10 years ago the worst and most defining experience of my life occurred aboard the Mavi Marmara ship on the Mediterranean Sea.
We were bound for the Gaza strip; to deliver humanitarian aid to the families that Israel had illegally blockaded (and still does). We went to answer a call from a people the world ignores.
Our mission for the Palestinians: Humanity, hope, peace, truth, and justice.
Our punishment from the Israelis: Brutality, horror, death, lies, and imprisonment.
We carried tons of humanitarian aid to deliver to Gaza, but the Israeli government left us carrying our dead back to their broken families. The names of those killed ‘are’ Ibrahim Bilgen, Ali Haydar Bengi, Cevdet Kiliclar, Cetin Topcuoglu, Necdet Yildirim, Fahri Yaldiz, Cengiz Songur, Cengiz Akyuz, Furkan Dogan, Ugur Suleyman Soylemez.
There was international outrage; condemnation of what Israel had done, and promises of change. That change has never been delivered for Palestine; the justice they deserve has been denied to them for 7 decades. Palestinian children bleed like your children, Palestinians grieve as you would grieve holding the corpse of your loved one. The insanity of the Israeli army is something I have struggled to put into words for 10 years.
The lockdown of our current circumstances isn’t even 1 % of what Gazans suffer on a daily basis. Unlike them, we do not have bombs reigning down on us every time Netanyahu decides to send a reminder. To reinforce that Israel is above international law, that it has eternal impunity from the UN to steal Palestinian land and brutalise its people – by bloody, merciless, and criminal means.
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the Americans found Osama Bin Laden. Symbolically and coincidentally, they suddenly located him as the 10th year of that tragedy dawned. It is now the 10th anniversary of the massacre on the Mavi Marmara, and the world knows where Netanyahu lives…yet we are forced to accept that the Israeli government has an open license for acts of terror.
Sadly, I cannot mark this anniversary with justice received, I cannot say the bad guys were caught. Instead, I mark this day with the utmost respect and deepest condolences for every life that has been stolen in the movement against Israeli occupation. For my Flotilla brothers, their families, and for the Palestinian struggle, I hold my hands together and send you heartfelt prayers. May peace, truth, and justice be yours to hold, and may mercy and patience be your enduring shelter, Ameen.
On the 31st of May 2010, I was fortunate enough to have returned with my life even though I left a part of my soul on that ship. It was the worst and best experience of my life in a complex, painful, and poignantly enlightening way. I am trying to stifle the surge of emotion that is stirring within me and to breathe through the memories of that event. I think about my little Furkan and my brother in struggle, Ugur Suleyman. For different reasons they became a part of me, their blood is my blood and their loss is felt in a very deep and personal way. Every family who lost a loved one is in my thoughts and prayers. I cannot truly appreciate their grief, but I do share their outrage at the lack of justice we have received, and the blatant impunity, the Israeli regime is granted by the USA. Palestinians and every victim of the Israeli regime deserve what you and I do; they too are worthy of what you and I have; they too should have rights to the life and freedom we take for granted.
The pandemic this world never seems to be rid of is inequality, oppression, injustice, political corruption, and hypocrisy. I can only hope and pray that more of us join the movement to Free Palestine and to play an active part… in some way, in some struggle, in some parts of this world.
The world only changes when we do.
Rest in peace my Freedom Flotilla brothers, Ameen.