Turkish families wait for word about activists’ fate and conditions

June 1, 2010

As Aynur Akdeniz saw the first videos showing the attacks of Israel on the Gaza aid flotilla, she immediately switched off the TV to prevent her two children from seeing it. Her husband Mehmet Ali Akdeniz, 34, was on the ship.

Aynur then rushed to the building of Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH’s) in Istanbul’s Fatih district.

The İHH was the main organizer of the aid shipments and its crisis management center, located at the top floor of the building, was bustling all day. The press conference room was filled with families who watched developments on a television in the room.

Aynur said she was planning to travel to Gaza together with her husband, but they decided not to because of the young age of their children.

 “My son is 4 years old and my daughter is 6. They packed 300 lollipops for their father to take to Palestinian children in Gaza,” she said through tears.

Although her children have still not comprehended the unfolding events, they are also worried, she said, quoted by Hürriyet Daily News.

“They are asking about their father and they are worried even though I didn’t let them see the attack videos on TV,” she said.

Like the other families gathered at the İHH building trying to obtain news from their relatives on the ship, Aynur said she was shocked by the attacks and that she was worried and crying.

 “I did not expect that much cruelty. My husband even did not have a pocket knife on him,” she said. “It was a strict rule for all of them not to have anything that might be used as a weapon. But Israel was afraid of a few civilian people.”

Aynur said she heard from friends that they saw a man who looked like her husband and that he was alive after the attacks.

Of the nearly 600 people on the Mavi Marmara ship, roughly 400 were Turkish citizens, according to İHH Vice Director Yavuz Dede, who said the passengers included men, women, and an 18-month-old baby.

Sümeyye Sena Tezcan, a 15-year-old high school student whose mother, Demet Tezcan, was on the ship, said she was relieved when she saw her mother in images on TV. “She was running during the attacks and was helping wounded people.”

Sümeyye said her younger sister gave her baby doll to her mother and told her to give it to children in Gaza.

When her mother left home on May 24 for Antalya in preparation for boarding the ship at the Mediterranean port, Sümeyye said it was an ordinary day for the family. The mother was excited about the trip and was looking forward to seeing Gaza for the first time.

“She told us to take care of each other before leaving. We were afraid, we were worried, but never expected something horrible like this could happen,” she said.

But while some families rejoiced at the apparent safety of their loved ones, many others were much worried about the fate of their loved ones.

Selma Erkal, whose brother Şahin İbrahim Güleryüz, 42, was on the ship, went to the İHH building as soon as she saw the videos on TV.

She said she saw her brother in the videos on TV. “He had fainted, his head fallen on his chest, and there were people trying to help him,” said Erkal, who believed her brother had been wounded.

“We wanted to believe that he was only wounded, but he could also be dead. He has two sons and we did not tell his wife what we saw. We wouldn’t know what to say,” said Selma.

Like others, Selma said she was expecting a response from Israel. “I did not expect such a wild intervention. They were all unarmed people carrying humanitarian aid.”

Hatice Çorluk, whose son Fevzi Çorluk, 24, was on the ship, said she had expected the Israeli army’s response.

Her family said they had been crying all day and that they simply wanted to receive good news about their loved one’s condition.

Hayrünnisa Abdurrahman, a mother of four, said she was afraid her husband, Abdülahad Abdurrahman, 40, could be dead.

“He is a man who cannot stand injustice. I fear that he might have intervened during the attacks to save people from Israeli soldiers,” she said through tears.

Before leaving home, Abdurrahman told his wife that the journey could be potentially fatal and asked for her blessing.

When he boarded the vessel, he had no possessions that could be construed as a weapon except a sewing needle with which to repair any tears to his pants, she said.







About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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