The 'Mavi Marmara' 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters/Emrah Dalkaya)
A Turkish charity announced on Friday it will not take part in a Gaza protest
flotilla later this month due to repairs needed for the Mavi Marmara, prompting
activists to pledge that they will reach the shores of Gaza
Bulent Yildirim, head of the IHH Humanitarian Relief
Organization announced at a news conference that the vessel will not sail for
Gaza because of unrepaired damage caused in an IDF raid on the ship that left
nine Turkish activists dead in May 2010.
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“The Mavi Marmara
suffered so much damage we couldn’t get it ready in time,” Yildirim
Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, he denied that Ankara had forced
the organization’s hand, saying “there is absolutely no obstruction by the
Following the IHH’s announcement, the Free Gaza Movement
posted a message on their website in which they said: “the fact that the Mavi
will not participate in the FF2 [Freedom Flotilla 2], means that the
misinformation put forward by the Israeli government and its supporters that the
flotilla is a “Turkish” and “Islamist” effort will be exposed.
of people from around the world are sailing to break the blockade on Gaza. FF2
will include more ships than the first flotilla, even without the Mavi Marmara.
Moreover, the coalition consists of significantly more member organizations this
time – from all over Europe, North America, the Middle East and North Africa,”
the message continued.
Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed
Davutoglu was quoted in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet as saying that “Israel
should wait for a new Palestinian government to be set up and then lift the
blockade on Gaza. The aid flotilla should also wait to see what happens with the
Rafah border crossing being opened, and to see how Israel perceives the new
Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow and director of the Turkish
Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Friday
night that he believes that Ankara pressured the IHH to pull out of the flotilla
partly out of a desire to avoid seeing the organization designated a terrorist
Cagaptay added that while Turkey is a democracy, the power of
Erdogan’s AKP party is such that the IHH would be hesitant to ignore their
“Their political power everyone feels – they are the longest
ruling party since multi-party democracy began in Turkey,” he said. “Any Turkish
organization that would cross them would feel their weight.”
said that with US-Turkish relations currently in a “happy phase,” they may have
wanted to prevent the IHH from taking part in order to avoid souring the “vast
avenue of cooperation” between the two countries.
“I think that
Turkish-US policy has entered a positive phase,” he said. “The relationship with
the US is kind of taking off, and there is now not only a positive area for
cooperation, but it’s possible to move forward. Perhaps they’re saying in Ankara
that things are sweetening up with Washington.”