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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.

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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

“Gaza ships just completely blew Israel’s cover”

As witnesses of the Israeli assault, Gaza activists say ships are just a little effort to defy the grave injustice on the besieged land, renewing their pledge to go to Gaza.

Sunday, 13 June 2010 12:59

By Z.Tuba Kor, World Bulletin

As witnesses of the Israeli assault, Gaza activists say ships are just a little effort to defy the grave injustice on the besieged land, renewing their pledge to go to Gaza.
Perween Yaqub is a British citizen of Pakistani origin, and is program coordinator in civil service in Britain.

Maryam Luqman Talib (18) is an Australian citizen of Sri Lanka origin, and a sophomore Pharmacy student in Kuwait.
Fatima el Mourabiti(26) is a Belgium citizen of Algerian origin, and is a psycho-pedagogist.

These three young ladies joined the Gaza Freedom Flotilla with the slogan of “Palestine Our Road, Humanitarian Aid Our Load” in Antalya and were on the Blue Marmara Ship. As witnesses of the Israeli assault, they shared their experiences with us and answered our questions sincerely.

*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.

Days of Planning Led to Flotilla’s Hour of Chaos

By Sabrina Tavernise and Ethan Bronner
Published: June 4, 2010

ISTANBUL — It was just getting light when the Turkish boat, packed with 546 activists, descended into chaos, and Mahmut Coskun, a Turkish doctor on board, was in the middle of it.

The crack of an Israeli sound grenade and a hail of rubber bullets from above were supposed to disperse activists, but instead set them in motion. And when three Israeli commandos slid down ropes out of helicopters to take over the ship, a crowd set upon them.

“They ran at them without pause or hesitation,”

Dr. Coskun recalled.

One soldier was stabbed and two were beaten. From that moment on, the attempted takeover turned into an armed assault, with angry Israeli commandos opening fire. Within an hour, the commandos had taken control of the ship, and nine Turks, including one who also had American citizenship, were dead.

Dozens of interviews in Israel and Turkey suggest that Israel’s decision to stop the flotilla at all costs collided with the intention of a small group of Islamic activists from Turkey, turning a raid on a ship of protesters in international waters into a bloodbath — and a major international event.

The activists had set sail precisely in hopes of forcing the world to focus on Israel’s blockade of Gaza, something they had sought in vain in the past. This time they succeeded.

The deaths at sea on Monday have created a diplomatic fiasco for Israel. Its assault has been fiercely condemned around the world and ruptured relations with its closest Muslim ally, Turkey. The Obama administration has watched as the ties between its two closest regional allies have unraveled. Meanwhile, the Palestinians of Gaza, often neglected in Middle East peace talks, have taken on new importance.

In truth, the chaos and deaths on the ship, known as the Mavi Marmara, the largest of a six-boat fleet, were not a result of lack of planning. It was clear for at least a month to both the Israeli government and the pro-Palestinian activists behind the flotilla that they were on a collision course. But both severely miscalculated.

Israel, increasingly on the defensive over its policy toward the Palestinians, understood that it faced a public relations battle it could not win: its military could easily stop the boats, but if civilians were harmed, it would be blamed. The Israelis believed that letting the flotilla through would open a new military corridor to Gaza, run by Hamas, that would include weapons and militants.

“We knew they were looking for a confrontation,” a senior military official said, speaking under military rules of anonymity. “We tried to make sure force was the last option. But we were not going to let them pass.”

For the past three years, in an effort to squeeze Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, Israel has banned all but basic humanitarian aid and food from entering Gaza.

Israeli diplomats tried to persuade Turkish and other governments to stop the flotilla, while the military planned an operation if necessary.

Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Israeli who oversees civilian Palestinian issues in the West Bank and Gaza, met with the Turkish ambassador in Tel Aviv. But he was told the Turkish government could do nothing because the boat was sailing under the auspices of a private group.

A Turkish official said a discussion of the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected in Washington this week, but the raid occurred before the meeting could take place. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been one of the world’s most vocal opponents of the blockade of Gaza, and though he did not support the flotilla directly, he did not work very hard to stop it.

In Israel, ideas on how to halt the boats — sabotage of propellers or engines, the use of ropes or chains — were examined, military officials say, but all were rejected as dangerous or impractical. Disabling a huge boat like the Mavi Marmara could lead to its sinking or to days of towing it to shore.

The best option, they asserted, was a takeover of the command of the boats, something Israel had done a year ago during an attempt by a smaller vessel. This time, though, because the lead boat was so large, the Israelis would have to descend by helicopter rather than approaching only by sea, costing them the element of surprise. Some American naval experts interviewed agreed that as long as Israel insisted on stopping the Mavi Marmara, its best option was a takeover.

But Israel, committed to enforcing a blockade, did not consider alternatives like searching the cargo before unloading it in Gaza — a decision that has prompted criticism that Israel was too quick to choose confrontation and fell into a trap set by the activists.

Israel’s inner cabinet of seven ministers approved the plan and the Israeli Navy Seal units began training for what they expected to be passive resistance. “We had in mind a sit-down, a linking of arms,” a military spokesman said.

That the military was expecting mainly passive resistance is being seen in Israel as an intelligence failure. It could be viewed as a strange assumption given that Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, later characterized the Turkish group as a dangerous Islamic organization with terrorist links — a charge the organization rejects.

As the flotilla approached, the commandos were briefed not to react to spitting and curses and were trained to go on board carrying large paintball guns, instead of their usual automatic weapons, and pistols, to be used only as a last resort.

Plastic Bullets and Crisis

Part 1

On the morning of the raid, confusion ruled. The first soldiers who rappelled down the ropes appeared disoriented and frightened, Dr. Coskun, the Turkish witness, said, slipping a bit on the dewy deck and calling out in English, which Dr. Coskun said few Turks understood.

Of the two ropes that were dropped simultaneously from the helicopter, one was grabbed by men on board the boat and tied to an antenna, Israeli officials said. The pilot released it to avoid being tethered to the boat, and the commandos then slid down only one rope, slowing the incursion and leaving them vulnerable.

Some of the activists, hearing the pop of the plastic bullets and the sound bomb, believed they were being shot, according to witnesses, including some wounded now in an Ankara hospital.

It was a small group of aggressive activists on the upper deck who overwhelmed the first soldiers, wrenching away their weapons and, according to Dr. Coskun and video images supplied by the Israeli military, beating them with wooden poles and metal rods that they had ripped or sawed off the side of the boat.

The confrontation pitted the powerful Israeli military, determined to have its way by enforcing its controversial blockade of Gaza, against a group of activists from a Turkish Islamic charity intent on breaking it. The group, Insani Yardim Vakfi, is known by its Turkish initials, I.H.H.

Around the same time, the five other boats in the flotilla were taken over by commandos with relatively little resistance, though some activists from those boats were later treated for wounds.

On the main boat, live gunfire began when reinforcements descended — Israel says when the fourth commando saw an activist pointing his comrade’s gun — and terrifying scenes of panicked chaos unfolded on all levels of the Mavi Marmara for nearly an hour. Video taken from its surveillance cameras reveals jerky images of passengers dragging the wounded down staircases. A woman in a head scarf carried a stretcher soaked in blood.

“They are using live ammunition,” said a man standing in front of a camera. “We cannot protect ourselves.”

Ismail Yesildal, who was shot in the back as he stood on the lower deck away from the fighting, said doctors were overwhelmed with the wounded. By the end of the confrontation — around 5:08 a.m., according to the surveillance video — two dozen people were hurt.

“I saw wounded people everywhere,” he said. “People were panicked. There was helplessness in their faces.”

Diplomatic Aftermath

A week earlier, assuming everything was under control in stopping the flotilla heading to Gaza, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel left for what he expected to be a very satisfying overseas trip.

He started in Paris to take part in celebrations of Israel’s acceptance to the club of rich countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a significant triumph for Israel.

From Paris, Mr. Netanyahu was off to Canada and ultimately to Washington for a meeting with President Obama that a top Israeli official said was expected to be a “hug fest.”

Mr. Netanyahu was sleeping in the government guesthouse in Ottawa early Monday when he was awakened with news of the raid.

His aides joined him at 3 a.m. to discuss how to save the crucial Obama meeting. In Washington, Mr. Netanyahu was also due to meet the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, in a bid to steady that relationship as well.

But the crisis deepened, and Mr. Netanyahu flew home, while Mr. Davutoglu seethed over the raid. He flew to New York to push for a strong condemnation of Israel in the United Nations Security Council, but was thwarted by the United States, which watered down the language. By the time he reached Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s office on Tuesday morning, Turkey was in danger of breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel.

“We’ve had bad times with Russia, we’ve had bad times with Greece, but no state in Turkey’s history has ever killed our citizens with their army intentionally,” said a Turkish official who asked not to be named because of diplomatic protocol.

According to the Turkish official, Mrs. Clinton asked how the United States could help, and Mr. Davutoglu demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all the activists, most of whom were then still in Israeli custody. Several hours later, Israel announced just that, and Turkey sent six planes to Tel Aviv, declining Israel’s offer to send the activists back. A Turkish doctor was also sent to monitor the wounded.

“You just killed our people, how can I trust you?” Mr. Davutoglu asked Mr. Barak by phone, according to the Turkish official.

In Istanbul, the activists had come home and Dr. Coskun was remembering the raid. He was bitter that commandos had not let him help a bleeding man, instead delivering occasional kicks, he said, and forcing the passengers to lie face down on the deck, handcuffed, for hours.

He was also angry at the young men who fought the commandos. He rebuked one of them for bragging about having beaten an Israeli.

“I told him, just because you wanted to flex your muscles and drag three soldiers down, nine people ended up dead.”

But most of all he was stunned that the Israelis had used their guns on the activists.

“We expected them to come on board the ship, and to take us hostage, but we never thought they would use live bullets to do it,” he said.

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