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Tens of thousands flock to Taksim to commemorate flotilla victims
Tens of thousands of people flocked to İstanbul’s Taksim Square on Monday night to commemorate victims of Mavi Marmara, a ship which was attacked by Israeli forces in international waters last May.
Turkey 31.05.2011

The participants of the ceremony marched with torches from the tunnel in Taksim to the Taksim Square. During the procession, participants chanted slogans which said: “Wait Palestine, Mavi Marmara is coming” and “Millions hand in hand, en route to Gaza.” The procession was attended by people from all age groups and different circles in the society. Holding Palestinian flags, the participants chanted the names of the Mavi Marmara martyrs as well.

Freedom Flotilla I which set sail last year to create an emergency aid corridor for the people of Gaza, who are deprived of their fundamental needs, and to break the illegitimate, illegal and fatal Israeli blockade on the city was attacked by Israeli forces in international waters on 31 May, 2010. The Israeli attack claimed the lives of nine peaceful activists and injured 56 others on board the Mavi Marmara. Thanks to this honorable action which took place with the initiative of civilians, the world once again faced with the realities in Palestine.

Following the procession, the commemoration ceremony continued with Quran recitation, prayers for the nine Mavi Marmara martyrs and songs performed for Mavi Marmara by several music groups such as Grup Genç, Grup Özlem, Grup Yürüyüş and Mikail.

Speeches particularly those made by Palestinian guests drew a huge attention from the crowd.

Sheikh Raed Salah, dubbed as Custodian of al-Quds, addressed the crowd in Taksim and said: “We came here for the liberation of Gaza and Masjid al Aqsa. We will take part in the Freedom Flotilla II, too. Our goal is to have an independent Palestine and Aqsa will be the capital of this state. This meeting in Taksim is of a kind to strengthen our unity with Turks. The name of this is solidarity with martyrs’ families.

Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament Muhammad Zeidan also delivered a speech at the event and said: “As a delegation, we came here on the first anniversary of the Mavi Marmara incident. We are with tens of thousands of Turkish brothers and sisters. Allah willing, we experience this happiness altogether here tonight. Our delegation came to here for this.”

Bülent Yıldırım, the head of the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, stated that the people who attended the commemoration ceremony and supported the organization showed that they did not forget the martyrs and each of them are brave hearts.

He said before setting sail to Gaza, they drove to Egypt where they were attacked by the Mubarak government.

 “They threw stones at our heads in Egypt, but the Mubarak regime has collapsed and now the Rafah border crossing has been re-opened,” he said.

Addressing the United States and Israel, Yıldırım said: “We are now coming with our second flotilla. We are not alone. We are coming with our nine martyrs this time. A year ago 600 people applied to join us and after our blood was shed in the waters of the Mediterranean this number has gone over 500,000.”

On behalf of the martyr families, Çiğdem Topçuoğlu, widow of flotilla victim Çetin Topçuoğlu, made a speech. “You are the pride of Palestine and this ummah and the heroes of Mavi Marmara. You are the fear of Israel, its annihilation. We can give up from our lives but we can never give up from Masjid al Aqsa,” she told the crowd.

The program was concluded with Quran recitation.

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