Iara Lee, based in the United States, is a Korean Brazilian activist, film producer and founder of the Caipirinha Foundation that advocates global solidarity and peace. Having directed a number of short and long documentaries such as “Synthetic Pleasures”, “Modulations”, “Architettura” and “Beneath the Borqa” among others, Iara Lee took part in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The footage of the attack on the flotilla that was captured by a cameraman in Lee’s crew had major repercussions worldwide. Among many individuals who recorded the attack time onboard the Mavi Marmara boat was cameraman from Lee’s crew. Cameraman is managed to hide most of the footage of the attack successfully and later Lee shared it with the world. Iara Lee’s account of the attack was made public in the book “Witnesses of the Freedom Flotilla, Interviews with Passengers,” authored by Zahide Tuba Kor and published by IHH Book. Here are excerpts from the interview:
Pre-dawn on May 31, we were expecting to confront Israeli forces somehow. When it became obvious that Israeli commandos were going to board the boat, most of the passengers were told to go downstairs. I did so too. A while ago we heard gunshots. Since I know every part of the boat was searched tediously before sailing, I realized it was our friends who were being shot at. I first thought they were using rubber bullets or were firing into the air. But I later saw many bloody bodies, some of whom were shot in the head, being carried into the lower deck.
Since I predicted Israeli navy would confiscate our belongings, hard drives, memory cards, etc. I asked my cameraman to replace existing ones with smaller (SD) memory cards. He did so and to prevent SD cards being confiscated he hid them in his underwear. In case Israelis found the cards, I directed him to tell them I had requested him to hide the cards and he was just doing his job. Israeli officials frisked hundreds of people but since they focused mostly on long-bearded Muslims, they did not frisk my white-tanned cameraman thoroughly and therefore could not find hidden SD cards.
When I returned to the United States, I faced expected insults from fervent supporters of the Israeli government. However, there was incredible interest to the footage we sneaked out of the boat not only from solidarity movements but also from fully independent organizations. The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) invited me to present the footage to public at a press conference to be held at the United Nations. The Israeli delegation leveled groundless accusations against the association for showing the raw footage and holding a question and answer session with attending correspondents.
The Freedom Flotilla, owing to Israel’s deadly attack that claimed lives of nine beloved fellow activists, brought about an unprecedented wave of condemnation by the international community against the Israeli government. Despite all evidence put forward by respectable organizations, many people learnt about Israel’s brutal blockade on Gaza for the first time with the attack on the Freedom Flotilla.