provide healthcare and educational resources for people that are desperately in need, i.e. children, widows, sick people etc. Instead of just sitting in the UK, I wanted to do something practical, to be a part of this experience, and to promote greater awareness of the Palestine.
Fatima el Mourabiti: I joined the Viva Palestina convoy before, because Palestine has always been associated in my life. Since I was maybe 4 or 5 years old, I have been hearing from my parents about what happened in Palestine. Now I am 26 and there is no change at all. So I asked myself “How could it happen?” Also I hate injustice. Because of these reasons, I thought that I should contribute to this convoy and I raised funds to help the people of Gaza.
Maryam Luqman Talib: I joined this group with my brother and his wife. The reasons, that my sisters have mentioned here, are also my reasons. But the main reason for me is that the issue of Palestine, the issue of Gaza and what is happening there, is like the sum of injustices that has been happening all over the world, I mean all happening in just one little land. Particularly what is happening in Gaza is just something which cannot be watched, something that has been going on for too long, something that has been purposely ignored by our government, by those people in power. So when I was blessed with this opportunity, I felt that I would be committing a crime to let go over it -having the door opened to me and me not having gone through with it. So that is my main reason.
*Were you expecting an Israeli attack before setting off? Israeli officials state that they warned in advance that they would not allow the flotilla to go through.
Fatima el Mourabiti: An attack? No, no. PM Netanyahu, before, was saying that they would use violence, but I was thinking they would only block the flotilla, not kill people, innocent civilian people.
Perween Yaqub: Israel made threats previously, but to be honest, I did not take it that seriously or as serious as the outcome. What I anticipated was that we would have some difficulty, perhaps they would try to block us, perhaps climb on the ship, check and find what we have actually, take humanitarian aid and be in a position to prevent us. That was my worst case scenario. As for the violent attack, I did not expect that, not even in my wildest dreams.
Maryam Luqman Talib: Personally I kept all the options open having read the news until the day we departed. I also did keep in mind that it is the Zionist regime’s nature to have no consciousness, no care, no heart for anyone who resists their thinking, their policies. A clear witness for this was the latest war in Gaza in which they killed hundreds of children. So keeping these in mind, I did keep this alternative open, but I did not know that they were so foolish and stupid to have done it within international waters. I knew they might have done something like that, but did not realise that they lack the intelligence, that they were blinded so much. Clearly the overwhelming international outcry that has followed this massacre has proven that really Israel is incapable of standing on its two feet. Israel is falling and everyone is watching.
*How was the atmosphere in the ship before the Israeli attack?
Perween Yaqub: The atmosphere in the ship was of solidarity and unity. It was quite neat and exciting. We were full of hope. People from every part of the world came together for a single purpose and for one destination which was to help the people of Gaza. So I think we were very blessed and privileged to be a part of that. Because it was such a historical, monumental and symbolic journey to Palestine.
Maryam Luqman Talib: The spirit on the ship before and after attack, and until now was one that was all just beautiful. I do not think that I will really experience such an atmosphere anywhere else. We had people that we could not communicate with, but our hearts could communicate. And we had people from different colours, religions, languages and races. Everyone knew that whatever we were going to get through, we would get through together. There was so much unity, so much love. There was just peace.
Fatima el Mourabiti: Each person found his/her place and each person contributed to the organisation. Everybody had a responsibility just like a big family. I did not meet many of the people, because I went to Gaza with Viva Palestina before. But when I meet all the people, woman and men, they were just amazing people.
You have just said everybody knows his/her responsibility. What were your responsibilities?
Perween Yaqub: I think there were a lot of unwritten responsibilities, naturally like a family does: taking care of each other, taking care of ourselves, taking care of the ship; contributing to the feeding and the cleaning, just engaging with the people, keeping the spirit really alive and so on.
*Could you please talk about what happened during the Israeli attack? How was the atmosphere? How was your experience in that terrible situation?
Perween Yaqub: I think we were all in different places, so perhaps our experiences would be quite different… I was actually awake for the whole night, because I was waiting to make a live interview. I was maybe becoming more anxious, because I was visually seeing the warships in sight. During one interview that IHH was making on TV, helicopters started circulating. The lights were cut so the interview could not take place. It started to become quite tense, and I went into the press room in order to send a couple of messages to my friends on facebook saying what was happening. Somebody came in just shortly before the attack and said that we were being surrounded by the warships. I could feel the panic in his voice. I was about to send another message to say please help us and do something, but they cut the communication system. Then I went out on the deck and found the firing on the ship like bombs, or I am not sure what it was, but I could hear shooting. Then I made signs to the cameras in the helicopter, my hands put on the stop gestures in order to make them stop. It was just very chaotic. Then somebody called me in to keep me safe. I did not realise until that time that they were actually firing live bullets. I ran up the stairs to the next floor and I saw a man with blood on his head and another guy bandaging him up. Then the injured person stood up and I realised that it was a soldier. He was very panicked and I said to him “It’s fine, it’s ok, no one is going to hit you”. He was taken to the medical area. It was crazy that I was thinking this is not happening, this is a movie. But at the same time I was trying to remain calm, because it was such a chaos. I was trying to help with the injured people. Then I took the role taking the tannoy system and sending messages to the armed forces, saying that “Please stop firing, people are dead”, “We need to get medical assistance”. I pleaded them to stop continuously for maybe an hour, maybe longer, and then they cut the system.
Fatima el Mourabiti: At 3 o’clock I was in the press room on the second floor to contact with people in Belgium. Because at 10 o’clock, two boats of Israeli military showed up on the radar. So we served the information that military were coming and so on. Then internet was cut.
At what time?
Fatima el Mourabiti: I think it was at 4.
Perween Yaqub: Yes, around that time. It was a very strange, very spiritual feeling. Because in one hand I was in the press room when the azan (call for prayer) was going out on the tannoy, at the same time the attack was just started. I just thought there was something symbolic about this situation. So perhaps because of this I was not as frightened as I should be.
Maryam Luqman Talib: God was with us, God was with us.
Fatima el Mourabiti: At 4 o’clock, I went outside with my camera. Because I was doing a documentary about the flotilla, I went outside, saw the helicopter, and heared the explosions and shooting.
Did you see the Israeli soldiers?
Fatima el Mourabiti: I did not see the soldiers. I think they were not there yet. But I was outside and I entered. I think two minutes after, injured people began to be brought in. For me it was not a realistic situation, it was like a nightmare. You see people with blood everywhere, shooting everywhere. I was thinking in my head that “No, no, I need to record” and then the next step “How can I do it?” Because normally I am very sensitive. As she said that God help us. I was so strong. I saw people dying. It was a shock.
(After this question, Fatima el Mourabiti had to leave the interview because of an urgent telephone call.)
Maryam Luqman Talib: My view is pretty different. The night before the massacre, they were trying to organise within the women an emergency aid team in case of anything. Because I am a pharmacy student at the second year, they put me in the aid team… Up until the azan I was on the deck with the press in order to see eventually what was happening. Just as the azan began I went down with the Turkish sisters. Because we wanted to pray salah al fajr with cemaah downstairs at the women’s cabin. I was downstairs praying my salah. Soon after that, one of the Turkish sisters who was in charge of us said “The emergency aid team, where are they? Where are they?” I and my sister, who is also a nurse, just ran to the room allocated for injuries and we were one of the first to get there. They brought in one body, one of the brothers who had a very severe injury. Until that time I had no idea what was happening. Even I did see the helicopter, because I was up there until the azan, I did not realise that they would attack so fast. Because we were in international waters. This is the main ground for me to keep calm…. The first, then the second, then the third and then the forth person was dragged in, I was still busy with them. The fifth person just dragged in, I saw his face, he was my brother. He was shot twice on his leg. But it was just his leg, whereas some other people were shot their chests, so I did not look so much on my brother. Actually it was the moment when I thought “So what he is my brother? These are all my brothers.” And also my sister, I mean his wife, was just behind me, I did not want to tell her. Because she might have fainted or do something else. But elhamdulillah nothing happened… It just kept, every every every few seconds more bodies and more bodies came. Everywhere was full of blood, the bodies were carried up to the couches. When I entered into the field of study, it was in my mind that eventually I can go to the war zones and help people. Having that kind of mind is what really pushed me and here you are! You wanted this, so here you are! But I did not witness the actual situation, I was just hearing in the background the speakers about what was going on. I heard the announcement that we surrendered and we were now officially occupied by the Israeli soldiers, and then I understood that it was big, it was very big.
How is your brother now?
Maryam Luqman Talib: My brother is fine, he just arrived at Istanbul last night. He is in the hospital now.
*Israel claims that there were terrorists in the ship. Who were in the ships?
Perween Yaqub: First of all, I would like to ask Israel what their definition of terrorist is. All I saw in the ship were people like me that came together for the same purposes: to take humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, to break the siege and to challenge injustice. There were individuals of all manners on the ship. There were a lot of elders, women, young people, even sick people; also there were academicians, diplomats, dignitaries… I am not sure what constitutes a terrorist. But if you ask me, whether there was anybody carrying guns, and shouting cihad or speaking of violence, I will say “No”. As I said before there was such a sense of peace on this ship. So for Israel, to make such a statement and say this word even in this context, I find it very ugly… By the way, I wonder whether they saw former US President George W. Bush or Prime Minister and President of Israel -Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres- on the ships, perhaps, if they claim there were terrorists!
Maryam Luqman Talib: I think we heard this question not just in this situation. It is a question that the superpowers and the Zionist regime repeatedly put forth trying to brainwash the minds of the masses. Clearly after having done such a fatal mistake to their own policy, to their own future, it is really ridiculous for them to put forth this kind of question. If they really think that we are terrorists, I have a message to them: I am proud to be a terrorist, I am proud to put terror in their hearts and the hearts of the Zionist regime. Because that is my form of resistance. On the other hand I am sure that people know very well we are only peaceful activist. So this is an invalid question and baseless.
*What was the most striking event, an event or events that you will never forget throughout your life?
Perween Yaqub: I do not think that we will forget any of what we saw. But for me there were perhaps three things. One of them was that when they surrouned us, I had to walk towards the soldiers with the guns with the S.O.S. message and the plea for help. Because they cut the tannoy system. I was just walking into a sea of machineguns asking for them to stop and help us, with a message of peace. It was just something that I had to do, you know, just try to stop more people from dying.
The other thing for me was just being among deaths, seeing people breathe their last breath, seeing people helplessly trying to bring people to preserve their lives. When I finished the annonuncement I came across one individual who was just injured and was bleeding. I think he had been shot in the head. My friend was praying gently like a lullaby into his ear and another sister was holding him and nursing him. I held his hand like he was my father, and that’s when I went for a second time with the message (announcement) again. The first time I went, they put the guns and said go away. I tried again because I felt I have to do something for him. I walked out and came back. Maybe five or ten minutes later they started to communicate asking for their own soldiers and their own weapons. Then very very slowly our injured brothers were taken up. I wanted to go with him and walked out to the door to the soldiers. When they opened the door, they put their guns in our faces. I looked to the guy who seemed to be in charge and said to him “Please, this man is dying, he has a serious head injury, he needs urgent medical assistance. Please take care of him.” And he said “You take care of him.” I said “Can I go with him?”, he said “No”. I said “Please, can I go with him”, he said “No”. He put the gun at me and said “Go back, go back” and I had to walk away.
The third thing that I will never forget is mashallah the courage of our brothers who were willing to give their lives, sacrifice their lives to defend everybody on the ship. I know I am here now because of them. Because they saved our lives and gave their lives. They saved the lives of the women in the ship. They were trying to save the lives of the people of Gaza, because we were taking hopes of life to the people of Gaza. We knew the people of Gaza were critically in need of the medicine and the medical equipment that we had. So there were more lives at stake then just the people on the ship and that is what I will never forget. It was absolutely immense, you know, the dignity with which they were dying and the bravery they were trying to defend the ship. One of the widows of the brother, who was shot in the head because he was taking pictures, that woman I will never forget. That woman’s subhanallah dignity and her sabr (patience)… I have never seen anything like that. [Meryem Lokman Talib: She was so strong, so strong.] When she was here at the funeral yesterday, I went to her; she smiled to me and did not let me cry; because her husband, you know, had gone as a martyr. Her son was there, and he was the same, he was smiling. I thought how can I cry when they cannot…
Maryam Luqman Talib: To be honest I do not think I have any specific situation, but I remember just the whole experience. I do not think there is anything that I can forget from the people to the incidents, to the Israeli soldiers… Really one thing I want people to know: I really felt that when there are people who are trying within their capacity, who are trying to use the resources which God gave them to fight for the truth, they will never feel anything of anxiety, anything of worry. Two hours after the massacre, we were all detained in one small room, no air conditioning and nothing at all, and many of us handcuffed. We were surrounded by the idiot soldiers. They got us, and just waited for anyone to do anything with guns in their hands. But with courage, having known that there is cold blood on their hands, yet, many of our brothers and sisters were mocking them, were shouting back and resisting. We know that they killed us, we know that our brothers gave their lives for this cause, but that did not stop us. They tried to detain us, they tried to put fear in our hearts, but it was only their hearts that felt this fear and we proved that to them. Many of them got agitated, because we were protesting even though we were under siege, even though we were all captives. But that peace, that courage and that tranquility, those from God. And people need to understand that.
*You were all captive in the ship and then you were brought to Israel. Could you please tell us your story about that time?
Perween Yaqub: We stayed in the ship for at least 18 or 20 hours. They turned off the air conditioning, so it was very hot and very humid. Previously it was very cold and windy windy, because it was early in the morning and the helicopter was just going at the top of us. When the helicopter moved away, it was getting hot; and when they brought us down, we were very very hot. People were fainting and feeling dizzy. The elderly man, when it was so cold, had their coats on; but when it was so hot, they could not take them off because they were handcuffed. So we were trying to help our brothers and take water to their side. We struggled to go to the toilet and we insisted to go alone, because they did not want to let us go. That was the situation on the boat. People just bewildered where to and what now. When we actually got Israel, it was light but they did not let us get off until it became dark. It was a very long, enduring process to get eventually. I was one of the last people to get off. There were hundred of people there, including the police, the army and other security forces. They were laughing like a big celebration, parading like they hunted us and showing what they caught. It was humiliating. I was getting more angry for everybody else, and especially for the brothers who were treated much worse. By the time I went out, I was really scared, but I was very protective of my principals even in that situation. I refused to walk out like a victim and let them see the fear on my face. So I walked out with a lolly in my mouth and stood there eating it. They were in a shock and looking at me like “What is she doing?” This made some of them mad… But before that, in the ship, I had an incident with one of the guys in charge. Because when I was inside I went to the toilet, and when I came back I saw some of the new security people. They were so happy like they watch a football match and this made me so upset. So when I walked out, I put my peace sign on the camera and said “Free Gaza”. They all turned the machine guns immediately, maybe about 9-10 men, and said “Shut up, shut up”. I said “No, I won’t be quiet”. They said “Be quiet and sit down”. I said “No, I won’t be quiet. Why, what you gonna do, shoot me?”. That man said “Try me”, and I said “Come on soldier”. And then the soldier that was little be okay with me, he said “Just go and sit down” and he moved me away. I was so angry, first what they did to us, and then how they treated us, you know, they were joyous in doing humiliation. The same guy that was on the ship, when I was going out and eating my lolly, was nodding at me and just saying “I’ll show you”. I was scared but I did not show it visually.
Maryam Luqman Talib: The process was the same for all of us. We all got through pretty much the same in terms of detention. They did not split us off, thank God, because of the brothers’ resistance. We were taken out and detained first in the ship on two different locations. They discriminated us based on nationality. Because I am Australian passport holder they took me and my sister in most separately. Obviously by this time, we split by my brother, too; he was taken off in the helicopter. To be honest, I did not even see him taken off but I heard it. My brother was shot twice in the leg, and was not critically able to walk. He was bleeding, until now he is bleeding so much that we had to look for blood transfusion. You can imagine the state he was in, fresh from his injuries. He was made to walk without any physical support or someone’s aid from where he was to the upstairs in order to get to the helicopter. For this reason he has fainted three times on the way to the helicopter. I think it is important to know this, so that people understand the true brutal nature of the Zionist regime. These people are not human! There is no humanity in them! They are becoming an insult for the human race and everyone needs to speak out.
*Did you meet any torture or abuse both in the ship and the detention centre or prison?
Perween Yaqub: The abuse in the ship was that we were all captives. We were denied food, and we had to struggle to go to the toilet. While searching us they were just making fun and trying to humiliate us. They were threatening us every time we moved. They even hit some people. Anybody who talked to each other, and anybody who looked at them in the wrong way, they just slapped or push them around. For example, one of the bothers, Usama, because he was protesting; they beat him, put him outside to the deck, tied his feet and also hands behind, did not give any water for hours.
Maryam Luqman Talib: His thumb became numb. He cannot feel his fingers anymore.
Perween Yaqub: So there was abuse in that sense. Personally my abuse was when I came off the ship. I knew that I was going to have some difficulty. But I did not want to appear like a victim. They scrubbed me, pushing me and pinching me. I had a sign on my t-shirt that was “Peace for Palestine”. Because of this they were trying to make me fall by kicking my chair, coughing in my face, swearing at me in Hebrew, mocking at me and all laughing… They did not give me the bottled water, but only a very little bit of water, saying “Have it” and laughing. Because of this I thought they had done something to the water, so I could not have any water… When I just want to change my shoes and put my trainers, they just keep showing to everybody else “ooov” as if they smelled bad; so when they gave the trainers back, I made “hmmm, nice smell” and put them back on, so they were getting more and more mad… While looking, I did not want to make eye contact with them, because otherwise their psychological gain would be more intense. So all the time I just chanted at their face saying “La ilaha illallah Muhammad rasulullah”, and not looking at them. This was worse than silence. So one of them began singing on top of me… If I would go crazy because of what they did, everybody was gonna come and beat me. But elhamdulillah, you know, Allah protected me.
Maryam Luqman Talib: Actually the whole thing was an abuse. You asked specific, of course, there were several instances like she said. For the sisters, it was mainly verbal abuse, psychological warfare, the staring and all this. The way I had chosen to combat was that the only thing I took when leaving the ship was my passport and my Qur’an so throughout the whole searching process I was just reading my Qur’an and they could not stop me. They gonna touch the Qur’an? No. They’re not gonna do that, It’s a holy book. At least I put them to the test and they did not seem to. Later on, I witnessed another thing. Once we had gone to the airport, they were trying to deport us. I was with a group of 13 sisters, not all from Blue Marmara ship, but most of them were from one of the other boats, the Challenger. Once we had arrived at the airport we were surrounded by good 40-50 soldiers and the police. By the way, before arriving at the airport we stuck in a van maybe for 11 hours, it was getting hot. So once we came out, we did not know what was happening, we requested for our embassy, which is in our legal right. We kept requesting and we stood for it. Since we resisted, the number of soldiers grew around us. We were forced upstairs. In the upstairs again we put forth our simple request. We were not asking for too much, we needed to see our consulate, our ambassadors in order to make a decision. Where are you deporting us? What is happening? They would not answer anything. We did not trust them already. Because we had resisted in this way, they started really to try to humiliate us, to try to weaken us. But it did not work to the extent that one of them decided that’s it and pushed one of us. We were in a tight group together, and so as soon as they pushed one of us, we were all like “What’s happening?” Then more and more came, and one ugly Zionist soldier in particular had come to one of our sisters (maybe Greek or Dutch) and whacked her in the head three times and started to pull her hair. I was standing just behind her. I was deadlocked in shock. But of course there was more fighting happening, because as soon as he whacked one of us, of course we were going to resist, we were going to defend ourselves. This was amazing. For a man to have done it, it was much more ugly. What is more, he was fully armed and we were just with our passports, defenceless.
*What do you think about IHH?
Maryam Luqman Talib: When I arrived in, I got to know IHH through a close friend of mine who was on the last convoy. She always spoke great about IHH and his leader Mr. Bülent Yıldırım. My first contact with IHH representatives was when they had come to Kuwait to help in the campaign. We organised several things in the universities so that they can come and speak about the issue, about the convoy and the flotilla. In one statement really, when I came to Istanbul I had the love in my heart for this movement. Right now, my love is only increased to the organisation, to anyone who supports it, and also to the president. He is such a humble and simple man. He really was a leader, a responsible leader. He takes every case personally. He has a mashallah very personal touch. Even in the case of my brother, he took me in his office to discuss in detail what is going on, what is the situation here. May God protect him and everybody in IHH.
Perween Yaqub: Before I came on the convoy I had little information about IHH. I heard from people that were on previous convoys such as Viva Palestina and other organisations. When I approached these people and expressed that I wanted to go on the next convoy, they explained that they were going through with the administration of IHH. Then I asked them who, where and why. Their responses were quite consistent. They said they had experience with IHH, and it is a real professional organisation, has a lot of trust, and capable of organising a huge and complicated movement. I also did some individual research on IHH, and I was really surprised and very very impressed with the spectrum of the work that they do across the world; it made me feel that not only inshallah would I be part of this project but also I can go on to involve other projects in different parts of the world, perhaps even in Europe that is much closer to my home. I felt very confident to go with IHH in terms of leading this convoy and they were a very capable organisation.
*You returned back, fortunately. What do you feel now? Would you like to join another organisation to Gaza again?
Perween Yaqub: Absolutely, I would like to go to Gaza with more determination. There was not a single second in the whole process where myself and the others that I know felt that we had made a mistake subhanallah. We felt we were privileged for what happened. Because we saw first hand the terror that the Israeli government and their military forces are capable of on citizens of the world from different status and dignitaries. So that experience gave us a very tiny tiny insight to what the suffering of the Palestinian people actually is. It made us feel and realise more the extremities that they are experiencing, and the urgency of their situation. It made us more determined, because we felt very angry that they could violate our rights. We felt more determined to uphold justice and uphold the rights of every human citizen in the world. It has become more our responsibility because of what we personally experienced. So yes, I will go to go Gaza tomorrow.
Maryam Luqman Talib: The amount of miracles we saw in this journey was just numerous. It was a blessed journey. Right now, my feelings are all over the place, I need to recollect and go through them. Then we, as the first hand witnesses of the Zionist terror, have to decide what the strategy should be, how should we make use of this experience to led a campaign. It is really very difficult for me to tell you in words how I feel now. I am very happy, and of course grateful. I am just waiting for the announcement to go back again. I hope to be a part of an organization from the Gulf, and mobilise the people of Kuwait where I currently live. If anybody announces that “We are going to be leaving again” I will definitely say “I’m coming, I’ll bring all my friends as well”. Because they need to see this.
*Do you think this flotilla was successful or what did you succeed? Because some people claim that, “No, many people died and injured, so it is unsuccessful”. What do you think about it?
Perween Yaqub: People are dying everyday in Gaza. So death is something that was part of why we were doing what we were doing. People died and that’s tragic. But they died honourably, and for the best of the values and principals they died for. I feel really sad and grieve for them, and I really admire the sabr (patience) of their families in this whole situation. When we talked to the families, we saw how proud they are of what their loved ones have been party to, what they have achieved. Mashallah it is very overwhelming. In terms of the question “Was it a success?”, when else globally can anybody remember the issue of Palestine was being discussed in every corner of the world? When else Israel and its regime of inhumanity were questioned in the way it is now? When else have we seen globally the plight of the Palestinian people are talked about. We have generated more support, more sympathy, more concern for this issue. So how can it not be a success? In history we have paid great prices, and much blood has been shed to achieve success. We would not have the rights we had today if people before us had not shed blood for us. So subhanallah I could not imagine the success and as I said to you before when the azan was going and we were being attacked, I thought this was symbolic. When we were under siege we had this conversation with the sister here and I said to her “Subhanallah, there is something bigger than what we are seeing now. We do not know what Allah’s answer is to this now. We do not know what Allah’s plan is. But this is bigger than we can imagine right now.” We had sabr and we continued to pray. And this peace went with me through this whole process and it came back with me. People can imagine the success that we have achieved, and the brothers that became shaheed (martyr) have achieved.
Maryam Luqman Talib: I think the only people who would see all these as tragedy are the people who did not want it to be a success. Everyone who understands the cause, everyone who understands the truth cannot see this anything else than a success. My friend covered a lot about the international outcry. I would like to give you an example back from Australia. The Australian state and the authority have stressed over the years to maintain some very very small coverage on Palestine and they succedded. After the incident, after my brother was shot as an Australian male citizen; Australian papers, radios, televisions are all focused on the subject. Many of the Australian citizens had very little or no idea about Gaza, and about the siege. They only know very small information which the Zionists want them to know of. So this is just completely blown the cover. People are wondering and asking “Why would they shoot?” and logic is starting to set in and people starting to look things up. So it is a success by all means. We feel honoured that Allah has given us the opportunity to have been part of this struggle and to have been part of this success. We are humble but we ask Allah to give us a bigger role in the liberation of Palestine and in the lifting of the siege biiznillah.
Perween Yaqub: I would like to add something else. The first thing the Israeli forces did when they came on our ship after the firing had stopped was to break the cameras, the cctv. So the world would not be able to see what they were doing. They confiscated our evidences, our cameras and recordings. They broke law upon law; they had no regard for international law. Despite concealing and destroying evidences of so many journalists and so many individuals, they cannot silence the testimonials of hundreds of people. So the world slowly and surely would hear the truths of hundreds of people.
Thank you very much.
9 June 2010
In the aftermath of Israel’s raid on the flotilla delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza on 31 May, journalists released from custody are providing first-hand accounts of abuse, interrogation and confiscation of equipment by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). One journalist was killed in the deadly attack. Meanwhile, Israeli authorities have edited and distributed portions of video footage taken from foreign journalists.
At least 60 journalists from across the globe were on board. All the journalists who were detained have now been deported from Israel, and many are talking about what they endured. Accounts of mistreatment during the raid reveal that journalists were prevented from doing their jobs in the most brutal fashion.
Journalist Muna Shester, working for Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), reported to RSF that one photographer who spoke up and criticised the soldiers was beaten. “I could hear his cries,” said Shester. “Cameramen, press photographers and reporters were mistreated because they were filming or taking photos of the raid.” Journalists were searched, handcuffed and left in the sun for five hours, she said.
Al-Jazeera photographer Issam Za’atar said that as he was filming the raid, an Israeli soldier hit him with a stun gun. Za’atar suffered a broken arm and his camera was damaged. Once in detention, he told CPJ he endured a “long and exhausting interrogation.”
But the worst violence was inflicted on Turkish journalist Cevdet Kılıçlar who was killed by a shot to the head, and Indonesian cameraman Sura Fachrizaz who was shot in the chest and seriously injured, report IFJ and RSF.
Paul McGeough, “Sydney Morning Herald” chief correspondent, said reporters were treated with “absolute disrespect.”
“Our job requires us to get the stories, and to reveal things that are not otherwise being revealed,” McGough said in a phone interview that appears on the paper’s website. “As Israel’s appalling handling of the flotilla demonstrates, you need journalists there to bear witness, to reveal what is happening out there.”
Israeli soldiers confiscated cameras, tapes, satellite phones and mobile phones, said Othman Battiri, a senior producer at Al-Jazeera.
The IDF released edited sections of seized video on its YouTube channel on 2 June. “Israel has confiscated journalistic material and then manipulated it to serve its interests,” said CPJ. The Foreign Press Association in Israel called it a “serious violation of journalistic ethics.” IFJ and its affiliate, the National Federation of Israel Journalists (NFIJ), as well as other IFEX members have urged authorities to return confiscated equipment.