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“There was a lot of blood in the stairwells and then the sound of ammunition hitting metal changed again…

PAUL MCGEOUGH

June 5, 2010

Israeli commandos are met by angry protesters wielding weapons.Israeli commandos are met by angry protesters wielding weapons. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Mustafa Ahmet, a 33-year-old Londoner, is irreverent as he recollects events. Having completed his ablutions, he joined a big group engaged in morning prayers on the aft deck of the Mavi Marmara as it pushed south in the Mediterranean. But then a cry went up – “They’re here! They’re here!”

”They” were Israeli commandos coming alongside the Turkish passenger ferry in their assault craft. But the imam leading the prayers was unmoved. Instead of cutting proceedings short, he seemed to go on forever. As Ahmet observed the commandos’ arrival, “it was like a scary movie – their helmets were shiny, the sea was shiny and battleships sat off on either side. But the imam just kept on, holding us in position – it was bonkers.”

Elsewhere, the ship was being prepared – people were distributing lifejackets and taking up positions on the rails. Others were preparing to throw Israeli sound bombs and tear gas canisters back to where they came from. Groups had been rostered through the night, to sleep or be at the ready, and electric angle-grinders were brought in – to cut steel bars from the lifeboat bays along the main decks.

The photographs that got away  ... Israeli commandos board the Mavi Marmar.The photographs that got away … Israeli commandos board the Mavi Marmar. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Despite thoughts of what might lie ahead, there was good humour. Matthias Gardel, a key figure in the Swedish delegation, was getting used to his lifejacket, unaware that even though it was 3am back home, his 12-year-old daughter was out of bed and watching a live-feed video from the ship on the Free Gaza Movement’s website. Seeing him in the video, she shot him an email: “Dad, take it off – you look ridiculous.” To which he fired back: “It’s past your bedtime.”

Ahmet was perplexed.

“We were a convoy of peace. But the Israeli choppers overhead, the smoke grenades … all the screaming, all the noise. People were running all ways and there was blood everywhere. But before we could do anything it was all over.”

But it was not all over. Two days before the Israeli assault – in which nine activists were killed by Israeli gunfire and up to 30 more wounded – the bullet-headed Bulent Yildirim, head of the Turkish non-government relief agency IHH, which in effect ran the flotilla, did an interview with the Herald aboard the Mavi Marmara.

He explained that Israel could not afford to pay the price of the disaster that he confidently predicted the Jewish state would make in its efforts to intercept the convoy.

Failure would add to the litany – the Gaza war and the Goldstone report; the Hamas assassination in Dubai and world anger over the abuse of the passports of several nations, including Australia. Now there was this high-seas venture on the eve of a meeting between President Barack Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, which was supposed to dilute the bad blood generated by the recent announcement of settlement expansion while the US Vice-President, Joe Biden, was in Israel.

It has been a spectacular week in the Mediterranean, with the Israeli government being the butt of domestic and international criticism for a botched mission against an unarmed, humanitarian convoy. Inevitably, there will be an inquiry – domestic or international; perhaps a mix of the two.

European diplomats in Tel Aviv openly scoffed at the government’s claim that the flotilla organisers had ties to al-Qaeda. One told the Herald that if such a claim was the government’s best opening shot, then it had a serious credibility problem.

Each side is documenting its case against the other. The flotilla organisers accuse the Netanyahu government of hijacking their vessels in international waters – killing and wounding in the process; of then taking almost 700 humanitarians and peace activists prisoner and forcibly taking them to Israel – and then charging them with illegal entry to the country. There will be hundreds of witnesses.

But, at an inquiry, the organisers will face government allegations that steel bars were used to beat troops; that weapons confiscated from captured commandos may have been used against their comrades.

The threads of an Israeli case, being leaked selectively in the Israeli media, argue that 60 to 100 ”hard-core” activists had been embedded on the Mavi Marmara. They included Turks, Afghans, Yemenis and an Eritrean, experienced in hand-to-hand fighting.

Yesterday, the Israeli navy claimed three commandos had been dragged unconscious into one of the ship’s halls ”for several minutes” before regaining consciousness and escaping. It was not clear whether any of them were among three commandos who the activists on board the Mavi Marmara have said were beaten, then sheltered and given medical treatment.

However, the flotilla crisis is not just about Israel. The virtual takeover of what was a coalition of groups from a dozen countries by Turkish non-government organisations plays into regional politics.

Long an Israeli ally, Turkey is flexing its muscles regionally, bonding with Syria, Iran, Iraq, Qatar and Hamas – and at the same time awkwardly exposing the Arab world’s about-faces on the Palestinian cause and, by its demonstrable actions, almost shaming them to do more.

Tucked in under all this is Washington’s role in the region. The rest of the world was quick to criticise Israel in the aftermath of the flotilla fiasco but the Obama White House lamely called for an Israeli inquiry, the kind of response that placates Israel but erodes US credibility in the region.

Some on the ship thought the Israelis did not put enough into their opening shots.

Espen Goffeng, a Norwegian, said: “I looked over the rail and saw the zodiacs. It seemed hopeless for the Israelis – they tried to lock on their grappling hooks but they were hit by the fire hoses and their own projectiles going back to them.”

He wondered if the boats had been a decoy to draw passengers to the rails while helicopters were used to land Israeli commandos higher on the ship. But that proved difficult, too, with the first two loads of chopper-borne commandos captured by the activists.

“The first ammunition I heard striking the ship sounded like paint balls,” Goffeng said. “But some people said there had to be glass in them, because of the wounds they caused. There was a lot of blood in the stairwells and then the sound of the ammunition hitting metal changed again – I decided that was the live ammunition. People were yelling, ‘Live ammo! Live ammo!'”

He said people in the television broadcast area on the aft deck were being targeted.

“I helped to carry one of the dead down to the second deck and as I returned a man who had been shot in the leg was being carried down. And when I moved to the press room, one of the men who worked there was dead, with a hole in his forehead and half his head missing.

”Then there was an announcement on the PA system telling us, ‘Keep calm; it’s over … they have taken the ship and we have lost.'”

Soon after, Israeli soldiers smashed the doors to the press room, the Herald was told, and then called the media workers forward one at a time. “They searched us,” said a cameraman who had unpicked the waistband of his underpants sufficiently to create mini-pockets in which he successfully secreted most of his camera’s discs – a strip-search revealed just one. ”They took cell phones and hard drives … and anything else that was capable of capturing or storing images.”

On the open decks and in the saloons lower in the ship, conditions were far less pleasant than the press room.

Gardel, the Swede with the fashion-conscious daughter, complained of people being forced to kneel for hours on the open deck area where prayers were held. An Israeli helicopter hovered constantly, its downdraft spraying the prisoners with wind and water, in the circumstances a freezing combination. “Keeping the choppers there seemed to be deliberate, as though they wanted to enfeeble us by holding us in such unpleasant conditions,” he said.

People were not allowed to go to the lavatories – they were made to soil their clothes. Gardel was especially horrified by witnessing the experience of a badly wounded man in his late 50s, who the Israeli troops forced to remain on the open deck.

“Suddenly, his right eye exploded in a gush of blood – and a blob of something fell out of it.”

The Israeli troops had come prepared. The Canadian activist Kevin Neish found a booklet which he believed had been dropped by one of the Israelis – it contained images of the key leaders, including Yildirim and the nerves-of-steel Palestinian woman who headed the Free Gaza Movement, Huwaida Arraf, a 34-year-old lawyer.

On being off-loaded at Ashdod, Arraf was last seen by the Herald being frogmarched away from the detainee processing centre where her activist confreres were put through a chaotic maze of bureaucratic and security checkpoints.

By the time the ship reached Ashdod, the passengers complained that most of their cases and other baggage had been strewn on the inside decks.

There was an infectious camaraderie among the protesters on the flotilla – bound by politics, prayer and song, it was a finishing school for almost 700 new and articulate ambassadors from dozens of countries for the Palestinian cause. And the Netanyahu government has given them a story to tell. As with Mossad’s assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai in January, halting the Free Gaza Flotilla was regarded as a tactical success that, in hindsight, appears to have been a strategic disaster. The cost to Israel’s international credibility and legitimacy is great.

And these new advocates for Palestine are going home prepared – many of the women prisoners were observed recording detailed accounts of their experience – with timelines and explanatory graphics.

Launching into their spiel back home, they will be better received than they might have been last week because of the tenor of the international trenchant criticism of Israel. The images broadcast around the world, despite Israel’s best efforts, dovetailed with the colourful rhetoric of the likes of Anne Jones, a former American diplomat and US Army colonel who cut through efforts by some diplomats to find words with precise legal meanings to describe what Israel had perpetrated.

“The Israel Defence Forces acted as pirates in shooting at us and stealing our ships in international waters,” she told the Herald. “They kidnapped us and brought us to Israel; they arrested and imprisoned us; they paraded us before cameras in violation of the Geneva Conventions.”

Jerry Campbell awoke at 4am to attend dawn prayers but she had hardly bowed her head before she was dragged off to a nursing station to help treat four gunshot victims. Worse was in store for this naif from Queensland’s Gold Coast – “I looked up as I was caring for a wounded Indonesian and saw my husband being carried in.” That was Ahmed Luqman Talib, 20, who had been shot in the leg. She cut his blood-soaked clothing away but then followed his instructions to tend to others. “I’m OK,” he told her.

She lost count of the number and nationalities of those she tended to –

“I saw two men die out there … the floor was covered in blood and the IV units were tied to the ceiling with bandages.”

Campbell went to and from her husband, who seemed to be deteriorating.

“One man’s stomach was opened – his intestines were out and the doctor reached inside and pulled out some bullets, before pushing everything back in and wrapping him up,” she said. “I don’t know if he survived.”

Late on the second day in detention, Israeli officials showed 45-year-old Gigdem Topcuoghe, a Turkish woman, a picture of her dead husband – she became catatonic. At the Ela Prison in Beersheva, she recounted to her fellow inmate, the Herald photographer Kate Geraghty, how during the attack on the Mavi Marmara she had found her husband on the floor. Shot in the forehead, he was bleeding from his mouth and nose.

“I think of first aid – I need to help him. I checked his breathing … he was bleeding faster. I gave him some water and started praying for him – I held him in my arms. He wasn’t conscious – I held him tight, but I realised he was gone when he didn’t react in any way, but my husband is not dead – he will live with and among us.”

Several witnesses have recounted in awe how Topcuoghe accepted condolences briefly – before leaving her husband’s body to throw herself into helping the injured.

Later in Israeli detention, the new widow addressed her tearful friends, turning to the state of Israel. Describing the assault on the Mavi Marmara as inhuman, she urged Allah to show the people of Israel the right path, but added:

“May they face more cruelty than we have and when this happens we’ll be there to help them – and to take humanitarian aid to them, just like centuries back when the Ottoman sultan sent aid and ships to rescue the Jews from Spanish cruelty …”

Brief as it was, time spent inside the Israeli apparatus was revealing. Whenever the flotilla prisoners were processed, security and other workers gathered to gawp – frequently producing mobile phones to shoot happy snaps of themselves in front of the prisoners.

As a big group of men – your correspondent included – waited in Block 5 at the Ela Prison at Beersheva for a bus to Ben Gurion Airport for deportation on Wednesday, a big group of security cadets was wheeled in to stare in wonderment – licking ice-creams as they did – even as a diabetic among the prisoners collapsed.

They were looking at the prisoners, but the prisoners were looking at them and their more senior colleagues who, among themselves, constantly displayed a brotherhood that seemed to cut across formal institutional structures.

Several Europeans were distressed by the clear distinction the Israelis made between their ”white” and ”brown” prisoners.

The Norwegian activist Randi Kjos, a woman of some refinement, was genuinely shocked by what she observed.

“They treated us with hatred – the old were made to kneel for long periods and women had to sit with their arms crossed. Some of the wounded were naked to the waist … many were in shock.

“Palestinians and Arabs were treated very differently to Europeans or Westerners. Palestinians who asked for anything were belted, pushed around or treated with contempt. People warned me of the hatred I would see – but still, I was shocked.”

The Norwegian observed that many of the women prisoners were denied a phone call on the grounds that a functioning telephone ”was broken”’ Others were furious on behalf of many Turkish women who were denied a call home because they could not satisfy their guards’ demand that they converse in English.

At Ela Prison it quickly became clear that the guards were under strict instructions not to inflict physical violence on the prisoners. In a system that has thrown up a steady stream of human rights reports on abuse, the Arab prisoners quickly realised that here was a rare occasion on which they were almost untouchable. In the circumstances, it was inevitable that the detainees would taunt the guards. “We’re all Palestinians,” one of the prisoners delighted in telling an officer, over and over; while another guard became visibly upset when one of the prisoners told him, when he already was upset about another matter: “You’re not really cut out for this job – you should have been a schoolteacher.”

Whenever a prison officer clenched his fist in such exchanges, a colleague would move in and take him away.

But amidst much taunting by prisoners, the refusal to lash out could last only for so long and at the airport a brawl erupted between deportees and their keepers, with several of the activists getting on the planes bruised and banged-up. And as they left a detention system in which some had been subjected to more than half-a-dozen body searches, many were still subject to a humiliating, painfully slow strip-search by smirking airport staff as they quit the country.

At the airport it became clear that the Israeli security forces could keep themselves on a leash only for so long.

As the Israelis continued to hold Yildirim, the head of the Turkish agency, until late into Wednesday night, a group of 15 detainees still being processed through the airport staged a protest when they observed Yildirim being put in a cell – “so the security guys just attacked us”, said Mohammed Bounoua, an Algerian who complained that he had been beaten three times during less than 72 hours in Israeli custody.

The ice-cream-licking cadets were seen late in the day at the airport – roughly dragging a deportee down a flight of stairs, after which they then celebrated with high-fives, back-slapping and smiling.

The 10-hour wait on the Ben Gurion tarmac and then the late-night flight to Istanbul were joyous.

Three Turkish aircraft were parked adjacent to Terminal 1 and, as the Israeli authorities processed passengers at snail’s pace, each arrival was welcomed onto the aircraft with clapping, cheering, crying. There was a festive, party mood as friends were reunited. There were pensive tears for those waiting for husbands, siblings, friends who had not been seen for days.

After several hours on the tarmac, the pilot announced that the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had insisted that none of the aircraft would leave until all the Turkish activists and the bodies of the dead had been loaded.

There were bursts of song. One in particular was a chant of praise for the Turkish leader and the Damascus-based head of Hamas, Khalid Mishal, the refrain to which was: “Peace and blessings be upon Muhammad.”

Sailing south towards Gaza last week, hopping between the boats in the flotilla, I wondered whether anyone in the Israeli establishment would have the smarts and influence to draft a response more substantive than the setting to sea of the Tel Aviv chardonnay set, which was back in the marina before sunset.

What if Israeli ships met the flotilla at the edge of the Gaza exclusion zone and escorted it to Gaza City, then stood back as the locals offloaded its 10,000 tonnes of emergency supplies? Israel could have announced an easing or even an abandonment of the Gaza blockade and instead found other ways to deal with its security concerns.

It would have stuck in Netanyahu’s craw for a few days but the boil of a failed policy would have been lanced, and there would be no need for further flotillas to cause bloodletting at sea. Instead, Israel is keeping the blockade and the Prime Minister and his ministers are not sure what sort of inquiry should investigate the flotilla disaster.

Source

Are İHH Terrorists?

IHH

IHH are a charity which focuses on helping primarily Muslim people around the world who are victims of tyranny, misfortune, occupation, oppression. They feed the hungry, bring fresh water to the thirsty , aid the sick, help educate people without that opportunity. They fight global inequality, improve and save lives. They are a force for good in the world, to accuse them of terrorism is turning morality on its head. The aid effort to Gaza is just part of their global aid efforts. Unfortunately they had to come into conflict with Jewish supremacism, as Isreal is ultimately justified in committing any atrocity against the goyim IHH have to become the bad guys for Israeli slaughter to be palatable to the sheep. It is the IHH rather than the pale skinned passengers focused on because Westerners IMO are unconsciously islamaphobic by and large and as people generally don’t look into the news any further than the page it is printed on it is quite simple for the compliant, I’d say controlled press at this stage to make the notion believable to the gullible masses, despite their being no valid evidence.

This is just an example of their global efforts.

About Us
After Bosnia Herzegovina declared its independence, war broke out between Bosnians and Serbians in May 1992 and quickly spread across the country. Serbs attempted “ethnic cleansing” in the country. Young or adult many people were killed and lots of historical and cultural artifacts were destroyed as well.

The Bosnian tragedy is the largest genocide committed after the World War II. The world still remains silent against this war. However, Turkey is closely concerned with and affected by the occurrences.

A group of concerned people, who did not remain insensitive to the war, gathered and began working individually.

They protracted their efforts until the end of the war to alleviate sufferings from the war and to be a source of hope for helpless people.

This time war broke out in Chechnya while the world was still watching the savageness in Bosnia. Russian forces bombed Chechen lands and killed innocent civilians. Voluntary efforts were failing. There was a need for more organized relief works.

These volunteers who swiftly took steps with the outbreak of the Bosnian war and continued their efforts during the Chechen war gathered in 1995 and founded the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH). The basic objective was:

Wherever he or she is, distressed, victimized by war, disaster, etc, wounded, disabled, homeless and subjected to famine, oppressed, it is the IHH’s main objective to deliver humanitarian aid to all people and take necessary steps to prevent any violations against their basic rights and liberties.

http://www.ihh.org.tr/hakkimizda/en

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Turkey’s IHH said during Ramadan, Turkish charitables did not forget the grandchildren of the King of Abyssinian Negash who protected Muslims coming from Meccah during the birth of Islam by accepting them.

IHH, Humanitarian relief Foundation, said in a statement, “teams in the first day of Ramadan distributed food packets consisted of flour, pulse,oil and sugar to the 180 orphan and widow families living in the Kofale village of the Oromiye region.”

“180 orphan children as the education aid were given notebooks, stationary materials and school bags”, IHH statement said.

As the cloth needs of 160 orphan children in the region of Habura were met, in the capital city Addis Ababa 350 orphan boys and girls were given iftar ( breaking the fast) meals.

In the Kofale region of Ethiopia that struggles with the drought country wide, two water wells built by the charitables from Kayseri were also inaugurated.

In Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, because of the malnutrition and infectious diseases thousands of children are losing their lives.
link – http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=46750

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Turkey’s IHH brought world orphans to Istanbul for the 4th International Orphans Meeeting on Saturday in Halic Congress Center.

The orphan children who came from Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Macedonia, East Turkistan, Chechenstan and Agri joined the press meeting before the mass gathering.

The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) said in a statement, Chairman Bulent Yıldırım told about the situations of the orphans in the world with numbers.

Yıldırım said, “After the searches we saw awful results.”

“Orphans can fall into the hands of organ mafia, human trafficker or missionary organizations. Some health organizations can use the children as subjects,” he said.

“The numbers that appear about the orphans are gory. In the world there are 143 millions of orphans and 400 millions of unprotected children. 60 millions of children sleep hungry.”

Yıldırım emphasized that they arrange orphans meetings to draw attention on the orphans and make the people sensitive in the world.

“143 millions of people suffer from insufficient nutrition. Because of hunger and insufficient nutrition 5 millions of children die under the age of 5. In the world in every 5.2 seconds a child dies of insufficient nutrition,diseases or neglection. In Africa each minute 8 children under 5 years old die because of lack of vaccine. Because of the war every year hundreds thousands of children remain orphans,” he said.

The chairman said, “due to the occupation, only in Iraq 5 millions of children are orphaned. In the world 2,5 millions of children half of them girls are sold by being kidnapped. 90 millions of children are living in the streets. There are 85 millions of orphans in Asia. There are 43 millions of orphans in Africa. There are 12.4 millions of orphans in Latin America. If all the orphans should be brought together in one country, that would be the 8th most crowded country in the world.”

Yıldırım said that till today 15 thousands of children were found sponsor families, adding they are aiming to increase this number to 100 thousand.

http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=48636

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Turkey’s IHH conducted a series of activities in Sudan’s Darfur for Ramadan campaing activities.

Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) said, in a statement, it opened mosques, digged waterwells, distributed Qur’ans, organized iftars, aiding orphans and refugees in Darfur.

IHH volunteers also have been making cataract surgeries for 3 years in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum.

IHH said it opened a mosque and water wells, funded by volunteers of the foundation’s Izmit branch ( Izmit is a city in northwestern Turkey) in South Darfur’s Nyala as part of of the activities in “Ramadan 2009 http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=46512

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Turkey’s IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation said it extended its help to Zimbabwe, where cholera has so far claimed 1,400 lives.

Hundreds of cholera patients were spared from death thanks to medication distributed by IHH teams in the country.

The officials of the IHH said they purchased required medication from producers in South Africa and delivered them to the Zimbabwean hospitals running out of cholera medication.

The medicines were handed to Epworth Clinic and Nazareth Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital, the biggest hospital of its kind in the Zimbabwean capital Harare.

The medicines purchased from South Africa will help protect hundreds of affected people against cholera.

After being told by physicians that cholera patients could not recover easily due to undernourishment, IHH teams supplied the hospital with foodstuff. Cholera patients are expected to recover rapidly after taking enough food.

Zimbabwe is experiencing the worst cholera outbreak of its history. Cholera cases are rapidly spreading countrywide.
http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=35912

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“The IHH delivered 450,000 new Turkish liras (YTL) worth of humanitarian materials such as medication, medical equipment, blankets and foodstuff to Gaza within several days after the Israeli operation began. Families of the killed and wounded Gazans were donated YTL 200,000. Lately, 13 tons of humanitarian materials such as medication, surgery tools, painkillers, bandages, injections, etc. were handed to the Palestinian Health Ministry through Rafah border gate. The Palestinian Parliament and the Health Ministry sent letters to the IHH, expressing their thanks over aid.”

link http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=34447

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IHH officials distributed food packages of cooking oil, sugar and pulses to 800 needy families in and around the Crimean capital Simferopol. Food packages were handed to the families at their houses.

Crimean Muslims, who have a history of suffering, exile and massacre, were moved during the delivery of aid. The families who received food packages expressed their gratitude and recited prayers.

An aged Crimean woman first recited two surahs from the Quran and said, “God bless Muslims of Turkey and help Crimean Muslims in Uzbekistan to return to their homeland.”

The IHH delivered stationery materials to 1,500 students from İsmail Gaspıralı School. Another 150 orphans were given allowances and clothes.

The foundation is planning to carry on relief activities in Crimea.

link http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=28471

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İHH aid reaches disaster-stricken Myanmar
Despite the reluctance of the military junta to authorize foreign aid, a Turkish humanitarian aid foundation has been among the first allowed access to Myanmar’s cyclone victims.

The Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) distributed emergency food aid through its partner organization to 500 families in villages 20 kilometers from the capital of Yangon, an İHH press release released on Tuesday reported.

İHH teams were allowed to deliver the aid to the victims on Tuesday although the reclusive military government is keeping most foreign aid workers out of the devastated Irrawaddy Delta, where around 100,000 people were killed and millions of people made homeless by Cyclone Nargis.

People who received food aid said they had been living without food or water since the tragedy, and expressed their gratitude to the people of Turkey for the aid.

Ahmet Faruk Ünsal, head of İHH diplomatic relations, and Şenol Öztürk, İHH representative for Asian countries, are waiting in Thailand to cross into Myanmar, and if granted permission, they will provide more aid to the region.

Huseyin Abdulkadir, representative of the İHH’s partner organization in Myanmar, said there are piles of bodies everywhere. “The people of Myanmar are in a dire situation. You come across bodies of dead women, elderly people and children everywhere. The military junta is busy with its own affairs, leaving the debris from the cyclone untouched. Impoverished people are trying to bury their victims and repair their houses. The situation in Myanmar is grave,” he stated.

Abdulkadir indicated that the injured people could not be treated because of a shortage of medication and other medical supplies and warned that the death toll would rise if the necessary measures were not taken. He said some deaths have already been caused by starvation and lack of water in certain regions.

İHH aid reaches disaster-stricken Myanmar
Despite the reluctance of the military junta to authorize foreign aid, a Turkish humanitarian aid foundation has been among the first allowed access to Myanmar’s cyclone victims.

link http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/de…ay&link=141824

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İHH facilitates more than 3,000 cataract operations in Sudan
The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH) has started a campaign to finance cataract operations for 3,286 people in Sudan.

Bülent Yıldırım told the Anatolia news agency that an İHH visit to Sudan had highlighted how widespread an illness cataracts were in the country, leading them to initiate the “Africa Will See” campaign. The campaign’s slogans include “Let it be you who lightens the eyes of one of 100,000 Africans” and “If you see, they will also see.”

Yıldırım noted that the İHH established a Turkish eye hospital as a part of the campaign with the support of the Turkish Health Ministry and the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA).

“Many people in Africa develop cataracts at a very young age due to extreme temperatures, [insufficient] nutrition and climate conditions. Add to that the lack of doctors — many of the patients, particularly those living in rural locations, live in darkness. There are 5 million patients that have developed cataracts in Africa. Our campaign, in which we cooperate with the [Turkish] Health Ministry, has drawn significant public support. Approximately 40 operations are performed per day at the Turkish hospital,” Yıldırım emphasized. Yıldırım also said that approximately 20,000 people had been given eyeglasses and medicine by the İHH. Saying that there are four volunteer doctors and four nurses working at the hospital, Yıldırım noted, “Each month a volunteer health team goes to Sudan for the project, which will continue until 2009.”

Yıldırım noted that they would also perform operations in Somali, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Mali. “Infrastructural works to perform operations in these countries are continuing. The only thing we lack is volunteer doctors. We need this kind of support to perform operations in more countries at the same time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yıldırım recalled that Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül visited their hospital in Sudan on Jan. 10, a visit during which he covered the cost of 12 operations as well as presented a plaque of thanks to the Turkish doctors there.

Each operation costs YTL 100 and 44,988 people have donated to the campaign so far. Those who want to contribute may visit www.afrikagorecek.com.

The İHH also runs charity and aid projects in countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Mongolia

http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/de…ay&link=133813

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Turkish IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation distributed 10 tons of millet and beans to needy families in Tsiau region of Niger.

The foundation is carrying on emergency aid and social development projects in different regions of Africa with donations from charitable people. The projects IHH had finalized in Niger were controlled by officials from the foundation and Istanbul Governorate.

Computer lab set up in University of Niamey

The IHH team in Niger attended with president, deans and departments heads of Niamey University, the only university in the country, the inauguration of a computer and a chemistry laboratory. The university president said the laboratories were the first modern facilities the university had since is was established three decades ago, expressing his thanks to benevolent Turkish people.

The team also visited an IHH-built maternity ward in Niamey. The next stop was Tisau, a city in Maradi province with a population of 130,000 people. The IHH officials and Tisau mayor inaugurated a thousand-meter long underground drainage canal. The mayor thanked the people of Turkey in his speech.

About 10 tons of millet and beans were distributed to 2,000 families that were living below the poverty line.

link http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=32709

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Turkish IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation said it has decided to undertake caring for all the children made orphan in the latest Israeli strikes, adding that it has been taking care of thousands of Palestinian orphans.

IHH said will meet all expenses of the children made orphan by the recent Israeli operation into the Gaza Strip and existing orphan Palestinian children.

The foundation has been caring for 2,500 orphans in Palestine so far. Latest Israeli attacks on Gaza made another 1,500 children orphan. All the Palestinian orphans will be provided with shelter, education, health services and other basic services by the IHH.

The foundation has also included Palestinian orphans in the sponsor family system.

Charitable families can sponsor an orphan by donating 70 new Turkish liras monthly.

Since the outbreak of the latest Israeli offensive into Gaza, 400 families applied to the IHH to sponsor Gazan orphans.

link http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=34864

Quote:

Turkey’s leading charity finished digging hundreds of water wells across Africa with donations of Turkish beneficents before Islamic holy month Ramadan starts, the foundation said.

Hudreds of water wells were digged and fountains were built in a aid move under the leadership of Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) across African countries, the charity said on website.

The last projects in Chad, Sudan and Burkina Faso were also finished before Ramadan.

One of the first foundations which started water well projects, IHH has built 392 water wells in Somali, Chad, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Sudan and Niger with the donations of beneficents so far.

Chairman of IHH Bulent Yildirim said that “1.4 million people have to live without water around the world.”

“In Africa 250 million people are suffering from drought” Yildirim said in his statement about the issue.

“Some of them have to carry water from the wells that are kilometers far away from their villages. Because not all of the villages have water wells.”

“We are solving two problems when we are building water wells. First of all, we are supplying water for them and secondly, we are preventing the illnesses that are caused by the unhealthy resources,” Yildirim added.

link http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=46008

Quote:

Turkey’s IHH said distributed food packets to 600 families and held mass iftars in Kazakhstan during Ramadan.

IHH, Humanitarian Relief Foundation, said in a statement, “in Kazakhstan’s Almaty, Aaras, Shymkent, Turkistan and Qyzlorda cities and the towns of them 600 families were given food packets and mass breaking the fast meals.”

link http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=46797

Quote:

Dr Hasan Uysal assisted by IHH member Murat Akinan treating an Israeli commando (left) protestor displays photo of one of the aid worker killed by Israeli forces (right) injured Turkish aid workers return home. (R-bottom) Israeli commandos aim their weapons on aid workers
Despite claims by Israel Officials that the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) members had initiated the violence, Murat Akinan, the man seen standing next to Dr Uysal in the photos of him treating a commando said that the captured soldier had been entrusted to him by IHH Director, Bulent Yildirim, who instructed him to
“make sure that he’ll be safe. Be careful, don’t allow anyone to touch him.
https://flotillamassacrepassengers.wordpress.com/”

Israeli commandos used ‘shoot to kill’ policy in high seas

June 27, 2010 1 comment

Issue 254, Friday 25 June 2010 – 12 Rajab 1431

Israeli commandos used ‘shoot to kill’ policy in high seas

By Elham Asaad Buaras


Dr Hasan Uysal assisted by IHH member Murat Akinan treating an Israeli commando (left) protestor displays photo of one of the aid worker killed by Israeli forces (right) injured Turkish aid workers return home. (R-bottom) Israeli commandos aim their weapons on aid workers

The Israeli Government is facing mounting international pressure to lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip following the killing of 9 Turkish humanitarian aid workers by Israeli commandos in international waters.

The six aid flotillas, carrying 663 aid civilians from 37 countries were attempting to deliver the much needed aid and break the 3 year Israeli blockade affecting 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Most of the passengers were Turkish, but it also included aid workers from the US, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Malaysia, Algeria and elsewhere.

Israeli commandos boarded all the ships, however on the lead ship, MV Mavi Marmara, 9 aid workers were killed; 48 were injured and 6 are still missing.

The Israeli forces’ aim was to prevent the aid from reaching the impoverished people in Gaza. However, renowned Swedish author Henning Mankell, 62, who was on board the MV Mavi Marmara said the Israeli navy had no right to demand a change of course.

“We were in international waters this was an act of pure piracy and taking our ships to Israel was kidnapping.

“If they really wanted to stop us, why did they not wait until we were close to their territorial waters, and say ‘You can’t go any further’?”
He added that Israel could have used less confrontational methods: “They could have very quickly taken out the rudder and the propeller of our ship. We would have been stuck. No one would have been hurt.”

The sequence of events is disputed. Passengers insist the Israelis opened fire before boarding, while Israelis say that they started firing after their soldiers were ambushed as they were landing on to the ship from the helicopters, and have released a video that shows events of the landing to back up their assertion.

However, aid workers maintained ‘selective’ footage was released by the Israeli officials and they also rubbished Israel’s claim of measured self defense. The autopsies of the victims revealed they were shot a total of 30 times; 5 were killed by gunshots to the head.

Ibrahim Bilgen, 60, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. Fulkan Dogan, 19, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot 4 times, and 5 of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, according to Chair of the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK), Haluk İnce, who carried out the autopsies.

An unnamed Israeli staff-sergeant in the Shayetet 13 Naval Special Forces unit told the Jerusalem Post he was immediately attacked when he reached the deck from a helicopter. He said he had not expected to find a “battlefield”.

However, British-born Al-Jazeera Producer, Jamal Elshayyal, said violence erupted when the Israelis opened fire before landing.

“One man was shot in the top of the head from the helicopter. He collapsed on the ground. I snatched a microphone from one of the Turkish reporters to say one man had been killed. As I did that another man was shot. Those people died instantly,”
Israeli commandos’ statements were refuted by all the aid workers on board including journalists, NGO members and even a former ambassador.

UK-based Friends of al-Aqsa Chair, Ismail Patel, who witnessed some of the fatal shootings, told The Muslim News Israel had operated a “shoot to kill policy”.

Patel who is British, calculated that during the altercations, Israeli commandos shot one person every minute. One man was fatally shot in the back of the head just two feet in front him and another was shot once between the eyes.

He added that as well as the fatally wounded, 48 others were suffering from gunshot wounds.

Patel said the deaths were avoidable. “We condemn the cold blooded murder” committed by the Israeli commandos, he said.

The Israelis attacked the ships using sound bombs, tear gas bombs, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live ammunitions at dawn just after fajr (morning) prayers at 4.30am on May 30.

Another British Citizen, Alex Harrison, who was on the smaller US flagship, Challenger ship, told The Muslim News when the Israelis approached their boat, they used sound bombs, fired at them with rubber bullets, and

“we were treated with violence immediately. Women were thrown brutally around, our windows broken and we were thrown face down onto the broken glass.”

Their hands were tied with plastic clips and

“two women were hooded, they had their eyes taped.”

“We did not use violence.”

Harrison, 32, from Islington, North London, also challenged claims by the Israeli navy that their commandos were acting in self-defense once on board, insisting the Israelis started firing before their troops touched down on the boat from the helicopters as she witnesses from her boat.

“I’ve seen some selective footage that the Israelis have chosen to put out suggesting that we responded with violence,” she said. “You must remember that these were unarmed civilians on their own boat in the middle of the Mediterranean. People picked up what they could to defend themselves against armed, masked commandos who were shooting. The violence was initiated by the Israelis on a massive scale”.

Both Harrison and Patel slammed the British authorities for failing to assist while they were imprisoned in Be’er Sheva in Israel. Patel said he was not visited and Harrison said the consul told her that Israeli officials had prevented him visiting captured Britons.
Harrison said the British Consul told her that he had been sitting outside the prison all day asking for access and not been given it. “I see that as an insult from Israel to the British that they were denying the British consul the right that citizens have. I also see it as a sign that the British don’t have the strength to stand up to Israel.”

The information about the manner and intensity of the killings undermines Israel’s insistence that its soldiers opened fire only in self defence and in response to attacks by the passengers.

Passengers admitted fighting with the Israeli commandos and wresting away their guns, but defended their actions as self-defense saying the soldiers had opened live fire indiscriminately, but it was they who measured their reaction.

Former US marine Ken O’Keefe, who was on the MV Mavi Marmara, told Turkish and Israeli newspapers that he had helped disarm the commandos,

“The lives of the three commandos were at our mercy, we could have done with them whatever we wanted.”

The passengers also highlighted the fact that none of the Israeli commandos captured were killed, on the contrary, images released show the wounded Israeli’s being treated by the passengers.

Guns that were taken from the officers were emptied from their bullets and returned to them.

They also say the Israeli authorities confiscated their video equipment cameras and erased memory cards, which would have backed their version of events.

The Foreign Press Association have strongly condemned Israeli military’s use of photos and video material confiscated from foreign journalists.

New York-based Serbian cameraman, Srdjan Stojiljković, said Arab aid workers suffered “far worse treatment than us, from Europe or the West,” adding he had filmed the scenes, but the Israelis “took everything but documents” from journalists.

Retired American army colonel and former US Diplomat Ann Wright said, “They’ve probably stolen over a million dollars’ worth of cameras, computers, cell phones.”

“One woman was hit in the face, in the nose, with one of the liquid-filled balls [The Israelis] were very excessively rough, excessively forceful,”

Canadian citizen Kevin Neish said a Turkish man, who was holding a camera

“was shot directly through the forehead. The bullet, the exit wound, blew away the back third of his skull.”

Free Gaza Movement, (who organized the flotilla) rep on Mavi Marmara, Lubna Masarwa, said the Israeli navy had also refused calls for immediate aid to the seriously wounded:

“We were then held for several hours with four bodies and dozens of wounded some in critical condition. Blood was pouring from the bodies of the dead and the injured.
“One Turkish woman was crying and saying goodbye to the body of her dead husband, petting his face and reading the Qur’an over him. Another man had a bullet wound in his head and was dying.
“From 5am on, we were begging the Israeli navy to provide medical assistance to the wounded and dying but received no response.
“We made the request in English and Hebrew through the loud speaker and also wrote a large paper that said, ‘SOS, people dying, in need of immediate medical attention’ in Hebrew and put it on the window in front of them. They ordered the people with the sign to get lost,”

The convoy members insisted they had behaved more humanely and had given medical help to the commandos when they still had control of the flotilla.

Images of the disarmed commando being treated by Dr Hasan Huseyin Uysal along with other photo taken show bloodied and disarmed commandos in the custody of passengers inside the ship contradict Israeli suggestions that the aim of the passengers was to kill the soldiers.

Dr Uysal said that he had treated three Israeli commandos and argued that this proved that the passengers had no intention of killing them:

“First of all it’s illogical that these soldiers would not be killed but instead be taken to the medical center if the intention of the activists was to kill them. If people on board were so eager to hurt them, why would they not just shoot them to death once they had taken their guns? Why bother carting them inside for treatment? It just doesn’t add up.”

Despite claims by Israel Officials that the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) members had initiated the violence, Murat Akinan, the man seen standing next to Dr Uysal in the photos of him treating a commando said that the captured soldier had been entrusted to him by IHH Director, Bulent Yildirim, who instructed him to

“make sure that he’ll be safe. Be careful, don’t allow anyone to touch him.”

Dundee, Scotland, student Ali El-Awaisi, 21, was held in Be’er Sheva jail in Israel for 3 days after spending 12 hours on the captured boat. He said: “What happened on the boat was just horrific. Israeli soldiers were shooting people in the head from point-blank range.

“The walls of the ship were like waterfalls of blood and there were guys shot in front of my eyes.
“One Turkish man was shot between the eyes with a handgun from a few feet away, and when we docked in Ashdod the Israelis left his body in the sun for several days and then took photos of his decomposed corpse and gave them to his wife who was on the flotilla as well.”

He said those once they were captured,

“We were tortured. We had to kneel down with our hands tied behind our back for 12 hours under the sun and the soldiers would hit you with the rifle butts if you moved.”

Two of the aid workers detained by the Israeli forces have accused Israeli officers of using their credit cards.

Former US nurse and aid worker Kathy Sheetz has provided bank statements proving her bank card, taken by the Israeli forces during the attack, has since been used in Tel Aviv.

“It looks as though they tried to use it without the PIN code and could not, but they could use it in a vending machine and had multiple accesses to my card to buy beer, according to the statement,” Sheetz said.

“What it means is that I witnessed the Israeli Navy going and killing people and at the end buying beer with my card,” she added.

Italian journalist Manolo Luppichini discovered that while he was confined in Be’er Sheva and after he was back in Italy a day after his deportation – purchases were made with his credit card, which the Israeli authorities had confiscated.

One purchase was from a vending machine in Tel Aviv for about NIS 10 on June 2, he says. Another purchase, for NIS 240, was made in Gedera’s Village Market, while Luppichini himself was in Italy.

Luppichini has written a letter to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, the Foreign and Defense Ministers and to Israel’s Ambassador and consuls in Italy on the matter.

The passengers were mistreated and humiliated throughout. When they were taken on land in Ashdod, Israel, “we were treated roughly, manhandled, pushed around and we were treated with no dignity; we were mocked and laughed at. We pushed against our will by jeering soldiers who laughed and insulted us,” said Harrison.

She said that they were kept in prison vans for six hours to be taken to the airport, a journey that should take only half an hour. “Women were beaten unnecessary by soldiers, and whe they were being moved from place to place, they were being pushed around. On one occasion, they smacked two women around the head.”

She related how the Israeli soldiers at Ben Gurion airport beat up the passengers. “When we were at the airport, people were beaten for speaking. We were trying to speak to our male colleagues. I tired to speak to one of them Ken O’Keefe, who was tackled to the ground and held down by a dozen soldiers.”

The UN Security Council condemned “those acts resulting in civilian deaths,” demanded an impartial investigation of the raid, and called for the immediate release of civilians held by Israel. However the resolution was watered down by US objections. The resolution did not ask for an independent investigation.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Israel to conduct a “prompt, impartial and transparent” investigation that complies with international standards and get the facts but refused to allow international independent investigators.

US Vice President, Joe Biden, offered the US’s strongest defence of Benjamin Netanyahu Government saying, “Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest.”
Appearing on US TV Biden defended Israel’s actions as “legitimate”. After suggesting the cargo of aid could have been unloaded elsewhere, Biden dismissed international criticism, asking: “So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza?”

According to the British Foreign Office, 37 British nationals, including 11 dual-nationals were passengers in the flotilla.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told the Parliament that the raid was “completely unacceptable”. Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner fell short of calling for an international inquiry.
The pair issued a joint statement after meeting Paris: “We think it is very important that there is a credible and transparent investigation. We believe there should be an international presence at minimum in that inquiry or investigation.”
Hague called on the Israeli Government to open the crossing to unfettered access for aid to enter Gaza.

At least four Scots were caught up in the raid prompting Scotland’s First Minister to dub Israel’s actions as “insupportable”.

Alex Salmond said the Scottish National Party’s opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza has the support of an overwhelming majority of Ministers in the Scottish Parliament: “This Parliament should speak with, certainly the overwhelming majority, in saying that the Israeli action is unacceptable, is insupportable and should stop forthwith. I’ve written to the Israeli Ambassador in the strongest possible terms.”

Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, said: “Such actions against a civilian ship are unacceptable…These actions in neutral waters raise special concerns and, undoubtedly, demand a thorough investigation.”

Turkey’s President, Abdullah Gül said, “Israel has made one of the most glaring mistakes in its history, for which it will repent”. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to hold Israel to account over its “state terror” as tens of thousands protested in Turkey against the deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships.

Erdoğan said, “We object to those who force the people of Gaza to live in an open-air prison… We will stand firm until the blockade on Gaza is lifted, the massacres cease and the state terror in the Middle East is accounted for.” Despite the strong rhetoric by Gül and Erdoğan; Turkey is not severing its ties with Israel.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the country’s long economic and military ties to Israel were “on the table for discussion” but refused to promise a definitive break with Israel.

“To assume everything involving another country is stopped in an instant, to say we have crossed you out of our address book, is not the custom of our state,” said Arınç.
Turkey’s defence ministry, which is in the middle of the purchase of 10 Heron drones, said it would continue to take delivery of Israeli weapons shipments.

Muslim Aid joined many charities in calling for Israel to allow international NGOs into Gaza. A spokesman for the UK-based international relief agency told The Muslim News, “Just as charity workers and NGOs are rightfully required not to mix their humanitarian work with politics, and states should act responsibly by recognizing the work of aid workers and enabling them to reach the people to meet their legitimate humanitarian needs.”

Source

3 Aid Flotilla Activists Missing, Says Turkish Charity Head Bulent Yildirim

Thursday, June 3, 2010 ISTANBUL –

Funeral prayers are held in Istanbul for eight of the nine people killed on a Gaza aid flotilla as families around the country mourn their dead. At least three activists are still missing, the group that organized the flotilla says, vowing to send larger convoys to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

At least three members of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla that was attacked by Israeli commandos are still missing, the group that organized the convoy said Thursday as funeral prayers were given for eight slain activists.

“We have a longer list. There are still people who are missing,” Bülent Yıldırım, the head of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, one of the main organizers of the flotilla, told reporters at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport.

“Our doctors handed over to Israel 38 people who were injured, but they told us there were only 21 injured when we were returning.”

The İHH leader also said the group would send larger convoys to end the embargo on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Yıldırım and hundreds of other activists returned early Thursday to a hero’s welcome in Istanbul. About 1,000 people, some chanting anti-Israeli slogans, packed the city’s airport in the middle of the night to greet the planes carrying them back from Israel.

Seven planes were used to deport 527 activists to Turkey and Greece, said Israeli interior ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad, adding that seven other activists remained in Israeli hospitals for treatment of wounds suffered during the Israeli raid. Another plane brought 31 Greeks, three French nationals and one American to Athens.

The first plane contained the bodies of eight Turks and a U.S. national of Turkish origin. All were shot dead in the Israeli raid, according to forensic experts. The nationalities of the victims were determined after post-mortem examinations at a forensic institute in Istanbul, the Anatolia news agency reported. Forensic experts found bullet marks on all the bodies and determined that one was shot at close range.

The exact circumstances of the activists’ deaths are expected to become clear in a ballistics examination that will take about a month to complete.

The 19 wounded activists deported from Israel also suffered from gunshot wounds, according to the chief doctor of the Ankara hospital treating them. “The patients generally have serious injuries to their chests, abdomens and limbs. What we have is mostly gun wounds,” Metin Doğan said in televised remarks.

Israel charges that the passengers on the boat attacked its soldiers, but organizers of the flotilla say Israeli forces started firing as soon as they landed on the ship.

Families mourn

Funeral prayers for eight of the nine people killed onboard the Mavi Marmara were held at the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul on Thursday. The coffins of Cengiz Akyüz, Ali Haydar Bengi, İbrahim Bilgen, Furkan Doğan, Cengiz Songür, Çetin Topçuoğlu, Fahri Yaldız and Necdet Yıldırım were wrapped in Turkish flags. The crowd at the funeral chanted anti-Israel slogans before and after the prayers. The funeral prayer for journalist Cevdet Kılıçlar, an İHH member, will be held at the same mosque Friday.

Families of the victims also mourned in various provinces of the country. Photographs of Bilgen, who was a mayoral candidate from the Saadet, or Felicity, Party in the March 2009 local elections, were hung over busy streets in the eastern province of Siirt.

In Adana, Cumali Topçuoğlu, the brother of 54-year-old victim Çetin Topçuoğlu, said family members were happy because their brother had become a “martyr.”

In Diyarbakır, a condolence tent was erected in front of the Ulu Mosque for Bengi, the father of four children.

An official from the İHH identified 19-year-old Doğan, originally from the central Turkish town of Kayseri, as the U.S. national among the victims. Doğan, who held an American passport, had four bullet wounds to the head and one to the chest, according to the İHH’s Ömer Yağmur. The bodies were handed over to the victim’s relatives after the autopsies.

The United Nations and the European Union have harshly criticized Israel after its commandos stormed the six-ship flotilla in international waters, setting off the clashes. About 700 activists – including 400 Turks – were trying to break the Israeli and Egyptian naval blockade by bringing in 10,000 tons of aid.

Eyewitness accounts

Two Swedes aboard the aid flotilla intercepted by Israeli forces this week said they had witnessed “premeditated murder.”

“We were witnesses to premeditated murders,”

historian Mattias Gardell told Swedish public radio Thursday upon arrival in Istanbul.

“This was a military attack on a humanitarian aid operation far out in international waters,” said Gardell, a Swedish activist who was on the Mavi Marmara along with his wife, fellow historian Edda Manga, during the attack. “It was a very surprising and aggressive overreaction by Israel.”

Kuwait citizen Ali Buhamd said he saw a wounded Turkish citizen getting shot in the head. “The soldiers also left another Turk to bleed to death despite [his] calls for help,” he added.

Shane Dillon from Ireland, from the crew of the ship Challenger 1, said he witnessed some volunteers being beaten up and a Belgian woman’s nose being broken.

Of five Australians on the Gaza flotilla, two – journalists Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty, who was injured by a stun gun during the Israeli raid – have returned to Turkey, daily The Australian reported on its website Thursday. Three others – Ahmed Luqman, who was shot in the leg, his wife, Jerry Campbell, and his sister Maryam Luqman – are reportedly still in Israel

Source

Turkey holds funerals for Gaza flotilla activists

Turks express anger and frustration. Survivors say they tried to turn back Israeli commandos with sticks and bars, but not guns.

source la times

By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times

June 4, 2010

Reporting from Istanbul, Turkey —
The wooden coffins of eight activists killed by Israeli commandos wound through the streets of Istanbul on Thursday as Turks wept and their leaders spoke of the irreparable harm Israel has done to one of its closest Muslim allies.

Turkish anger at Israel’s attack on a humanitarian flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip early Monday had appeared to be subsiding. But the funerals, along with harrowing accounts of returning survivors, added a fresh sense of outrage to the international crisis.

” Turkey will never forgive this attack,” President Abdullah Gul said on NTV television. “Turkish-Israeli relations can never be as before from now on.”

The diplomatic drama over Israel’s assault on the Free Gaza Movement flotilla widened when one of the dead was identified as an American citizen of Turkish descent. Furkan Dogan, 19, who was born in Troy, N.Y., but had lived for years in Turkey, was shot four times in the head and once in the chest, according to the state-run Anatolian news agency, which cited an autopsy report.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet debated how to handle calls for an international investigation.

Netanyahu’s advisors are divided over what sort of inquiry will be convened, officials said. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is facing calls for his resignation, is arguing for an internal military audit. Other ministers are recommending an independent commission with international involvement to ensure credibility.

Near Istanbul’s Fatih mosque, boys shimmied up poles and men climbed atop stone walls to glimpse the funeral cortege moments after a muezzin’s call to prayer swept across the skyline. The procession slipped past the mosque gates and into a city that was once the heart of an empire and now is struggling with disbelief, outrage and sorrow.

“Turkey was attacked going to help. We were attacked in full view of the world,” said Bulent Yildirim, head of the Turkish group IHH, one of the flotilla’s organizers, addressing thousands of mourners crammed into the mosque’s courtyard and beyond its thick walls. “We were martyrs and Israelis acted in shame.”

But amid bitterness and patriotism, there was frustration over what exactly unfolded in the predawn hours when warships and helicopters encircled the Mavi Marmara, the flotilla’s lead ship.

“We don’t know which side is right. We don’t accurately know what really happened,” said Boyrom Albayrak, standing beneath the mosque’s golden crescents. “We just know we don’t want this anymore. I’m very sad and a little angry, but things are cooling down.”

Thursday morning began on a less solemn note. About 350 Turkish activists with the Free Gaza Movement, most of whom had been on the Mavi Marmara, flew home before daybreak from Israeli detention. Celebrations turned into preparations for funerals , and survivors gave riveting accounts that contrasted with Israel’s version of the raid.

Activists who were part of the flotilla said they spotted warships about 1 a.m. Monday trailing the Mavi Marmara in international waters off the Israeli coast. Several hours later, after morning prayers, gunboats and Zodiac boats raced alongside as commandos threw hooked ropes at the ship in attempts to board. The activists said the Israelis were beaten back with sticks and water shot from fire hoses.

“The gunboats flanked us and darted in and out across our wake. It was like a pack of hunting dogs,” said Peter Venner, a forester from the Isle of Wight, England, who has supported Gaza aid efforts for years.

“There were explosions and flashes of light about 40 feet away, not to scare us but to alarm us. I leaned over the rail and then I heard a patter, very light, like gravel on the upper deck. I realized it was live ammunition.”

By that time, helicopters thrummed and commandos rappelled to the deck. One of the Mavi’s guards, who gave his name only as Halit because he feared retribution, said he and others shook the dangling helicopter ropes and subdued the descending Israelis.

“They were firing noise bombs and plastic bullets,” he said. “We used sticks and bars and slingshots. As soon as the soldiers came down, we took their guns and beat them with only our hands…. One activist running with me was shot in the forehead, another in the leg.”

The Israeli government said activists ambushed the commandos with knives and shot two soldiers after wresting guns from them. Activists said they never fired a shot and threw the weapons into the sea.

Interviews with six activists suggested confusion spread through the vessel after the Israelis stormed the upper deck and began securing lower decks, and a cabin turned into a makeshift hospital by Free Gaza doctors.

“I changed my clothes, which had blood on them, not mine but from others,” said Venner, a man with bright blue eyes and a graying Vandyke beard. “There was a lot of blood on the steps. I saw Israelis slip on the blood as they were coming down the stairs.”

Three Israeli soldiers had “bruises and one had a swollen face,” said Ahmet Sarikurt, a member of IHH.

“One Israeli was really scared. He seemed to have had a nervous breakdown. Our doctors were treating the Israelis and our people. No Israelis were shot. None of us fired a gun. We had no guns. They shot at us and took the ship.”

The Mavi captain announced the ship was in Israeli control about 7 a.m. The activists were handcuffed. Their cellphones, cameras and other belongings were seized. The Mavi sailed to Israel. In all, nine activists had been killed. More than 40 had been wounded.

The narratives played through Thursday, whispered beyond Koran verses and along the funeral procession as green vans, brocaded in silver, carried coffins draped in Palestinian and Turkish flags. “Terrorist, Israel.” “Damn, Israel.” Names and epithets were shouted by thousands under a blue sky.

Standing with veiled women outside the Fatih mosque, Hanife Rana Emre watched clerics in pressed robes. Men prostrated themselves on brown paper beneath the trees of the sprawling lawn. They called to Allah and then, like a hushed chorus, murmured in prayer.

“We are for the Palestinians,” she said. “If there has to be a war, the Turks will be in it, man, woman and child. They martyred themselves to God in a beautiful way. The Israelis should be called less than animals.”

jeffrey.fleishman@latimes.com

Source

Excerpt from an eyewitness account by Mario Damolin – Part 2

June 21, 2010 1 comment

PART ONE AVAILABLE HERE

After the seizure of six ships of the fleet auxiliary Gaza landed passengers and crew in the prison in Beersheba. There, the guards had with the prisoner so their difficulties.  Excerpt from an eyewitness account by Mario Damolin.

07th Juni 2010 June 2010

After two locks, we reach the main room of the building on the ground floor, polygonal, functional, easily surveyed. Left, separated from the department for personnel, office space, a space with photo equipment, some intelligence officers – they are easy to identify – rests on the wall.  The left, further forward then a sort of a small kitchen area with rinsing, then the cells begin in the ground floor.  Quite right, next to the entrance, showers in open cubicles, each about a camera is mounted shower. On the wall next to a series payphones.  In the last third of this lower range are the seats for the prisoners, four welded to a metal table. A On one of the tables emblazoned stamp of TÜV Rheinland.  We get two small bars of soap, three packs of shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a towel, a plastic cup and a Esstablett.

A staircase leads to the first floor with other cells, each with four beds, a table with welded seat, a cabinet with four compartments.  The toilet behind a door that allows the top and bottom clearance. The flush makes a noise like a jackhammer.  Bedroom and bathroom are equipped with surveillance cameras.  Donate to the top of the wall, a fan, the cooling system. From the barred window, one sees behind the large prison buildings, the Negev desert.

5115 cell on the first floor is now on our accommodation: inmates are next to me Marcello Faraggi, Italian journalist from Brussels, Bilal Abdul Aziz, an English teacher from Britain, Manolis Matchioulakis, solar energy expert from Athens. The fan is not working our cell, but in a corner of a package is with all the individual parts. Faraggi has installed the equipment in thirty minutes on the plate to the wall. The fact that this section was provided in a hurry, one observes the plaster, which is located on the cell floor with the mattress, still wrapped, and the bird droppings on the railings – apparently pitched the more recently in the open, and none has been cleaned.

Too little food and water

The ground floor will be brought in water bottles, food – bread, cucumbers, peppers – then the doors open on a Zentralmechanismus. All come out in our tract of about sixty people are at least twelve people media: filmmakers write journalists, photographers from the Czech Republic, Italy, France, Ireland, Australia, Turkey, Jordan.  In the strong Greek, there are two professors, trade unionists, engineers, skilled workers, a student from Zurich, and Naim Elghandour, the cook of the “Eleftheri Mesogeios”, a comfortable exile with a Greek passport Egyptians, the Greeks out loud, offensive and funny at the same time – little to slow. The Turkish group comes mainly from the cargo ships of IHH, a Turkish aid organization, which is described in some countries as a radical Islamist.

he very first evening is clear that the enforcement staff will not have it easy. Sound is called for lawyers and diplomats, some want to call – a mess beyond compare. The Israeli prison guards look surprised at the chaos.  One of higher rank comes forward and asks for peace, then we should also make calls tomorrow. Screams and laughter. We were not prisoners, says the Israeli, but visitors, so guests, and even calls one from the background: “One cappuccino please!” The Anglo-Saxons are with whiskey made.  Vangelis Pissias shouts: “I am a political prisoner.”

The organization is chaotic in prison, the staff is not trained, resources are inadequate. Prisoners who need medicine are hardly heard, there are too few (bad) food, the morning after posting no breakfast, there is no water. DThe guards recommend quench the thirst in the sink.  Some draw the meal with cups from the large containers and eat with the hand, because no cutlery.

Some prison officials feel the adrenaline levels rising. They are not against Palestinians, but self-conscious Europeans, who get intimidated and do not insist on the observance of human rights.  The attempt to let the guests-prisoners for the purpose of counting up the rank and file will fail miserably.  All cells in the back is, then, no one goes, one of the officers began to scream. The first morning we select speakers who will represent our claims against the prison authorities. The prison staff responded in confusion.  The authority is gone, which makes them more aggressive.

This text is an excerpt from the testimony of our reporter Mario Damoli

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Im Gefängnis von Beerscheba In prison in Beersheba

Über jeder Dusche eine Kamera About every shower a camera

Nach der Kaperung von sechs Schiffen der Gaza-Hilfsflotte landeten Passagiere und Mannschaften im Gefängnis von Beerscheba. After the seizure of six ships of the fleet auxiliary Gaza landed passengers and crew in the prison in Beersheba. Dort hatten die Wärter mit den Häftlingen so ihre Schwierigkeiten. There, the guards had with the prisoner so their difficulties. Auszug aus einem Augenzeugenbericht von Mario Damolin . Excerpt from an eyewitness account by Mario Damolin.

07. 07th Juni 2010 June 2010

Nach zwei Schleusen erreichen wir den Hauptraum des Baus im Erdgeschoss, mehreckig, funktional, leicht überblickbar. After two locks, we reach the main room of the building on the ground floor, polygonal, functional, easily surveyed. Links, abgetrennt, die Abteilung für das Personal, Büroräume, ein Raum mit Fotoanlage, einige Geheimdienstleute – sie sind leicht zu identifizieren – lehnen an der Wand. Left, separated from the department for personnel, office space, a space with photo equipment, some intelligence officers – they are easy to identify – rests on the wall. Linker Hand, weiter vorne dann eine Art kleiner Küchenbereich mit Spülwannen, danach beginnen die Zellen im Erdgeschoss. The left, further forward then a sort of a small kitchen area with rinsing, then the cells begin in the ground floor. Ganz rechts, neben dem Eingang, Duschen in offenen Kabinen, über jeder Dusche ist eine Kamera angebracht. Quite right, next to the entrance, showers in open cubicles, each about a camera is mounted shower. An der Wand daneben eine Reihe Münztelefone. On the wall next to a series payphones. Im letzten Drittel dieses unteren Bereichs sind die Sitzflächen für die Gefangenen, jeweils vier an einen Metalltisch geschweißt. In the last third of this lower range are the seats for the prisoners, four welded to a metal table. Auf einem der Tische prangt der Stempel von TÜV Rheinland. On one of the tables emblazoned stamp of TÜV Rheinland. Wir erhalten zwei kleine Stück Seife, drei Päckchen Shampoo, eine Zahnbürste, Zahnpasta, ein Handtuch, eine Plastiktasse und ein Esstablett. We get two small bars of soap, three packs of shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a towel, a plastic cup and a Esstablett.

Über eine Treppe kommt man in den ersten Stock mit weiteren Zellen: jeweils vier Betten, ein Tisch mit angeschweißter Sitzfläche, ein Schrank mit vier Abteilungen. A staircase leads to the first floor with other cells, each with four beds, a table with welded seat, a cabinet with four compartments. Die Toilette hinter einer Tür, die oben und unten Freiraum lässt. The toilet behind a door that allows the top and bottom clearance. Die Spülung macht einen Lärm wie ein Presslufthammer. The flush makes a noise like a jackhammer. Schlafraum und Toilette sind mit Überwachungskameras bestückt. Bedroom and bathroom are equipped with surveillance cameras. Oben an der Wand ein Ventilator, der Kühlung spenden soll. Donate to the top of the wall, a fan, the cooling system. Aus dem vergitterten Fenster sieht man hinter den großflächigen Gefängnisbauten die Wüste Negev. From the barred window, one sees behind the large prison buildings, the Negev desert.

Ankunft in Istanbul: Journalisten nach ihrer Abschiebung aus Israel

Ankunft in Istanbul: Journalisten nach ihrer Abschiebung aus Israel Arrival in Istanbul: journalists after their deportation from Israel

Zelle 5115 im ersten Stock ist von jetzt an unsere Unterkunft: Insassen sind neben mir Marcello Faraggi, italienischer Journalist aus Brüssel, Bilal Abdul Aziz, Englischlehrer aus Großbritannien, Manolis Matchioulakis, Solarenergie-Fachmann aus Athen. 5115 cell on the first floor is now on our accommodation: inmates are next to me Marcello Faraggi, Italian journalist from Brussels, Bilal Abdul Aziz, an English teacher from Britain, Manolis Matchioulakis, solar energy expert from Athens.

GAZA MAN PETER CHARGED OVER INVOLVEMENT

veneer Posted by Jason on 19 June, 2010 – 11:35 am

PETER VENNER’S participation in the recent Freedom Flotilla to Gaza has sparked controversy and he has been charged with reckless involvement in a terrorist organisation.

Earlier this year Peter drove a vehicle packed with medical supplies and other aid from the IW in a land convoy to Gaza. All land routes have now been blocked. However, Peter was so impressed by what he found in Gaza – the kindness and generosity of a population systematically starved by the Israelis, (by means of restriction of food that Israeli officials jokingly refer to as ‘a diet for Palestinians’), and their extraordinary lack of bitterness towards their Israeli oppressors – that he was determined to do what he could to help break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Peter was one of 600 passengers on the Mavi Marmara, a ship funded by Turkish charity IHH – a similar organisation to Oxfam. Peter recalls:

“From 11pm, radar picked up shadows closing from astern. We were woken at 4am and went to the quarter deck for before-dawn prayer. A lookout called to say Israeli boats had been spotted in the darkness.

“Israel has previously attacked international boats taking aid to Gaza, so we expected to be threatened by Israel and wore life jackets in case the boat was sunk. Nevertheless, we believed there would be safety in numbers and expected Israel would harass us but not prevent our peaceful entry to Gaza.

“I went to the starboard rail and saw powerful gunboats, filled with armed assault troops, like a pack of malignant dogs following in our wake. Soon Israeli gunboats darted in alongside and there were several very loud explosions around the stern of the vessel. I heard a noise like gravel being sprayed against the cabin plates and eventually realised that this might be the sound of live ammunition. Remembering that gas could be used, I went to the lobby/stairwell area and had just finished improvising with a dampened scarf when the first casualty was carried down the stairs 2ft from where I stood.

“Three more victims followed. Autopsies have shown that they were shot from overhead or behind, which validates the evidence given by those on the five smaller aid boats who saw helicopters firing on the Mavi Marmara before commandos landed from sea and air.

“I will never forget the shocking quantity and strong smell of blood. We were manacled and forced to kneel for three hours, at the point of about 40 rifles. I was near a steel stairway descending from the deck where the carnage had occurred.  On two occasions an Israeli guard slipped over in the blood of my fellow passengers.  My human response was to try to get to my feet to help, while the soldiers looked embarrassed.  If I had been able to get up, I imagine I would have been shot instantly.”

Peter says that the accusation that the flotilla was carrying anything other than humanitarian aid is nonsense. Because of the threat from the Israelis, all the boats involved were scrupulously checked at every port to ensure there was nothing on board to give the Israelis an excuse for violence.

The flotilla included participants from 42 nations. As Peter travelled on the Turkish ship, the predominant religion was Islam.  Peter says his exposure to Islam has always been very benign. “Indeed I believe that Muslims are being demonised just as the Jews were. Like the Jews – other than in Israel – Palestinians have no history of taking people’s land.

“I am not a Muslim myself, but I have always been treated with great friendliness by the Muslims I have met.  During the land convoy I attended mosques and was amazed by the relaxed atmosphere.  Following prayers, people chat on their mobile phones or just lie down to have a rest.  The mosques are the hub of the local community and a great place to catch up on news and local gossip.  I was always made to feel extremely welcome.”

Most of the passengers from the Mavi Marmara were sent to a prison newly constructed for the Israelis by an Australian company.  Others are still in custody elsewhere and there are reports that they have been badly beaten.  On the following day representatives of all the nations involved insisted on access to the prisoners, but Peter was not visited by the British consul.

“We were deported to Istanbul, where we were at last hailed by a British diplomat.  She indicated that we should follow her behind some airport buses, which we later suspected was a ruse to avoid press coverage.  She offered us each a loan of £100, but fortunately Turkish airlines laid on three nights in a hotel and a free flight back home. We stayed for the funeral of the people who were killed by the Israelis. The individual displays of kindness that were expressed towards me by the people I met in Turkey were extraordinary.”

In response to the charge that, despite attacking the flotilla in international waters, the Israelis were defending themselves, Peter replies: “Suppose I rushed out of my house, stopped a passing car and killed the driver – I would expect to face trial. If I defended myself saying: “I thought he might have been bringing a gun for my neighbour to attack me,” this would invite two questions: Are you insane? … And have you done something to your neighbour that makes you think he might want to harm you?”

“The unwarranted attack by Israel on a flotilla taking humanitarian aid to Gaza raises similar questions. It appears that Israel is suffering a psychotic illness, the patient behaves rationally in an unreal world – it has repressed it’s conscience, is terrified that the truth of it’s actions will be revealed and is in complete denial of evident facts.”

Peter’s partner, Rachel Bridgeland, had an anxious wait before Peter’s return.  “The worst part was hearing that people on the Mavi Marmara had been killed.  The Foreign Office could not tell me anything,” she said.

“Following their attack on Gaza last year, the Israelis have tightened their punishing blockade. UN leaders, including the UN Secretary General, have backed the flotilla.  They have seen the Israelis behave with complete impunity. Among the schools and hospitals deliberately targeted during the three week attack, the Israelis destroyed the UN food store in Gaza as well as UN schools.

“The BBC uses film footage provided for them by the Israeli propaganda department.  You can see the same piece of film on the internet, before scenes of soldiers shooting civilians were cut out.  There is film of Israeli soldiers kicking one passenger before executing him with four bullets, but this was considered too upsetting to show.

“Mark Regev, the Israeli spokesman, frequently appears on British news – despite the fact that he has been proved to have lied on many occasions.  He accused Hamas of initiating the Israeli three week attack on Gaza last year by breaking the ceasefire, but it was shown that Hamas had not in fact fired any rockets during the four months leading up to the Israeli bombardment in which thousands of Gazans were killed or maimed.

“The people of Gaza are not allowed a voice as they are conveniently considered by the international community to be ruled by terrorists, even though Hamas won the democratic election in Palestine by a huge majority.  In addition, unlike Israel, the Hamas leadership has agreed to all UN resolutions regarding Palestine and has begged the UN to send peace keeping troops.

“Some have accused Peter of looking for trouble, but he is the most conciliatory person I know. We have tried very hard to encourage our political representatives to take action, but they say there is nothing they can do.  Even the Archbishop of Canterbury was unable to accept artwork from deaf schoolchildren in Gaza because this is on the Israelis banned list.  On the land convoy, Peter was able to deliver £1000 worth of books to universities and libraries in Gaza.  He took a further £600 worth on the flotilla, but as books and school supplies are also banned by Israel it seems unlikely they will reach their intended destination – especially as Peter reports that passengers luggage was trashed.

“Already our Foreign Office is backtracking on its original demand to end the illegal blockade of Gaza. Israel was formed in 1948, when Jewish settlers murdered 13,000 of their Palestinian hosts. The first Israeli prime minister, David Ben Gurion, said: “We must use terror and assassination to cleanse the Galilee of it’s Arab population,” and this is what they have been doing ever since, while the world turns a blind eye. What else is left but grassroots action?  A further flotilla is being planned for September.  As Ghandi said: “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.” Not many people would have the courage to do what Peter has done.  I’m extremely proud of him.”