Father of teen killed in Gaza flotilla raid seeks American justice
Like the other people on board the Mavi Marmara, says Professor Ahmet Doğan, 'we did not expect Israelis to attack the ship in the middle of the night.'
Professor Ahmet Doğan, whose 19-year-old son Furkan was killed aboard during the Israeli army raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla from Turkey in May, is in Washington in an attempt to convince American officials to open an investigation into the raid.
Furkan was an American citizen who was born in the U.S. His father will be meeting with Congress members Tuesday and on Wednesday speak with members of the State Department and the Ministry of Justice.
The Mavi Marmara was part of six-boat flotilla that was heading for Gaza from Turkey. Israeli naval troops boarded the boat on May 31, 2010. The activists on board the boat resisted, and nine people were killed.
"Furkan was an American citizen of Turkish origin and the American government hasn’t done anything for him - so I have come to seek justice for him here," Professor Doğan tells Haaretz. "I want the United States to demand justice for its citizen, and support decisions related to this [injustice] at the UN. We are very disappointed by the way the U.S. has handled the events until now, because in theory the U.S. is supposed to view all of its citizens equally."
Doğan believes the U.S. gives more weight to its relationship with Israel than to the welfare of its own citizens.
"What if this was Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton's child, would there be an American investigation into the matter? As far as they are concerned, their ties with Israel are more important than my son, and he was an American citizen. If my son was an Israeli who was shot by Turks in international waters, how would the U.S. react? That is what I would like to ask the Americans."
Doğan laughs when asked about the results of the Turkel Commission, an Israeli panel of inquiry into the flotilla, whose January report said the soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara acted in self defense.
"It's ridiculous," he says. "The report was not serious and it only served to pander to the Israeli and American publics."
The report, the professor continues, "was full of lies. For example, the report stated that my son had dual citizenship, when in fact he held American citizenship alone. They called the captain of the ship for testimony, and they reached the wrong person."
He scathingly points out that "the committee was made up of people aged 80 and up; do you really think that individuals of such an age are of completely of sound mind? We have heard that one of the committee members has died in the meantime, and we send our condolences. But when you continue to cover up information and make excuses, Israel merely increases its isolation and makes new international enemies."
"Even before the flotilla raid," Doğan says, "people had heard about the situation in Gaza, but I think that when people look at it in retrospect, they will see that the flotilla was the final straw, and Furkan was one of the symbols of this breaking point."
Doğan has accused Israel of committing a crime in international waters, killing innocent citizens who only wished to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. He says his son was a successful 19-year-old who had just finished high school, who was peace-loving with a huge heart. Furkan had just been granted a place at the medical school of a prestigious university.
"Why was such a young, successful boy killed by Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night?" his father asks.
The last time Doğan spoke with his son was May 25, 2010, when he boarded the Mavi Marmara at the port of Antalya. Furkan was able to take his entrance exams ahead of his Turkish peers, and he had time for a vacation.
The professor says that Furkan had planned to visit his American birthplace before starting school, but when he saw the sign advertising the flotilla mission, he decided to join and then fly to Chicago when he returned.
"When he applied to go on the Mavi Marmara, he asked me for permission. It was a very difficult moment for me," Doğan says. "But we let him go because he cared and wanted to help, he was a very moral boy. I think that no parent could say no to such a request."
"Besides," Doğan adds, "like the other people on board, we did not expect Israelis to attack the ship in the middle of the night. We thought the worst possible scenario was that they would take the ship to Ashdod, and because my son was an American citizen and there is a close relationship between Israel and the U.S. they would not do anything to him."
Why did your son write in his journal in his final entry that he is ready to become a martyr?
"He did not write 'Inshallah' in the religious sense, and as far as I know, his last entry was written that night, when it was feared that something bad was about to happen," says Doğan. "Under normal circumstances, he never would have written anything like that. If my son had planned to become a martyr, he would not have gone out of his way to ask me to submit his university application forms in the event that he got held up in Gaza."
"He had big plans, he was very ambitious. You think he all of a sudden forgot about all of his plans for the future and decided to die? He packed his bag with games, pads and pens for the children of Gaza that he bought with his own money. He was not a member of that group IHH. He would have joined the flotilla even if it was organized by a Christian group."
"He captured what took place on the boat when he was shot with a video camera. His autopsy revealed that after he was wounded, he was shot again from a range of only 45 centimeters."
Until this point, Doğan had spoken in Turkish, with the aid of a translator. But now he suddenly switches to English.
"How would you feel if it happened to your own son?" he asked.
Did you see the video of IDF soldiers being attacked on the Mavi Marmara? Did it not look like a provocation to you?
"If these were really dangerous people, instead of throwing away the weapons that they captured from the soldiers, they could have used them and killed the soldiers. When the helicopters were tied to the ship with ropes so that the soldiers could scale down, they could have pulled them down, but they let them go," says Doğan.
"Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be in their shoes, being set upon by commandos at the crack of dawn? I think that the Israelis were the ones that wanted a provocation."
Doğan says he has nothing against Jews or Israel.
"The Turks accepted Jews that were expelled from Spain, Jews that fled the Second World War. That was Furkan's belief. If Jews were living under an oppressive regime, he would have joined a flotilla to aid them. When I studied in the U.S., I had a lot of Jewish friends, I never had anything against them."
"My opinion of the Israeli people has not changed, but I want those responsible for my son's death to face justice. Regardless of who is responsible, including army commanders and the politicians that send them. And if the State of Israel has self-respect, it must admit its mistake," says Doğan. "I would appeal to an Israeli court in a quest for justice, but I no longer believe that Israeli justice is impartial."
Doğan says that no Israeli has made any effort to contact him since the flotilla. "No government official and no peace activist. I was quite surprised by it, because I am sure that there are many people in Israel that do not agree with the policies of their government," he says. "I expected more solidarity."
"Twice we were contacted by the American Embassy, once regarding the death certificate, and a second time the ambassador called to express his condolences, two months after the incident." He has two more grown children, a boy and a girl. "I don't know if there are words that can express what they feel."
He received advice on how to deal with the U.S. government and the names of possible contacts from the parents of Rachel Corrie, the International Solidarity Movement activist that was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza. They met once in Istanbul and plan to meet again during Doğan's upcoming visit in the U.S.
"They told me who to talk to and what steps to take. They also told me that it won't be easy."
Doğan says that he has still not received the clothes that his son was wearing when he was killed, nor his video camera with which he filmed what happened on the ship.
"If Israel is so certain of its righteousness, I call upon it to stand trial at the international court in the Hague and provide its explanations," says Yugur Sevgili, Doğan's lawyer.