Recognizing the Mavi Marmara Dead and All of Gaza’s Heroes

Many have laid down their lives in the effort to see Gaza liberated; they paid the ultimate price and should be recognized.

Mavi Marmara and Gaza victims
Salem-News.com artwork by Austin King. Special thanks to cultures of resistance and the film “Gazastrophe”

(SALEM, Ore.) – It seems more than legitimate that the names of the nine unarmed peace activists killed and specifically “executed” by the Israeli military aboard the Mavi Marmara during last May’s Flotilla incident, should be added to the names of all of the innocent people slaughtered by Israeli Defence Forces during ‘Operation Cast Lead’ that began two years ago.

The people of Gaza are all heroes and victims. None have asked for or received what they deserve. They somehow manage to hold an historic culture together that is under assault by Israel on every possible front. The siege of Gaza can not and will not last much longer.

At some point in the future, a wall will be constructed with the name of each of the more than 1400 victims of cast lead inscribed, and the names of the eight Turkish citizens and the Turkish/American who died while doing the right thing, working for humanity while trying to break an illegal siege that causes one and a half million people in Gaza to suffer so much, should be added.

Vahri Yildiz … Farrakhan Dogan

Ibrahim Bilgen … Cengiz Sunqur

Necdet Yidirim … Kovdit Kililar

Ali Heyder Bengi … Cengiz Okez

Cetin Topkoogelo

There are more names that should accompany these, like Rachel Corrie, because the movement to free Gaza is many years old and has already claimed many lives of so many prior to and since the savage winter attack that began in late 2008 and lasted into 2009.

Israel’s Avigdor Lieberman came right out and said it: Israel will not apologize for killing nine Turkish activists during Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound ship in May. “The demand for an apology is more than chutzpah. Turkey is the one who should apologize before Israel. We are not the ones who began the escalation of events and the Turks can only blame themselves,” Lieberman said. He is a Soviet-born Member of the Knesset, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel.

In other words, his words are very significant and representative of the Israeli position toward notions of peace and humanity.

And that’s harsh considering that Israeli commandos under his command, raided the Flotilla ship Mavi Marmara at zero dark thirty in the morning on 31 May 2010 and killed six of the nine unarmed peace activists aboard that ship “execution style” according to the United Nations. He doesn’t show signs of being reasonable in any respect.

From the United Nations Human Rights Council’s findings:

170. The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution. Furkan Doğan and İbrahim Bilgen were shot at near range while the victims were lying injured on the top deck. Cevdet Kiliçlar, Cengiz Akyüz, Cengiz Songür and Çetin Topçuoğlu were shot on the bridge deck while not participating in activities that represented a threat to any Israeli soldier. In these instances and possibly other killings on the Mavi Marmara, Israeli forces carried out extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions prohibited by international human rights law, specifically article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Israeli-born Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon said, “The ideology that carried out execution-style killings on the Gaza aid flotilla the ‘Mavi Marmara’ is the same ideology that carried out the massacres at Deir Yassin, Qibya, Sabra and Shatilla, Qana, Gaza, Jenin and the murder of Rachel Corrie — more than that it is the same ideology that killed Christ.” Heavy stuff, but who would know better than a man who reached his understanding while part of the Israeli machine? (see: Gilad Atzmon Interviewed by Shabana Syed – Salem-News.com)

As Israeli soldiers boarded the vessel and fatally shot the Mavi Marmara crew and passengers, three of their own members were captured by the very people they were trying to kill.

Proving on the spot that the mission had no desire to hurt Israelis, the Israeli Defence Force soldiers were all cared for by the activists and later released.

One would think that the medical treatment and release of these injured soldiers would have at least brought a small degree of appreciation and understanding from the Israelis, but that did not happen. Instead the Israeli government actually blamed the activists for the entire situation, in the process doctoring both audio and video that was in turn released and played thousands of times by western media.

More from the UN Human Rights Council report:

(iv) Shootings at the bow deck, the release of the Israeli soldiers and end of the operation 125. During the initial fighting on the top deck three Israeli soldiers were taken under control and brought inside the ship. While some passengers wished to harm the soldiers, other passengers ensured that they were protected and able to receive rudimentary medical treatment from doctors on board. Two of the soldiers had received wounds to the abdomen. One of the soldiers had a superficial wound to the abdomen, caused by a sharp object, which penetrated to the subcutaneous tissue. None of the three soldiers had received gunshot injuries, according to doctors who examined them. All three soldiers were in a state of shock and were suffering from cuts, bruises and blunt force trauma.

To condone what Israel did on the Mavi Marmara is a wholehearted endorsement of murder and nothing less.

The people who were killed by Israel 31 May 2010:

Cetin Topkoogelo

Cetin Topkoogelo, a 54-year old former Taekwondo champion who worked as a coach for the Turkish national team, was shot three times by the Israeli Defence Force ‘commandos’ who raided the Mavi Marmara. He was shot once in the back of his head, once in his hip and once in his belly.

Underscoring the tragedy of this highly accomplished man’s loss, is the fact that he died as his wife tried to save him.

Mavi Marmara survivors Kevin Neish and Ken O’Keefe, both recalled during interviews how Arab Knesset Member Haan Zoabi repeatedly asked the Israeli’s who took control of the vessel to take their wounded and transport the ones who could be saved.

The answer from the IDF soldiers was to train their weapons at Zoabi and say, “take another shot and we will shoot you in the head.” Efforts to save Cetin Topkoogelo and others who died were all unsuccessful.

Vahri Yildiz

43-year old Vahri Yildiz was a fireman who worked in the town of Adiyaman. Married and father of four children, he was one of the many people who cared enough about the people of Gaza to take time off, far more than he anticipated as it turns out, and be a part of the Freedom Flotilla.

Israel’s answer for him? Vahri was hit by five bullets, among them a fatal one in the chest.

Bear in mind that Israel has stated publicly that they used rubber bullets. First, rubber bullets are made of metal, surrounded by rubber.

They have the power of a regular bullet, especially when fired at close range.

I don’t believe Israel’s military would have sent soldiers on a mission to kill peace activists with rubber bullets. It is not to say that they didn’t have some weapons with these rounds, but the ones that killed the Mavi Marmara crew and passengers, like Vahri Yildiz, were killed with standard Israeli military bullets.

Farrakhan Dogan – American

One person many were almost instantly familiar with, was an American resident aboard the Mavi Marmara; 19-year old Farrakhan Dogan, a student in secondary School who had hoped and trained and planned to become a doctor.

This was a young man that was well liked by others aboard the Mavi Marmara; they appreciated his depth for such a young man, and knew he sincerely cared about the people of the Gaza Strip.

Farrakhan’s father is Doctor Ahmed Dogan, an Assistant Professor at the University of Irkiis; the young man was following his father’s footsteps, that is what he meant to do. He is one of the people slaughtered by the Israeli military while working as an unarmed peace activist. Farrakhan held dual citizenship, both Turkish and American, and has two brothers.

Israeli military that overtook and illegally boarded the Mavi Marmara, shot this teenager five times – from close range, in the right side of his nose, in the back of the head, in the back and twice in the left leg.

Cengiz Okez

41-year old Cengiz Okez was from Iskenderun, he was married, and the father of three children who were fourteen, twelve and nine years old. Cengiz is pictured here with his youngest daughter.

Like many people murdered that fateful night, Cengiz was a volunteer who chose to dedicate his time toward helping and saving the people of Gaza, who have been living in rubble since Israel’s attack in 2008 and 2009 called “Operation Cast Lead” which was extremely successful, in terms of casting lead.

Over 1400 mostly civilians in Gaza were killed as a result of the attack. Israel specifically targeted homes, educational facilities, including a United Nations School, and hospitals and medical facilities. Israel has allowed minimal construction supplies in since the attack.

Israel’s treatment of this man? Four gunshot wounds: back of head, right side of face, back, left leg.

Cengiz Sunqur

47-year old Cengiz Sunqur was from the city of Izmir. A married father of seven children; he is another one of the activists who chose to take part in the volunteer effort to aid the people of Gaza.

On the Website American for a free Palestine, a woman named Pam wrote: “There are no words to adequately offer consolation to your wife and children. I only hope that the international community will insist that justice is served, that you and your comrades do not die in vain.”

Another comment from a person named Marianne, speaks to the damage that Israeli politics invoke. She offered these words to Cengiz: “The courage of these men and the pain of their dreadful but heroic deaths – such a loss. The inhumanity of the Israeli soldiers and the Israeli government is not to be believed, were it not visible every day, every single day, in Palestine, and everywhere supporters of Israel try to defend the indefensible. My heart aches for the families of these good men. Would that we could all so brave. Free Palestine!”

Cengiz Sunqur was killed by Israeli commandos aboard the Mavi Marnara. He died from one gunshot wound to the front of neck.

Necdet Yidirim

An aid worker in the humanitarian relief organization (IHH) of the city of Malatya, Necdet Yidirim was married and also was the father of a little girl aged three years.

A comment about Necdet reads: “It is obvious from your choice of career that you were a man of integrity and compassion. You should never have had to pay for those ideals with your life. We are so sad to see, once again, the terrible pain and suffering exacted on families because of the Occupation.”

The integrity of anyone who is willing to risk their life for the benefit of others is large. Of course Necdet like many people aboard the Mavi Marmara, like Cinematographer Iara Lee, say they expected a problem from Israel, but not in the form of a deadly attack in international water.

Israel’s reaction to the presence of Necdet Yidirim on the Mavi Marmara that night? He was shot to death. The autopsy revealed two gunshot wounds; one to the right shoulder and one to the left back.

Kovdit Kililar

Kovdit Kililar, the 38-year old Web editor of the charity: The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief or IHH was married and father of two children.

IHH is a Turkish non governmental humanitarian relief organization active in more than 100 countries, that has existed since 1992. They do a lot of good work and other than in this particular case involving Israel, highly regarded. Israel has tried very hard to tie the work of the IHH to jihadists, but there is no evidence of it. Their goal in this mission was the same as the others; they were trying to break the siege of Gaza to deliver humanitarian relief.

Israeli soldiers who illegally boarded the Mavi Marmara attacked Kovdit Kililar. He was killed by a single bullet that hit him between the eyebrows as he raised his camera to photograph the commandos landing on the Mavi Marmara. This aspect of the story is particularly infuriating for those of us who work in dangerous areas as media with the understanding we won’t be killed for performing our jobs.

Ali Heyder Bengi

29-year old Ali Heyder Bengi of Diyarbakir, was a graduate of Al-Azhar University in Cairo’s Department of Arabic literature. He was married and the proud father of four children.

A comment left in his regard, states: “I cried all the way through these pictures. What fine looking human beings. What a noble ideal they were all murdered for : caring for fellow human beings in ” the world’s largest ever outdoor concentration camp.

“Shame shame shame on the silent governments of the world who say little or nothing about this crime against humanity by the Zionazi Entity : the Racist Jewish Nation – homeland for the Jews. Shame !”

Ali Heyder Bengi was shot six times, including once in the abdomen. Six times. Pam from Americans for a Free Palestine wrote: “Six times–how incredibly cowardly and dispicable. How can the world argue that this hero and his comrades were anything but murdered. I am so sorry for your family who will deeply miss this courageous man with such a gentle face.”

Ibrahim Bilgen

Ibrahim Bilgen was a distinguished A 61-year old Turkish politician, engineer and activist who was married with six children.

A comment left online with his photograph reads: “Few politicians take such courageous risks as you did. Such a loss to your country and people, but most of all to your family. There is no excuse or lie that can explain this kind of carnage visited upon unarmed people delivering humanitarian aid.”

Israel didn’t allow this man’s life and spirit to continue after that fateful night on the Mavi Marmara. Ibrahim Bilgen was shot once in the right temple, once in the right side of his chest, once in the back and once in the hip. Doctors performing an autopsy on Ibrahim found something of interest; the discovery of a tiny bag containing pellets, still intact in his brain, which the report said was fired from a hunting rifle.

So much for the rubber bullet theory. The Israelis don’t even necessarily use accepted standard military weapons. Like their one sided politics, everything about Israel is a basic free-for-all.

Mavi Marmara’s Triumphant Return

Turkish citizens lined up by the thousand 26 December 2010 at Sultanahmet harbor, to witness the Mavi Marmara’s grand return to Istanbul.

Palestinian flags waved and people cheered and spoke their minds about Israel’s oppression of their fellow Muslims in Palestine.

The scene was proof once again that the ship and her mission to aid the poor and beleaguered people of Gaza had created a national hero in the Mavi Marmara herself.

The Mavi Marmara had departed Istanbul under similar conditions; massive cheering crowds, on 22 May 2010. She carried 578 activists who represented 37 countries whoch all want to see the eradication of Israel’s blockade once and for all so that people there can start again to have a s chance at living a reasonable life.

The goal of the ship and the activists and many others on accompanying ships, was to deliver relief supplies to Gaza. In addition to the nine men who were killed on 31 May, Israel’s military wounded 54.

Palestinian flag outside funeral for
Turkish activists (Photo: Jasmin Ramsey)

The person behind the Mavi Marmara’s participation in the Flotilla is Bulent Yildirim, the President of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) in Istanbul.

IHH organized the Gaza Flotilla and also last Sunday’s rally. They are a worldwide group with offices in many cities.

Their work is of a humanitarian nature as their name implies, and they have spent a lot of money to help bring aid projects like the Mavi Marmara and the May Flotilla to reality, of course with the help of many other generous people and agencies that find their work important and worth contributing to.

Bulent Yildirim told those in attendance that he was proud of their ability to show resistance. “They (the Israelis) tell us to stay away, then you stay away from Gaza, from the West Bank, from the Al-Aksa mosque and we’ll stay away from you,” he said.

Yildirim is joined by leaders in many other nations who are increasingly moving closer to taking action against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

The spirit of those nine Turks killed by the Israeli’s certainly were there too.

I have read an account of a visit to the town that Farrakhan Dogan lived in. The students who attended his high school were somber and still highly affected by his loss. The attack on the Mavi Marmara had a large impact on people in this nation.

The Mavi Marmara’s arrival at Sultanahmet harbor at 1:00 p.m. local time was met with fireworks and balloons were released to commemorate the event.

The Xinhua news agency reports that the Mavi Marmara will be available for the public to tour for a month, and then she will head for the Tuzla shipyards for repairs.

The Turkish Sea of Marmara

Behind the name ‘Mavi Marmara’

I have been asked many times exactly what the name of this ship translates to in English. The word Mavi simply means ‘blue’ in Turkish.

The second word is for the Sea of Marmara (Turkish: Marmara Denizi), also known as the Sea of Marmora or the Marmara Sea.

This is the inland sea that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, while separating the Asian and European parts of Turkey.

Photos show the water truly being a beautiful shade of blue. This is a place surrounded by a good amount of development. The metropolitan area of Izmit exists on the northern and eastern shores of the Sea of Marmara, reaching to the end of the Gulf of Izmit.

I have spent very little time in Turkey, but I have been there and it is a beautiful place full of life. I’ve been fortunate to spend time with Turkish people and I find their culture utterly fascinating.

I also have to say that the group IHH is incredible and super responsive. They only seek to help people and they wish to see the truth relayed accurately by the media.

I can only imagine that some of the activists who died aboard the ship knew the Sea of Marmara and perhaps found the name reminiscent of something far more peaceful than their own legacies.

Criticism of Israel Never More Important

Regardless of how often the sentiment is misconstrued, speaking out about Israel’s war crimes and lack of humanity is is not a statement about religion; because it would not matter what religion the perpetrators are; it is about humanity, and takes into account the notion that we all have equal rights as human beings. To call criticism of Israel ‘hateful’ or ‘anti-Semitic’ is simply playing a race card and it is a very old excuse for politics that will either lead Israel to the brink of non-existence through wars it creates, or cause a political revolution within the Jewish state that establishes an entirely new program of mutual cooperation; one that eliminates terrible apartheid laws for Jews and non-Jews.

Israel has had a number of years to take advantage of the restraint being shown by the resistance. The violence is at a near lull; Hamas has stopped firing rockets, and they are pursuing the fringe groups in Gaza that refuse to halt unguided rocket attacks on Israel, though never discussed openly or fairly in the western media.

Suicide bombing is a thing of the past; the legitimate movement for Palestine is purely peaceful, and Israel’s answer is to attack the peace protests in places like Bil’in. There is no way a government can possibly justify this behavior.

I have heard about the attack on the Mavi Marmara at length from two survivors; Ken O’Keefe who is also a Salem-News.com writer, and Kevin Neish, who is featured in the video, “Mavi Marmara Witness’ posted above. The bloody cold blooded attack was a disgraceful, internationally condemned act. It helps ensure that the Flotilla and Convoy activity will only cease when the people of Gaza are again given the proper level of dignity and respect they deserve.

Sources:

Dec-28-2010: Lieberman: The Turks are liars, PA is illegitimate, and Netanyahu is unrealistic – Barak Ravid Haaretz.com

Avigdor Liberman From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dec-26-2010: Views of the Earth The Sea of Marmara – large view

United Nations General Assembly A/HRC/15/21

Oct-05-2010: The Ugly Details of Israel’s Gaza Siege & Attack Against the Mavi Marmara (VIDEO) – Tim King Salem-News.com

Jun-16-2010: Gilad Atzmon Interviewed by Shabana Syed – Salem-News.com

Jul-12-2010 Meet the Dead of the Mavi Marmara – Tim King Salem-News.com

Recognizing the Mavi Marmara Dead and All of Gaza’s Heroes – Salem-News.Com.

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