Almost all of the casualties on board the Mavi Marmara were fully identified as members of Turkish Islamist organizations, most of them of a radical and anti-Western nature.
1. Since the violent confrontation aboard the ship Mavi Marmara, a great deal of information accumulated making it possible to identify the nine Turkish nationals killed in the confrontation, as well as to analyze their affiliation and political and ideological views. The analysis leads to the conclusion that almost all of those killed (8 out of 9) belonged to the IHH or those affiliated with it (mainly the Felicity Party, Saadet Partisi). About half of those killed had told their relatives of their wish to die as martyrs (shaheeds).
2. On the other hand, human rights activists from Western countries or the Arab/Muslim world were not among those killed. That is to say, those who joined the Flotilla to deliver humanitarian aid to the Palestinians found themselves in a violent confrontation initiated by the IHH. One of those killed, a youngster who was a citizen of both Turkey and the US, is not known to us as affiliated with any Islamist organization, and his involvement in the events is still unclear.
3. Those conclusions are supported by a great deal of information collected since the IDF’s takeover of the Mavi Marmara. It turned out that hard core radical Islamist operatives prepared themselves well in advance for hard violence against IDF soldiers. That violence was preceded by speeches of incitement and indoctrination during the ship's voyage. The information includes statements taken from passengers questioned in Israel, security camera footage and footage shot by journalists on the Mavi Marmara, documents seized aboard the ship, and statements made on the media (including Turkish media) before and after the flotilla incident.
Conclusions drawn from analysis of identity and affiliation of the
Turkish nationals killed aboard the Mavi Marmara
4. The following conclusions arise from analyzing the identity and affiliation of the nine Turkish nationals killed aboard the Mavi Marmara:
The major role played by the Islamic organization IHH: out of the nine people killed, four were identified as IHH operatives or activists. Four others were members of Turkish Islamic organizations or parties affiliated with the IHH. The remaining victim is an ordinary Turkish volunteer who was caught in the event for unclear reasons.
Operatives from the Turkish Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi): at least two of the people killed belong to the Felicity Party, an Islamic party established in 2001 with the support of ex-politician Necmettin Erbakan (after his Welfare Party, Refah Partisi, was banned from politics). The party espouses cooperation between Muslim countries, war on Zionism, and confrontation with the West. In April 2010, the party announced it would take part in the flotilla together with the IHH and the Free Gaza movement.
Thugs among those killed: one of the people killed is a former Taekwondo champion; another worked at an Istanbul sports association; still another worked as a security guard at IHH conferences in the city where he lived. It should be noted that one of the Mavi Marmara passengers related during questioning in Israel that he had seen several IHH thugs carrying clubs. Statements taken from Israeli navy commandos show that there were thugs among the operatives who fought them. The presence of those thugs among the hard core of IHH operatives was part of the preparations for the confrontation.
Statements made by relatives of those killed about their desire to become shaheeds and preparation of wills: relatives of four killed operatives testified that they wanted to die as shaheeds. It was reported that two of the killed operatives had left a letter or a last will before setting sail. "I pray that Allah will give us a happy endings, just like those shaheeds”, says one of the killed operatives on a video tape found aboard the Mavi Marmara.
No human rights activists among the victims: conspicuously absent are human rights activists from Western countries and from the Arab/Muslim world, some of whom came on board the Mavi Marmara out of a genuine desire to deliver humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Those activists avoided joining the organized fighting against the IDF, stayed inside the ship, and did not go to the upper deck where the fighting took place. One of the Turkish nationals killed was a high school student. We have no information that he was connected with any Islamic organization.
Interim summary of information on Turkish nationals killed in the incident
1. Following are the names and details of the Turkish nationals killed based on the information accumulated so far:
Ibrahim Bilgen, 61, electronics engineer from Siirt, member of the association of electronics engineers in Turkey, originally from Mosul, Iraq. He ran in the 2007 elections on behalf of the Felicity Party, and also ran for mayor of Siirt in 2009. He was married and father of six. A relative of his noted that he wanted to die as a shaheed. He joined the flotilla as an IHH volunteer.
Ali Haydar Bengi, 39, owner of a telephone repair store in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey (a city known as a stronghold of radical Islamic parties). He graduated from Al-Azhar University in Cairo (Arabic literature). He was married and father of four. Member of the Felicity Party. Was active in Islamic organizations and was chairman of an Islamic charitable society in Diyarbakir named Özgürlükler Eğitim Kültür ve Dayanışma Derneği (Ayder, the brotherhood association for a bright future, rights, and liberty). His wife said in an interview that he had wanted to reach Palestine for many years, and constantly prayed to Allah to grant him martyrdom. His friends said that he wanted to be a shaheed and that he "had an intense desire to die as a shaheed”. The association he headed was affiliated with the IHH and its operatives collected equipment and food for the organization prior to setting sail.
Cevdet Kiliçlar, 38, from Kayseri. Graduate of the media faculty in the University of Marmara, formerly employed as a journalist for the National Gazette and the Anatolia Times. In the past year, he worked as a reporter and website manager for the IHH. He is married and father of two. A recorded statement by Kiliçlar was found aboard the Mavi Marmara: "While our friends were praying at the [Istanbul] Fatih Mosque in memory of the brothers killed in battle in Afghanistan, we boarded this ship [Mavi Marmara] and were therefore unable to take part in the prayer. May the souls [of those killed in Afghanistan] be in paradise. We, too, prayed on our way to our brothers in Gaza, and I pray that Allah will grant us a happy ending, just like those shaheeds”.1
Çetin Topçuoglu, 54, from Adana. Amateur soccer player and former Taekwondo champion. Trained the Turkish Taekwondo team. Married and father of one. His wife, Çigdem Topçuoglu, was also on the Mavi Marmara with friends and family. Member of AYDER, a humanitarian aid organization affiliated with IHH. Took part in the previous aid convoy to the Gaza Strip which arrived in El-Arish (and confronted Egyptian security forces). Before departing, he left a letter hinting that he expected to die as a shaheed and called on others to aspire to a similar death.
Necdet Yildirim, 32, from Malatya. IHH operative in Istanbul. Worked at a sports association in Istanbul (malatyaguncel.com). Married and father of one. There is a possibility (although we don't have any information on that) that he may be related to IHH leader Bulent Yildirim.
Fahri Yaldiz, 43, fireman in the town of Adiyaman (eastern Antalya). Married and father of four. Worked as a security guard at IHH conferences. IHH operative in the town where he lived. During the municipal elections he worked as a bodyguard for the mayor on behalf of Refah, Erbakan’s Islamist party. In 2007, he made extensive preparations for taking part in the flotilla and had a passport issued (haberdemeti.com). Prior to his departure, he announced that he was going to be a shaheed and said goodbye to his wife and children.
Cengiz Songür, 47, from Konya. Came on board the ship in Antalya. Married and father of seven. Worked as a textile salesman for living. Activist in the Islamic association Izmir Özgür-Der, which espouses a radical Islamic ideology similar to that of IHH. The association provides aid to Muslims worldwide, including in Afghanistan, Egypt, and Lebanon (similarly to IHH).
Poster with an image of Cengiz Songür. The poster reads: "Those killed for the sake of Allah are not considered dead, but rather living alongside their Lord [in paradise]” (haksozhaber.net). During the second intifada, that verse was used to grant religious-Islamic legitimacy to shaheeds who perpetrated suicide bombing attacks, and it appeared numerous times on posters commemorating the suicide bombers. The verse was also used in eulogies for those sent to dangerous missions and killed in conflict with the enemies of Islam.
A poster that reads: "Warriors of Gaza, glorified men of resistance, welcome”
(on the left, one of the people carries a photograph of Songür) (bighaber.com)
h. Cengiz Akyüz, 41, from Iskenderun. Married and father of three. IHH operative. Joined the flotilla with Zakariya Kanat, the director of the Hatay branch (Alexandretta) of IHH. Left a will prior to his departure (islamigundem.com).
i. Furkan Dogan, 19, senior high school student in Kayseri. The son of Dr. Ahmet Dogan from the University of Erciyes. Citizen of both Turkey and the US. We have no information about his links to any Islamic organizations.
This past week popular terrorism attacks continued. Tension continues between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) after Mahmoud Abbas instituted economic measures to exert pressure on Hamas and weaken its control of the Gaza Strip.
On April 22, 2017, Dr. Suhail al-Hindi, chairman of the UNRWA staff union in the Gaza Strip and principal of an UNRWA boys' elementary school, announced he was taking early retirement. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness also announced that Suhail al-Hindi was no longer employed by the agency. Al-Hindi was forced to resign in the wake of the extensive media and political reactions to his election to Hamas' new political bureau in the Gaza Strip (in violation of UNRWA's opposition to its employees' affiliation with Hamas or other organizations).