February 23, 2011

EDITOR: The changes start arriving!

The Egyptian government has removed the blockade of Gaza, and the world has not collapsed! After five years of playing the Israeli sidekick on this illegal and immoral blockade, the revolution has brought this to an end. Bravo to the Egyptian masses!

Arabic w/ English subtitles:  Sout Al Horeya  Voice of Freedom صوت الحريه – Amir Eid ft. Hany Adel

Not to be missed – a beautiful freedom song out of the Cairo of the Egyptian Revolution!

Gaddafi loses more Libyan cities: Al Jazeera online

Protesters wrest control of more cities as unrest sweeps African nation despite Muammar Gaddafi’s threat of crackdown.
23 Feb 2011
Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s long-standing ruler, has reportedly lost control of more cities as anti-government protests continue to sweep the African nation despite his threat of a brutal crackdown.

Protesters in Misurata said on Wednesday they had wrested the western city from government control. In a statement on the internet, army officers stationed in the city pledged “total support for the protesters”.

The protesters also seemed to be in control of much of the country’s east, and an Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from the city of Tobruk, 140km from the Egyptian border, said there was no presence of security forces.

“From what I’ve seen, I’d say the people of eastern Libya are the ones in control,” Hoda Abdel-Hamid, our correspondent, said.

She said there were no officials manning the border when the Al Jazeera team crossed into Libya.

‘People in charge’

“All along the border, we didn’t see one policeman, we didn’t see one soldier and people here told us they [security forces] have all fled or are in hiding and that the people are now in charge, meaning all the way from the border, Tobruk, and then all the way up to Benghazi.

“People tell me it’s also quite calm in Bayda and Benghazi. They do say, however, that ‘militias’  are roaming around, especially at night. They describe them as African men, they say they speak French so they think they’re from Chad.”

Major-General Suleiman Mahmoud, the commander of the armed forces in Tobruk, told Al Jazeera that the troops led by him had switched loyalties.

“We are on the side of the people,” he said. “I was with him [Gaddafi] in the past but the situation has changed – he’s a tyrant.”

Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, was where people first rose up in revolt against Gaddafi’s 42-year long rule more than a week ago. The rebellion has since spread to other cities despite heavy-handed attempts by security forces to quell the unrest.

With authorities placing tight restrictions on the media, flow of news from Libya is at best patchy. But reports filtering out suggest at least 300 people have been killed in the violence.

But Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, said there were “credible’ reports that at least 1,000 had died in the clampdown.

Defiant Gaddafi

Amid the turmoil, a defiant Gaddafi has vowed to quash the uprising.

He delivered a rambling speech on television on Tuesday night, declaring he would die a martyr in Libya, and threatening to purge opponents “house by house” and “inch by inch”.

He blamed the uprising in the country on “Islamists”, and warned that an “Islamic emirate” has already been set up in Bayda and Derna, where he threatened the use of extreme force.

He urged Libyans to take to the streets and show their support for their leader.

Several hundred government loyalists heeded his call in Tripoli, the capital, on Wednesday, staging a pro-Gaddafi rally in the city’s Green Square.

Fresh gunfire was reported in the capital on Wednesday, after Gaddafi called on his supporters to take back the streets from anti-government protesters.

But Gaddafi’s speech has done little to stem the steady stream of defections from his side.

Libyan diplomats across the world have either resigned in protest at the use of violence against citizens, or renounced Gaddafi’s leadership, saying that they stand with the protesters.

Late on Tuesday night, General Abdul-Fatah Younis, the country’s interior minister, became the latest government official to stand down, saying that he was resigning to support what he termed as the “February 17 revolution”.

He urged the Libyan army to join the people and their “legitimate demands”.

On Wednesday, Youssef Sawani, a senior aide to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, one of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons, resigned from his post “to express dismay against violence”, Reuters reported.

Earlier, Mustapha Abdeljalil, the country’s justice minister, had resigned in protest at the “excessive use of violence” against protesters, and diplomat’s at Libya’s mission to the United Nations called on the Libyan army to help remove “the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi”.

A group of army officers has also issued a statement urging soldiers to “join the people” and remove Gaddafi from power.

IDF fires on militants on Gaza border, wounding 11: Haaretz

Palestinians report three children were among the wounded, while the rest belonged to Islamic Jihad; IDF says explosive device was detonated towards soldiers patrolling border.

Eleven Palestinians were injured Wednesday when Israeli Defense Forces fired at a group of militants on the border with Gaza, Palestinian news agencies reported.

They said that three children were among the injured; the other eight were members of the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad.

Gaza emergency services chief Adham Abu Selmeya said that the injured suffered shrapnel wounds. One was in a critical condition while two were in serious condition.

The IDF responded by saying that an explosive device was detonated toward soldiers who were performing routine activity in the area, on the northern part of the border.

“Shortly afterwards, a mortar shell was fired at the force and five additional mortar shells were fired into Israeli territory, landing in the Sdot Negev Regional Council,” the IDF statement read. “Subsequently, the force identified a number of militants in the same area and returned fire in their direction. A direct hit was confirmed.”

The al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad (Holy War) movement, said in a statement that a group of its members was targeted.

Abu Selmeya added that earlier Wednesday two workers collecting gravel near the border between northern Gaza and Israel were shot and injured by Israeli soldiers.

The IDF noted that in the past two months, “over 12 devices were laid along the security fence and exploded at IDF forces.”

They added that two explosive devices were found on the border as recently as Tuesday.

“The terrorist organizations are constantly operating against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers,” the IDF stated, adding that they held “the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for maintaining the calm in the Gaza Strip and for any terrorist activity emanating from it.”

Inside Libya’s first free city: jubilation fails to hide deep wounds: The Guardian

The first foreign journalist to reach Benghazi sees how Muammar Gaddafi’s bid to cling to power has failed

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/23/inside-libya-banghazi-jubilation

At the heart of the city where he launched his rise to power, Muammar Gaddafi’s indignity is now complete. In little more than three days of rampage, the rebels in Libya’s second city have done their best to wind the clock back 42 years – to life before the dictator they loathe.

Benghazi has fallen and Gaddafi’s bid to cling on to power, whatever the cost, has crumbled with it. There is barely a trace of him now, except for obscene graffiti that mocks him on the dust-strewn walls where his portraits used to hang.

Residents who would not have dared to approach the town’s main military base without an invitation were doing victory laps around it in their cars. Every barrack block inside had been torched and looted. The stage where Gaddafi would address the masses on the rare occasions that he came here had collapsed. His house across the road had been ransacked and there wasn’t a loyalist soldier inside.

“He is gone. A dragon has been slain,” cried Ahmed Al-Fatuuir outside the secret police headquarters. “Now he has to explain where all the bodies are.”

The Middle East’s longest ruling autocrat seems disinclined to do that, or to go quietly. His rambling speech on Tuesday night, in which he vowed to die in his homeland as a “martyr”, has convinced many in Benghazi that although they may have ousted their foe from eastern Libya, they have not seen the last of the bloodshed.

At the city’s hospitals, administrators are still tallying the toll from the most savage fighting seen here in decades. At the al-Jala hospital, at least 65 deaths have been recorded since 17 February, along with dozens of injuries, many of them horrific. And they are still coming in.

A Libyan soldier, who along with many of his colleagues had joined the anti-government insurgency, was pronounced dead as the Guardian arrived inside the overworked intensive care unit. A small bullet wound near his right kidney had caused irreversible chaos inside his body.

“They are still out there,” said the doctor who pronounced him dead. “These mercenaries who are hired by Gaddafi are lurking in the shadows.”

Wherever they are hiding, they must be running out of arms. All day defecting troops and officers were lugging in thousands of pounds of ammunition to a courtyard inside the secret police headquarters on Bengazi’s waterfront. By the day’s end an arsenal that could easily supply an army brigade was piled up. There were plastic explosives, rockets, machine guns and even the anti-aircraft weapon that was used to mow down demonstrators as they assaulted the military base on Sunday.

Evidence of the carnage it caused was clear on the walls of nearby buildings and in the mortuaries. Doctors had used their mobile phones to capture the carnage that was caused by military weapons on human flesh. And they coolly displayed the aftermath of the battle, denouncing Gaddafi as a criminal as they did so.

Nearby Filipino orderlies were putting the finishing touches to the short life of a dead soldier, washing his body with a clinical calm and slowly readying a green body bag. It was a process they were clearly familiar with. ” Too many times, too many times,” said one orderly as he rested on a trolley. “It has been terrible in here.”

At least 232 demonstrators in Benghazi are believed to have been killed since the uprising began and up to 1,000 injured. There are no reliable figures on the number of soldiers or mercenaries killed during the assault of the barracks, or in the hours of chaos that followed.

One thing that is clear is that this was not a peaceful stroll through the streets of Bahrain, as has largely been the case on the other side of the Arabian peninsular. This was a savage rampage on both sides, a blood and guts revolution, fuelled by decades of repression, neglect and rage. There has been nothing peaceful about it.

Testimony to the protesters’ vehemence is dotted all around the base, in the form of bulldozers stolen from nearby worksites that were used to breach the walls. At least six of them stand burned and mangled near where their work had been successfully done – gaping holes in whitewashed walls that allowed protesters to storm through.

“That is where the anti-aircraft gun was and that is where all the African mercenaries were found dead,” said Mohamed Fatah, who was part of the throng that attacked the base. “The people were leading a funeral march past the big roundabout and people from inside the base opened fire,” he said. “They went home, gathered themselves and came back. This is what happened.”

Gaddafi’s reported use of mercenaries appears to have tipped the hand of many protesters and armed forces. “That is why we turned against the government,” said air force major Rajib Feytouni. “That and the fact that there was an order to use planes to attack the people.”

Workers at an oil refinery 120 miles west of Benghazi said that they had seen an air force jet crash nearby and two parachutes land. There were widespread reports that those on board had refused to carry out an order to attack the east of the country.

The reports could not be independently verified. However, Feytouni confirmed that an air force base to the east had been hit on Sunday by two bombs dropped from a jet. “They were trying to make sure that the weapons did not end up in the hands of the opposition,” he said.

He added that he had personally witnessed 4,000-5,000 mercenaries flown into his air force base on Libyan military transport planes, beginning on about 14 February – several days before the uprising started.

“They [the planes] had 300 men at a time, all of them coming out with weapons,” he said. “They were all from Africa: Ghanaians, Kenyans.”

Several of the alleged soldiers of fortune are being held in a jail at the top of the ransacked courthouse on Benghazi’s corniche. One was briefly brought to meet the Guardian. He was quickly ushered away by lawyers who said he was not allowed to speak until the case against him was finished.

But the court of public opinion on the heaving street below had already convicted the unnamed African, along with anyone else linked to what they believe are the dying days of 42 years of sadistic oppression. There was no sign of any pro- regime figures. And even those who have recently defected, such as the country’s justice minister, are not prepared to show their faces publicly, fearing the reactions from a combustible street.

The mood of people fluctuated easily between nervousness and violence; warmth and zeal. The first western reporters seen in the city since law and order collapsed were embraced almost as liberators. At some points during the morning and at the hospital, it was difficult to move without people eagerly thrusting in our faces more macabre images of dead people or missing relatives.

“His time will come,” said one man brandishing a simple sign that said in English: “Freedom for Libya”. He added: “You are welcome here. The world needs to see what is happening.”

Along the long and winding way from the Salum crossing from Egypt, there was not an official to be seen.

Neighbourhood Watch-like groups, all armed with AK-47s, manned checkpoints in and out of all the towns. But every military and police post for 360 miles had been abandoned. The scattering of the police was leading to claims of victory and the feeling of triumphalism among many of the city’s young people.

The deathly emptiness of a rainy morning in a city under siege had by dusk given way to teaming streets and jubilant cheers. Celebratory burst from AK-47s cracked into the air thoughout the afternoon – always a disconcerting sound in a war zone.

The jubilation did little to hide Benghazi’s wounds, though. Here, more than in the capital, Tripoli, or Gaddafi’s other strongholds, mainly in the west, society remains brutalised and stagnant, a drab decaying old-order feel, much like Iraq in 2004.

“Here hospitals are nothing like in Tripoli,” said an intensive care nurse who identified herself as Fatima. “It is first world there, but we have to make do.”

It’s the same with government buildings – what remains of them. There is barely a typewriter left, let alone a computer or the basic tools of administration.

Neglect had been a clear strategy for Gaddafi for a city that had in 1969 deeply resented the coup he launched against the monarch, King Idris, and has not forgiven him since. The independent flag last flown 42 years ago has become a prominent symbol of this revolution. It flies above key government buildings and even hospitals and it is worn as a badge by most organisers.

Benghazi feels Libya’s time has come. Residents are adamant that the leader who forgot them has days, or perhaps weeks, left as president. “He can’t survive and he won’t survive,” one man shouted outside the courthouse. “He is deluded and he is cruel. He will attack us again even though everyone knows he is finished.”

The city has little sense of what is happening in the west of the country where Gaddafi still appears to be in control of at least large parts of the capital.

Meanwhile, many of the 1.5 million foreigners still in Libya are scrambling for the border, or waiting from help from their governments. Several passenger ferries are waiting in the choppy waters off the coast of Benghazi for any evacuation order. And the Salum border crossing to Egypt is a chaotic scramble of fleeing Egyptians who overran the arrival hall on Tuesday evening as the Guardian was trying to enter Libya. Riot police were moved into position but weren’t used.

The international community again appears hamstrung by the man it had spent decades trying to rehabilitate. Leverage is limited and options are few.

“The people of the international community had been helping their governments to help the assassin,” said an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Shakir, in al–Jala hospital. “And that only because the assassin and his government is helping them. That is a flawed logic.”

So far reactions to the gathering storm here, which may soon lead to the overthrow of the third Arab autocrat in less than three months, has been to renounce the volatile leader and the compulsive savagery he is launching as his legacy melts away.

But there remains a gnawing fear that the worst may be yet to come. “Of course it is true,” Saad Achmed, a 24-year-old student, said. “If he feels he is cornered he will come for us. Those roads you came in on may be clear, but you did not see who is hiding over the hills? We have won the big battle, but that does not mean the war is won just yet.”

Grad rockets fired at Be’er Sheva for first time since Gaza war: Haaretz

One missile hit building in residential area, causing damage; no casualties reported; Palestinians report Israeli air strike retaliation, wounding two Islamic Jihad militants.

Grad rockets were fired at the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva on Wednesday, several hours after the Israel Defense Forces fired at a group of militants on the Gaza border, wounding 11.

Palestinian sources reported that the Israel Air Force retaliated late Wednesday with an airstrike in eastern Gaza City, wounding two Islamic Jihad militants. The IDF confirmed the airstrike.

Two Grad rockets were reportedly fired at Be’er Sheva on Wednesday evening, but so far only one missile is known to have landed in the city, which hit a building in a residential area of the city, causing damage, marking the first time Be’er Sheva was hit since the Gaza war in 2009.

“We heard a noise which sounded like very strong wind, but then we heard the Red Color alert. All of the students ran to the staircase, and we heard the explosion. We still don’t know where the Grad fell,” a student at Ben-Gurion University told Haaretz.

So far there are no reports of casualties as a result of the strike, but several people suffered from anxiety and received medical treatment.

During Operation Cast Lead in 2009, several rockets were fired at Be’er Sheva and two people were seriously wounded, including a seven-year-old boy.

Earlier on Wednesday, IDF forces fired at a group of Gaza militants and wounded 11 people.

Palestinian news agencies reported that three children were among the injured; the other eight were members of the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad.

Gaza emergency services chief Adham Abu Selmeya said that the injured suffered shrapnel wounds. One was in a critical condition while two were in serious condition.

The IDF responded by saying that an explosive device was detonated toward soldiers who were performing routine activity in the area, on the northern part of the border.

“Shortly afterwards, a mortar shell was fired at the force and five additional mortar shells were fired into Israeli territory, landing in the Sdot Negev Regional Council,” the IDF statement read. “Subsequently, the force identified a number of militants in the same area and returned fire in their direction. A direct hit was confirmed.”

The al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad (Holy War) movement, said in a statement that a group of its members was targeted.
Abu Selmeya added that earlier Wednesday two workers collecting gravel near the border between northern Gaza and Israel were shot and injured by Israeli soldiers.

The IDF noted that in the past two months, “over 12 devices were laid along the security fence and exploded at IDF forces.”

They added that two explosive devices were found on the border as recently as Tuesday.

“The terrorist organizations are constantly operating against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers,” the IDF stated, adding that they held “the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for maintaining the calm in the Gaza Strip and for any terrorist activity emanating from it.”

Libya: Defections leave Muammar Gaddafi isolated in Tripoli bolthole: The Guardian

• Crucial tribes and military units desert the president
• Uprising edges closer to his only remaining bastion

Ian Black, Middle East editor
Crowds of people waiting to board a Turkish ferry at the port of Benghazi. Many governments were trying to scramble ships and planes to evacuate citizens from Libya. Photograph: Reuters
Muammar Gaddafi was looking increasingly isolated after damaging defections by senior regime figures and key military commanders and units as the uprising spread closer to Tripoli.

Malta denied a report that Gaddafi’s daughter, Aisha, was on board a Libyan plane refused permission to land on the island on Wednesday. But Menas, a respected London Middle East consultancy, said the leader’s wife, daughter, daughters-in-law and grandchildren had left Libya for an unknown destination.

Mass protests erupted in Misurata, a Mediterranean port and the country’s third-largest city, and violence was reported in Sebrata and Zawiya, which are also in western Libya and closer to Tripoli.

Benghazi and much of the east of the country have now been lost to the government. Misurata is near Sirte, the leader’s home town, where a key tribe has reportedly come out in support of what is being called the 17 February revolution.

Al-Jazeera TV reported that tribes in the Azzintan and Nalut areas, also in the west, had come out against Gaddafi. Oil facilities were now under their protection.

Libyan and Arab sources said the biggest blow to Gaddafi so far had been the defection of his interior minister and veteran loyalist, Abdel-Fatah Younes al-Obeidi, who called on the army on Tuesday to “serve the people and support the revolution and its legitimate demands”.

But the whereabouts of other senior comrades remains unclear. Mustafa al-Kharroubi, a leading figure in the regime’s old guard, is rumoured to have left Tripoli. There are question marks too about another loyalist, Khweildi al-Hmeidi, whose daughter is married to the leader’s wayward son Sa’adi.

In another blow to the Libyan leader, his former justice minister, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who stepped down this week, was quoted as saying today that Gaddafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing, in which 270 people were killed.

Another departure was of Youssef Sawan, who quit as director of the Gaddafi International Charitable Foundation run by the leader’s son, the supposedly reformist-minded Saif al-Islam.

Libyan exile sources also confirmed the defection of a senior figure in the revolutionary committees, Ali al-Sahouli, who warned that Gaddafi would sabotage the country’s infrastructure including oil installations, power stations and banks.

Scores of Libyan diplomats across the world have also now resigned – taking the opportunity to distance themselves from the regime while there is still time.

Details of the military situation remained sketchy, but the army commander and defence minister, General Abu-Bakr Yunis Jabber, was put under house arrest earlier this week.

Major General Suleiman Mahmoud, army commander in Tobruk, said he was “joining the people”, as did units in the eastern Jebel Akhdar area. Analysts say that while the army has never been a powerful force, Gaddafi desperately needs its support.

In one possible pointer for the future, al-Saiqa (Thunderbolt) special forces battalion is said to have attacked Gaddafi’s revolutionary guard in Benghazi.

Gaddafi may also have the support of foreign mercenary units, many of which are from ex-Soviet bloc countries.

Libya’s Quryna newspaper reported that a pilot and navigator bailed out and ditched their fighter plane rather than carry out an order to bomb Benghazi.

Anti-Gaddafi Libyans were outraged by his televised address on Tuesday when he urged his supporters to hit back at protesters and vowed to die a “martyr” in his homeland rather than relinquish power.

Many Libyans say they expect him to go down fighting if the situation continues to deteriorate. It was unclear last night whether he would be able to leave his headquarters at Bab al-Aziziyah in Tripoli. “He is surrounded by his guards and is too scared to come out,” said one opposition supporter. Gunfire was heard nearby on Wednesday.

“Gaddafi could hole up in his own tribal area around Sirte with a substantial back-up of military hardware or do the same thing at the al-Aziziyah complex,” said the Menas consultancy.

In an alternative scenario, Gaddafi may try to leave the capital for Sebha, a town on the edge of the Sahara that is dominated by the apparently still loyal Megarha tribe and where he declared the establishment of people’s power in 1977.

Middle East unrest: Saudi and Bahraini kings offer concessions: The Guardian

Attempts to ease tensions are made in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen and Jordan, while Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, hits out at Libya’s ‘grotesque’ use of force

Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah, the Saudi ruler, has returned home after a three-month medical absence and unveiled benefits for Saudis worth $37bn (£23bn) in an apparent attempt to insulate the world’s leading oil exporter from a wave of Arab uprisings.

State media announced an action plan to help lower- and middle-income people among the 18m Saudi nationals. It includes pay rises to offset inflation, unemployment benefits and affordable family housing.

Hundreds of people have backed a Facebook call for a Saudi “day of rage” on 11 March to demand an elected ruler, greater freedom for women and the release of political prisoners.

Bahrain

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin isa al-Khalifa flew to Saudi Arabia to hold talks with King Abdullah after his return to Riyadh.

King Hamad freed about 250 political prisoners and has offered dialogue with protesters, mostly from Bahrain’s Shia majority, who demand more say in the Sunni-ruled island.

Riyadh would be worried if unrest in Bahrain, where seven people were killed and hundreds wounded last week, spread to its own disgruntled Shia minority in the oil-rich east.

Yemen

Thousands of people streamed into a square in the capital Sana’a, trying to strengthen the hold of anti-government protesters after club-wielding backers of President Ali Abdullah Saleh tried to drive them out. One person was killed and at least 12 injured in clashes near the city’s university, medics said.

Saleh, in power for 32 years, has said he will step down after national elections are held in 2013, but a widening protest movement is demanding that he leave office now.

Jordan

Jordan’s cabinet has approved laws making it easier to organise protests and will revive a government body that works to ensure basic commodities remain affordable to the poor.

A government official said the reforms were passed late on Tuesday, hours after the country’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, vowed to resume demonstrations pushing for reforms.

The situation has been less volatile in Jordan than elsewhere but people have been protesting in a call for the king’s powers to be curbed.

Iran

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said he was certain the wave of unrest in the Middle East would spread to Europe and North America, bringing an end to governments he accused of oppressing and humiliating people.

He said: “The world is on the verge of big developments. Changes will be forthcoming and will engulf the whole world from Asia to Africa and from Europe to North America.”

The world was in need of a just system of rule, he said, that “puts an end to oppression, occupation and humiliation of people. It’s a wave that’s coming.”

Ahmadinejad, whose regime resorted to violence to disperse an opposition rally earlier this month, condemned Libya’s use of force. “This is very grotesque. It is unimaginable that there is someone who kills and bombards his own people. I strongly advise them to let nations have their say and meet their nations’ demands if they claim to be the officials of those nations,” Ahmadinejad said.

“Anyone who does not heed the demands of his own nation will have a clear fate.”

Father of teen killed in Gaza flotilla raid seeks American justice: Haaretz

Like the other people on board the Mavi Marmara, says Professor Ahmet Doğan, ‘we did not expect Israelis to attack the ship in the middle of the night.’

Professor Ahmet Doğan, whose 19-year-old son Furkan was killed aboard during the Israeli army raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla from Turkey in May, is in Washington in an attempt to convince American officials to open an investigation into the raid.

Furkan was an American citizen who was born in the U.S. His father will be meeting with Congress members Tuesday and on Wednesday speak with members of the State Department and the Ministry of Justice.

Professor Ahmet Doğan: If my son was an Israeli who was shot by Turks in international waters, how would the U.S. react?

The Mavi Marmara was part of six-boat flotilla that was heading for Gaza from Turkey. Israeli naval troops boarded the boat on May 31, 2010. The activists on board the boat resisted, and nine people were killed.

“Furkan was an American citizen of Turkish origin and the American government hasn’t done anything for him – so I have come to seek justice for him here,” Professor Doğan tells Haaretz. “I want the United States to demand justice for its citizen, and support decisions related to this [injustice] at the UN. We are very disappointed by the way the U.S. has handled the events until now, because in theory the U.S. is supposed to view all of its citizens equally.”

Doğan believes the U.S. gives more weight to its relationship with Israel than to the welfare of its own citizens.

“What if this was Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton’s child, would there be an American investigation into the matter? As far as they are concerned, their ties with Israel are more important than my son, and he was an American citizen. If my son was an Israeli who was shot by Turks in international waters, how would the U.S. react? That is what I would like to ask the Americans.”

Doğan laughs when asked about the results of the Turkel Commission, an Israeli panel of inquiry into the flotilla, whose January report said the soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara acted in self defense.

“It’s ridiculous,” he says. “The report was not serious and it only served to pander to the Israeli and American publics.”

The report, the professor continues, “was full of lies. For example, the report stated that my son had dual citizenship, when in fact he held American citizenship alone. They called the captain of the ship for testimony, and they reached the wrong person.”

He scathingly points out that “the committee was made up of people aged 80 and up; do you really think that individuals of such an age are of completely of sound mind? We have heard that one of the committee members has died in the meantime, and we send our condolences. But when you continue to cover up information and make excuses, Israel merely increases its isolation and makes new international enemies.”

“Even before the flotilla raid,” Doğan says, “people had heard about the situation in Gaza, but I think that when people look at it in retrospect, they will see that the flotilla was the final straw, and Furkan was one of the symbols of this breaking point.”

Doğan has accused Israel of committing a crime in international waters, killing innocent citizens who only wished to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. He says his son was a successful 19-year-old who had just finished high school, who was peace-loving with a huge heart. Furkan had just been granted a place at the medical school of a prestigious university.

“Why was such a young, successful boy killed by Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night?” his father asks.

The last time Doğan spoke with his son was May 25, 2010, when he boarded the Mavi Marmara at the port of Antalya. Furkan was able to take his entrance exams ahead of his Turkish peers, and he had time for a vacation.

The professor says that Furkan had planned to visit his American birthplace before starting school, but when he saw the sign advertising the flotilla mission, he decided to join and then fly to Chicago when he returned.

“When he applied to go on the Mavi Marmara, he asked me for permission. It was a very difficult moment for me,” Doğan says. “But we let him go because he cared and wanted to help, he was a very moral boy. I think that no parent could say no to such a request.”

“Besides,” Doğan adds, “like the other people on board, we did not expect Israelis to attack the ship in the middle of the night. We thought the worst possible scenario was that they would take the ship to Ashdod, and because my son was an American citizen and there is a close relationship between Israel and the U.S. they would not do anything to him.”

Why did your son write in his journal in his final entry that he is ready to become a martyr?

“He did not write ‘Inshallah’ in the religious sense, and as far as I know, his last entry was written that night, when it was feared that something bad was about to happen,” says Doğan. “Under normal circumstances, he never would have written anything like that. If my son had planned to become a martyr, he would not have gone out of his way to ask me to submit his university application forms in the event that he got held up in Gaza.”

“He had big plans, he was very ambitious. You think he all of a sudden forgot about all of his plans for the future and decided to die? He packed his bag with games, pads and pens for the children of Gaza that he bought with his own money. He was not a member of that group IHH. He would have joined the flotilla even if it was organized by a Christian group.”

“He captured what took place on the boat when he was shot with a video camera. His autopsy revealed that after he was wounded, he was shot again from a range of only 45 centimeters.”

Until this point, Doğan had spoken in Turkish, with the aid of a translator. But now he suddenly switches to English.

“How would you feel if it happened to your own son?” he asked.

Did you see the video of IDF soldiers being attacked on the Mavi Marmara? Did it not look like a provocation to you?

“If these were really dangerous people, instead of throwing away the weapons that they captured from the soldiers, they could have used them and killed the soldiers. When the helicopters were tied to the ship with ropes so that the soldiers could scale down, they could have pulled them down, but they let them go,” says Doğan.

“Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be in their shoes, being set upon by commandos at the crack of dawn? I think that the Israelis were the ones that wanted a provocation.”

Doğan says he has nothing against Jews or Israel.

“The Turks accepted Jews that were expelled from Spain, Jews that fled the Second World War. That was Furkan’s belief. If Jews were living under an oppressive regime, he would have joined a flotilla to aid them. When I studied in the U.S., I had a lot of Jewish friends, I never had anything against them.”

“My opinion of the Israeli people has not changed, but I want those responsible for my son’s death to face justice. Regardless of who is responsible, including army commanders and the politicians that send them. And if the State of Israel has self-respect, it must admit its mistake,” says Doğan. “I would appeal to an Israeli court in a quest for justice, but I no longer believe that Israeli justice is impartial.”

Doğan says that no Israeli has made any effort to contact him since the flotilla. “No government official and no peace activist. I was quite surprised by it, because I am sure that there are many people in Israel that do not agree with the policies of their government,” he says. “I expected more solidarity.”

“Twice we were contacted by the American Embassy, once regarding the death certificate, and a second time the ambassador called to express his condolences, two months after the incident.” He has two more grown children, a boy and a girl. “I don’t know if there are words that can express what they feel.”

He received advice on how to deal with the U.S. government and the names of possible contacts from the parents of Rachel Corrie, the International Solidarity Movement activist that was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza. They met once in Istanbul and plan to meet again during Doğan’s upcoming visit in the U.S.

“They told me who to talk to and what steps to take. They also told me that it won’t be easy.”

Doğan says that he has still not received the clothes that his son was wearing when he was killed, nor his video camera with which he filmed what happened on the ship.

“If Israel is so certain of its righteousness, I call upon it to stand trial at the international court in the Hague and provide its explanations,” says Yugur Sevgili, Doğan’s lawyer.

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