Remembering Furkan Dogan

18 October 2010

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Furkan Dogan (http://furkan-dogan.com)

Furkan Dogan. I’m going to say Furkan Dogan so often that it will sound, as it rightly should, just as “American” as John Smith or Bill Jones. Furkan Dogan was an American, a young American of only 19 years when on 31 May a hail of Israeli bullets ended his life on the Mavi Marmara Turkish humanitarian aid ship. Furkan was filming the Israeli assault when an Israeli commando fired his first shot pointblank hitting Furkan squarely in the face. Four more shots were fired into Furkan leaving him dead and unrecognizable.

The Mavi Marmara, the largest ship of an international flotilla of six vessels that made of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, was carrying food, medicine and school supplies to the Israeli besieged Gaza Strip. The Israelis have blockaded Gaza since the Hamas government was democratically elected in 2006. For more than three weeks, in December 2008 and January 2009 the Israelis wantonly attacked Gaza destroying essential infrastructure and killing more than 1,400 citizens, a large percentage of them women and children.

Furkan, who was born in the Albany-Troy area of New York, had gone back to live in his family’s hometown of Kayseri, Turkey. His family knew the names of the eight Turkish nationals who had been killed on the Mavi Marmara but one casualty had not been immediately identified. In their normal pattern of lies and misinformation the Israelis had not identified Furkan because he was an American. They waited until the initial impact of their murderous attack on innocent, defenseless humanitarians subsided a bit before confirming the ninth victim was Furkan.

When Furkan’s father went to meet the Mavi Marmara’s survivors and casualties he had no idea that his son had been murdered. Instead of greeting his son he was taken to the morgue to identify his remains. Surely such a day defies description.

In an immediate reaction to the Mavi Marmara massacre Viva Palestina announced plans for another humanitarian aid mission to Gaza. Viva Palestina, a UK-based charity founded by former Member of British Parliament George Galloway, launched its initial land aid convoy in March 2009 shortly after the Israeli attack ended. On 18 September 2010, four missions later, Viva Palestina 5 left the UK for Gaza.

The Viva Palestina 5 convoy arrived in Kayseri late on 29 September and spent the night on a mountain overlooking the town. We had come to Kaseyri for the sole purpose of visiting Furkan’s gravesite and extending our condolences to his family. The following morning we were told that our convoy would be passing by the high school from which Furkan had graduated and that students from the school would be waiting for us. As we began our slow journey down the twisting mountain road the convoy took on the air of a funeral procession. Suddenly, there they were. The students lined both sides of the road standing for who knows how long. Each one sadly, silently, proudly held up Furkan’s picture as the convoy rolled by.

Beautiful, moving words were spoken at the gravesite and afterwards we met with Furkan’s family at the recently built community center named in Furkan’s honor. The grandfather and uncle bore their grief perhaps with the acceptance of mortality that comes with age. But the older brother’s grief was palpable. Deep, dark lines were etched under his eyes and he seemed detached from his surroundings. The despair evident on his face made a statement greater than words could ever do.

Any country should be proud to have a promising young man such as Furkan as one of its own. Intelligent and mature beyond his years Furkan had already dedicated his life to the struggle for Palestinian justice. Such a course bears no import with the US Congress, which allows for the US bankrolling of the occupation. And the Israeli thug who gunned down Furkan is no more responsible for murdering him than Furkan’s own country which paid for the bullets.

Ralph G. Loeffler is an activist with the International Action Center in New York City.