by Julie Webb-Pullman
Turkey and all of Palestine stood together today to honour the ten Turks murdered by Israel aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship headed for Gaza four years ago.
On the same day the Palestinian unity government is to be announced, Gaza-based Palestinian NGO House of Wisdom brought all factions together with Turkish Ambassador Mustafa Sarnic and Turkish aid agency IHH, owners of the Mavi Marmara, in a show of not only Palestinian, but Ummah unity.
The commemorative events began at Gaza seaport beneath the memorial erected in honour of Cengiz Akyüz (42), Ali Haydar Bengi (39), İbrahim Bilgen (61), Furkan Doğan (18), Cevdet Kılıçlar (38), Cengiz Songür (47), Çetin Topçuoğlu (54), Fahri Yaldız (43), Necdet Yıldırım (32) and Ugur Süleyman Söylemez, who died from his injuries this week aged 51.
Flowers were then thrown into to the sea, before reconvening at the Commodore Hotel for speeches.
Dr Ahmed Yousef, Secretary General of the House of Wisdom, described how he waited at the Gaza seaport at dawn on the day the Mavi Marmara was expected to arrive, listening with horror as the news of the military assault came through.
“We as Palestinians extend out condolences to the Turkish government and people, and the families of these brave men who sacrificed their lives for Palestine,” he said. “They will go down in Palestinian history, we will always remember them.”
His Excellency Mustafa Sarnic emphasised how important it is for him to be here in Gaza on this day, and thanked the Palestinian leaders and people for their solidarity.
Dr Ahmad Bahar, Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said that Palestine is entering a new period with unity, and appreciates that the Turkish government and people will as always be walking forward with them. “We welcome Erdogan to visit Gaza,” he added.
The unity theme was also stressed by Mohammad al-Hindi, leader of Islamic Jihad, who noted that the Turkish government and people have stood with Palestine many times.
“We are all in one ummah, in one world,” he said. “Palestine is only a small people but we are part of the ummah. Turkey has a history that is closely tied to Islam, and we are a part of it. Together we can achieve a lot.”
Hamas leader Dr Mahmoud Zahar also touched on Turkish history and Islam, pointing out that the Turkish empire played a very important role in the spread of Islam, and brought real justice and peace to many places.
“Turkey prevented the establishment of a Zionist state in the previous century. After the British Empire defeated Turkey, the British helped establish the state of Israel. But proud Turks are still doing now what their grandfathers did, making sacrifices for Palestine, standing firmly with us against Israel.”
On a day when many would expect Palestinians to be more concerned with their own political affairs, the turnout in solidarity with the Turkish martyrs of leaders from all factions and many other walks of Gazan life showed that Palestinians aren’t only concerned with themselves.
As Zahar and many other speakers observed, “Standing together, we can all achieve a lot.”