Turkey commemorates victims of flotilla raid

Thousands march in Turkey, remembering activists killed in Israeli attack on Gaza-bound flotilla ship five years ago.

''Free Jerusalem March'' in Istanbul
Organisers estimated that more than 100,000 people participated in the Istanbul commemorations [Getty Images]

Thousands have marched in Istanbul as a series of events were held marking the fifth anniversary of an Israeli attack that killed 10 people on a Gaza-bound ship.

The ship, which was part of a flotilla heading to Gaza to break the siege on the territory in 2010, was raided by Israeli forces in international waters after the vessel refused to change its destination.

Crowds gathered on Sunday afternoon at a mosque in the Istanbul district of Fatih for the commemoration events.

Following prayers held inside and outside the mosque, Ahmet Dogan, the father of Furkan Dogan, who was killed on board Mavi Marmara at the age of 19, addressed the crowds.

“My son might be dead, but all of us here are new Furkan Dogans fighting for justice,” he said.

Izzet Sahin, a board member of the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, the Istanbul-based aid group that organised the commemoration events, estimated that more than 100,000 people took part in the activities.

“Although five years have passed since the incident, the motivation of people to achieve justice is alive more than ever,” he told Al Jazeera 

Bike tour and theatre

In the morning, young activists performed a play by the Bosporus, impersonating the challenges caused by Israel’s separation barrier between Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as the treatment of Palestinians by Israeli security forces.


Activists also took a bike tour of the European part of Istanbul with Palestinian and Turkish flags and banners, commemorating those who died in the attack.

In the evening, crowds walked to the graveyard where the victims were buried. During the march, participants chanted slogans such as, “Mavi Marmara is our pride,” “Long live the Palestinian resistance,” and “Muslims, don’t sleep, protect your brothers.” The events concluded with prayers at the graves of the victims.

Earlier in the capital Ankara, a group of IHH members held morning prayers by the Israeli ambassador’s house.

In Kayseri, a central province of Turkey, a photo exhibition in the memory Furkan Dogan was opened.

Separate commemoration events were held in other parts of the world, including Gaza. 

“Gazans have been living under inhumane conditions for more than nine years now with very limited access to water, electricity, food, and health facilities. And during this period, Gaza was attacked three times by Israel. Gazans are either put to a fast death in war or a slow death through siege,” IHH’s Sahin told Al Jazeera.

“As long as this humanitarian plight and Israel’s wrongdoings in Palestine go on, events like ours will continue to be organised in an increasingly stronger way.”

Tenth victim died last year

Israeli forces killed eight Turkish nationals and an American-Turkish activist on board Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010. One more Turk, who had been in a coma since the incident, died last year . A UN investigation defined at least six of the deaths as “summary executions”.

Following the incident, Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel and the diplomatic relations between the two countries have been at second-secretary level since then.

In 2013, Israel apologised for “operational mistakes” in the raid. A compensation deal is still being negotiated between the two countries.

Israeli soldiers and officials who took part in the attack are being tried in absentia in Turkey for war crimes.

Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Um_Uras

Source: Al Jazeera