In mid June, Bülent Yıldırım, chairman of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, declared that the “Mavi Marmara” ship, which was hard hit in the Israeli raid, could not take part in the “Freedom flotilla II” but will “definitely set sail for Gaza when it completes repair and maintenance works.” Was it a realistic decision for the flotilla organizers to set sail without the “Mavi Marmara”? Huseyin Oruç, deputy of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation explains his position in this interview.
Silvia Cattori: How many Turks are here in Athens waiting to sail with the “Freedom flotilla”?
Huseyin Oruç: We are about twenty people from Turkey ready to participate in the “Freedom flotilla II” in different ships. There are only a few places in the boats. In each boat there is a Turkish participant. We have people in the Canadian boat, the Spanish boat, the French boat, the Greek boat, the International boat.
Silvia Cattori: So, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) has not withdrawn from the “Freedom flotilla II” as reported by many commentators? Is that correct?
Huseyin Oruç: We did not withdraw from the coalition. We are part of the coalition. We officially are continuing to support the “Freedom flotilla”. IHH is one of the members of the Steering Committee of the “Flotilla II”. I am the deputy of IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation) and a coordinator of the “Freedom flotilla.” The only thing is that the “Mavi Marmara” ship could not join the vessels in this second mission of the “Freedom Flotilla” since repair and maintenance works on the ship have not been completed.
Silvia Cattori: I would like to make clear that the non-participation of the “Mavi Marmara” is it not a Turkish government decision?
Huseyin Oruç: It is not a government decision. It is an IHH decision. It is a decision of the registration of the “Mavi Marmara.” We have announced 20 days ago to our partners that, technically, we had difficulties in participating with “Mavi Marmara.” That for technical reasons we could not participate in this “Flotilla”. We wanted to allow all other organizers to prepare themselves accordingly. We announced that we were not cancelling but rather postponing the participation of the “Mavi Marmara”. We will continue our mission. You have seen the high commitment of IHH people in the coalition and you will continue to see it.
As we have declared it hundreds of times, the “Mavi Marmara” is not merely a Turkish ship. It is an international ship. It does not depend only upon the Turkish initiative. It is the symbol of the Palestinians; one of the symbols of all oppressed people in the world.
The “Mavi Marmara” became a very important figure. We are not cancelling our participation with the “Mavi Marmara”. Whenever the Palestinians need it, the “Mavi Marmara” will go. We cannot give you a time but we say that we will sail. In any case it will not be a Turkish ship but an international ship. The “Mavi Marmara” became the conscience of the world. There will be many nationalities on the “Mavi Marmara” when we will decide to go. There will be about 500 people from all over the world. And it will continue. It is not the end of the “Flotilla”. Until this illegal siege is lifted, this “Flotilla” will continue; with new perspectives, with new surprises, not to repeat itself; and it will continue to change the history.
Silvia Cattori: Because the “Mavi Marmara” represents a great and beautiful symbol it was a shock for the people in Gaza to learn that your ship could not be part of the “Flotilla II”. Was it a realistic decision for the flotilla organizers to set sail without the “Mavi Marmara”?
Huseyin Oruç: Of course the “Mavi Marmara” was one of the largest ships in the Flotilla that can carry about 500 passengers. The fact that it is not participating now in the “Flotilla” has a negative side and a positive side. We need to use whatever is happening to our advantage. The fact that we have deferred the participation of the “Mavi Marmara” puts us in a favourable position. We are maintaining the pressure on Israel. Anyway, we are still participating in the “Flotilla II” and of course we are one of the supporters among the Committee members; we are one of the founders of this “Flotilla” organisation.
Remember what the Israelis have been saying throughout the last year. They have targeted Turkish people, they have targeted the Muslims, they have targeted IHH, and they have targeted the Turkish government who organized this Flotilla. But on the other side the Israelis have never done anything against our colleagues from the West. And now that the Turkish participation is les prominent, look what is happening.
Now that we are not participating with the “Mavi Marmara”, what is the reason to attack the boats? What is the reason to stop the boats? The main reasons are being removed from their agenda. Now the Israelis are showing their real face. They are not acting only against the Muslims, not only against the Turks; they are acting against everybody. And they want to control the West. They feel they oversee things at the highest level and that Westerners have their orders. It is the position now and European people need to understand that it is not related to religion. It is not related to beliefs, to nationality. It is completely related to the bad Zionist policy. And this policy is not only against the Muslims. They are not making any differentiation between religions. Whoever is against them, they are ready to kill them: Americans, Greeks, Germans and whatever they are.
Silvia Cattori: I entirely agree with your analysis. But the Turkish diplomacy regarding the Middle East seems to have changed. What is your interpretation about that?
Huseyin Oruç: Let me say first that Turkey did not change. And let me say that the decision of IHH is totally independent. One month ago, just five days before deciding not to participate in the Flotilla with the “Mavi Marmara”, we, the Steering Committee met here in this hotel ; we sat together and, very frankly, we explained the situation. Everybody knows us; knows who IHH is, how serious we are; how we are working, what we have done in the “Freedom flotilla I”. All members of the Steering Committee know that, if IHH takes a decision, it is not in favour of someone else, it is in favour of the Palestinians. This mission is totally related to the oppressed Palestinian people. And whatever we are planning, we are doing it for the benefit of the Palestinians.
For all decisions taken by IHH, without any pressure from anyone, we have checked everything. And when you look at the problems of the “Freedom flotilla”, it is very important to know that it is not the problem of a single society, but it is because of the Israeli policies. What the Israelis have done in the last one year? They have been attacking the “Freedom flotilla; they target all civilians. On the one hand, you have a big government and one of the most effective diplomatic machines in the world using all their powers. On the other side, you have some civilians. This allows us to surprise them; the Israelis do not realize what they are doing. They are not targeting Turkey, they are not targeting America, they are not targeting Greece; but they have created big enemies for themselves with their own hands.
Silvia Cattori: The Israelis are trying to invent all sorts of scenarios to divide people as in the past; to make Christians more acceptable than Muslims. This is their policy. By the way, it sounds a bit strange that this time the “Freedom flotilla” sails under, respectively, the flag of France, the flag of the United States, the flag of Sweden, etc…Is this not a way to make it easier for the Israelis to divide you?
Huseyin Oruç: No, it would not be easy because, in this mission, everybody understands what is going on. Not only the Israelis but the Flotilla people have learned diplomacy. Everybody is aware of what is going on. Our cause is the same. We do not keep something silent. We do not hide anything. And whenever we are talking about something in the Steering Committee, it is very open. Even if the Israelis try to use their intelligence, if they want to act wisely, they could easily manage this crisis; in a very easy way. But they cannot, because they do not believe in rights, they believe in power. They believe that, when they slam someone they will win, when they kill someone they will win. But this does not agree with reality or history. With power you cannot be successful. I do not believe that they can understand it, but they will see it.
The motivation of the participants is very high. And it is a very flexible coalition. We have opened the way for all initiatives, for all countries to do something by themselves. All initiatives work independently. We came together but it is not a centrally organized “Flotilla”. Each one organized its own internal campaign; and the Steering Committee brings everyone together in the actions.
Silvia Cattori: Thank you very much
Interview done at Athens, July 3, 2011.