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Who the hell was Furkan Doğan, and why should we care?

compiled by Michael R. Burch, an editor and publisher of Holocaust and Nakba poetry

According to the government of Israel, Furkan Doğan (October 20, 1991 - May 31, 2010) was a "terrorist" who deserved what he got: five bullets delivered at point-blank range, delivered execution-style, as he lay huddled on the floor of a ship sent to deliver humanitarian aid to the suffering people of Gaza. But according to Furkan's picture above, and according to his family and friends, he was anything but a "terrorist." Why then, was he summarily executed? And if he was summarily executed, why should anyone care, really, since he was "only" a Turkish peace activist, not someone wonderfully important like ... say ... Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist who had songs, poems and even a ship dedicated to her memory.

Aye, there's the rub. We all know that only American peace activists, and perhaps a few light-skinned, blue-eyed, fair-haired European ones, truly have good intentions. Who can trust peace activists if they are Turkish, or Palestinian, etc.?

But here's the thing: Furkan Doğan was an American citizen, born in Troy, New York. The government of Israel executed him for the "crime" of being aboard a humanitarian aid ship in international waters. Why aren't we outraged? Well, to tell the truth, I am, and I hope to persuade you to become outraged also. So please, "Sit right back and I'll tell a tale ... a tale of a fateful trip ..."

The picture above is of Furkan Doğan's grave. I hope it hurts your heart, as it hurts mine, to think of such a fine young man lying dead for no reason. What if he was my brother, or yours? How would we feel? But shouldn't we consider him our brother, and a child of God like every other human being? And here are eight other names worthy of contemplation:

Ibrahim Bilgen
Ali Haydar Bengi
Cevdet Kiliçlar
Çetin Topçuoilu
Necdet Yildirim
Fahri Yaldiz
Cengiz Songür
Cengiz Akyüz

These are the names of eight Turkish peace activists who were murdered by Israeli commandos in international waters. Their only crime? Being aboard a ship trying to bring humanitarian aid to the suffering people of Gaza.

Months after the deaths of eight Turks and one American aboard a humanitarian aid flotilla headed for Gaza, there still has been no official accounting for the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Without providing any evidence whatsoever, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, dismissed them all as "hired thugs from a radical Islamic organization." Israel promised an investigation but when Israel investigates itself it invariably winks at justice. The judge appointed to head the investigation threatened to quit unless his commission "is given some teeth" but everyone knows he is merely posturing or will be overridden or ignored. Everyone knows the "fix is in," as Tikkun Olam put it.

A report by a journalist who lives in Furkan Doğan's hometown:

Global Post published the following report by Matt Porter and Jim Buie, a freelance journalist who lives in Kayseri, Turkey where Furkan lived. This report is based on interviews with his father, brother, and friends. Buie tell us, "Nothing his family and friend told us gave any indication this young man was a hired gun for a radical Islamic organization or the least bit political. Instead, they described him as an aspiring doctor who volunteered to go on a humanitarian mission."

KAYSERI, Turkey — Furkan Doğan had just scored so high on Turkey’s rigorous college entrance exams that he could have attended any college of his choosing. But before he started school, he did what a lot of high school graduates do: He joined a humanitarian mission to help people less fortunate than him.

His choice of charities was fatal.

“He was not a political activist,” said his father Ahmet Doğan. “He was just a volunteer, a humanitarian who wanted to help people. He wanted to study to be a doctor, an eye doctor.”

Furkan was killed during the Memorial Day raid by Israeli armed forces on the Turkish [ship] Mavi Marmara, which was attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza and, according to flotilla organizers, deliver humanitarian supplies to the embattled region. When the Israelis boarded the boat from the air and by motor boat, fighting broke out, and Doğan was shot multiple times in the head and chest, according to an Anatolian news agency.

Israeli government officials claim that their soldiers were ambushed not by peace activists, but by people ready for a fight. “This was not a love boat, but a hate boat,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In June 9 interview on "The Colbert Report," Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said, “The people on this particular boat were 70 hired thugs from a radical Islamic organization.”

But, for the Doğan family and their friends, these characterizations don’t match the man they knew. Furkan was not a paid member of the The Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the aid group which helped organize the flotilla.

Doğan was chosen by IHH after entering an online lottery to serve as a volunteer on the Mavi Marmara. Nine other residents of Doğan's hometown Kayseri, Turkey, joined him.

Doğan attended one of Turkey’s competitive “science high schools” where students prepare for careers in medicine, engineering, and other sciences. He was an honor student and recently completed college entrance exams where he placed high enough to enter any school of his choosing.

Furkan took the exam as a foreigner because he was born in Troy, N.Y. in 1991 while his father studied at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Furkan is a citizen of both the U.S. and Turkey. [There are conflicting reports as to whether he had dual citizenship, but there seems to be no doubt that he was a U.S. citizen, having been born in the U.S.]

“He was thinking he’d like to go to America for university, and was looking forward to going back to Troy to see his homeland and improve his [English] language skills,” said his father, Ahmet.

In 1993, Doğan’s father brought his family back to Kayseri, where he teaches economics as an associate professor.

Seniye Vural, an English literature professor and family friend said that Furkan’s father was often helping students, particularly a theater group in the economics faculty. Vural dismissed the idea that Furkan could have learned any radical theologies at home.

“I’ve never seen him [Ahmet Doğan] as an activist,” said Vural.

In fact, Doğan, like his son, looked positively on his time in the U.S.

“I had a great impression of America,” he said, “I was especially impressed with how Americans were so sensitive to issues of human rights and individual freedom.”

The family said their son went on the Mavi Marmara with those issues in mind, and wanted to take the opportunity to help people he saw as suffering. He joined the 600 people on the Mavi Marmara with his American passport in hand believing that it would be the best protection.

“Furkan thought that his American citizenship, his American passport, would protect him,” said his father.

The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, James Jeffery, reportedly spoke to Ahmet by phone in early June, promising Furkan’s father he would find out what happened on the Mavi Marmara. The U.S. State Department has not asked for an independent investigation.

On June 1, U.S. President Barack Obama said he supports “a credible, impartial and transparent investigation of the facts.”

Meanwhile, the Doğan family continues to mourn the loss of their youngest son. Ahmet says his son died a martyr doing God’s work, and at the funeral on June 4, thousands of residents in Kayseri came out waving signs supporting that idea.

“We want to show the world that he was innocent, that he lived a life of dignity,” repeated his father. “We also want his life to be dedicated to humanity’s purposes."

Kayseri plans to name a street after Furkan, and his high school is dedicating the gymnasium to him. A creative writing professor plans to write a book, play, or movie about Furkan, while another group hopes to establish a cultural center named after him.

Here is another account by a journalist who has been able to speak to Furkan's family:

This is what I have learned so far from Furkan’s father. We did not talk about how he was killed yet. He just isn’t ready to talk about that yet, and I’m not ready to ask.

The pronunciation of his name is: Furkan - ‘fur’ ‘kahn’ Doğan - ‘doe’ (like the baby deer) ‘ahn’ – the ‘g’ is silent.

This is hard for me to write so if my text is a little disorganized please forgive me.

Furkan was 18 years old. In Turkey ages are given as the year you are in, not the years you have completed, so in Turkey his age was given as 19.

How did Furkan end up on the Mavi Marmara?

Furkan saw some posters in Kayseri giving information about the flotilla about a month before it sailed. He went to the office which was indicated on the posters and talked to the people there. He asked them if he could go and they said it was possible but he should think about it carefully and talk with his family first before he made his final decision.

He talked with his family, mostly his father, and they discussed it. Furkan’s father wasn’t very enthusiastic about it at first but Furkan convinced him. He told his father that he had finished high school, taken his university exam and Furkan also told his father that he felt a lot of sympathy towards the people who were in Gaza.

Furkan was a friendly, well-mannered, intelligent young man and he was also very helpful. He was a good student and he often helped his classmates with their lessons, and he wanted to be a doctor.

His father finally agreed.

Furkan and his father also discussed the difficulties that Furkan might experience on the trip. His father wanted him to be aware of what might happen. They talked about possibly being imprisoned, and possibly being treated badly if he was. Furkan understood and accepted that these things might happen.

The biggest problem they expected was that he might be detained for some time, so Furkan completed his university application papers so that his father could submit them if Furkan came back late.

The possibility that Furkan could be killed never came up.

On the Mavi Marmara Furkan made friends with some of the other passengers and they all said he was happy, friendly and well-liked. He helped out in one of the snack bars on the ship.

Furkan was a U.S. citizen. He did not have Turkish citizenship. He could have taken Turkish citizenship at any time after he turned 18 but he had not done so.

When Furkan boarded the Mavi Marmara in Antalya he didn’t have his Turkish Residency Permit with him. The Passport Police told him that this would be a problem. Furkan called his father and asked him to fax a copy to him. One last time his father asked him if he was sure about going and Furkan said he was, so his father sent the fax.

How did his family learn that Furkan had been killed?

After the Mavi Marmara was boarded and nine people were reported killed, Furkan’s father contacted the Turkish government and the U.S. government to try to get information about Furkan. No one could tell him anything. Then when the lists of detainees, injured and killed were released Furkan’s name wasn’t on any of the lists. Furkan’s father then heard that the detainees, injured and dead were being flown to Istanbul so he went to Istanbul hoping to see his son getting off one of these flights. He waited and looked and waited and looked. But Furkan was not on any of the flights.

Then he was told that three Americans had been held in Israel and not allowed to board the flights so he asked the U.S. consulate for information but they had none. Finally he was told that there were four bodies in the morgue waiting for identification so maybe he should check there.

He went to the morgue, really not expecting to find his son there, but that’s where he finally found him.

What has the U.S. government done for him?

One consular official called him once and offered condolences on behalf of the U.S. government, and two days ago the Ambassador called and requested copies of Furkan’s autopsy report and death certificate. He also said these would be checked by the Department of Justice, who would then decide if anything needed to be done.

Furkan’s father is very upset that some people and some in the media have been trying to make his son into a terrorist. He thinks is wrong and very unfair. He is also not happy with the U.S. government’s actions.

I explained to Furkan’s father that there were many people who would like to express their condolences to him and that there were many people who would like him to know that they think his son was brave and that he did the right thing in trying to help others.

Furkan's father wants me to thank you all.

I will talk to him again soon. There are many things that need to be told but it’s not yet the right time to ask him about some of them.

If you have anything you would like to say or ask please let me know.

Here's another report:

The Israeli website Ynetnews quotes official forensic documents noting that the nine activists were shot a total of 31 times. "The findings make it clear the Israeli forces shot to kill the activists and not to overpower them," said Yasin Divrak, a lawyer for the families.

Dr. John Daly of the International Relations and Security Network conducted another interview with Furkan's father, and writes, "American Teenager Killed on Gaza Flotilla for Holding a Camera."

There are two incontrovertible elements in the event. First, the flotilla was stopped, according to the Israeli navy, 75 miles west of Gaza. The boarding occurred at Latitude 32.64113 N Longitude 33.56727 E in international waters, well outside Israel’s self-proclaimed 20-mile exclusion zone, where it has blocked ships from entering Gazan waters since December 2008.

The second point is that the Israeli Shayetet 13 Naval Special Forces commandos killed eight Turks during the takeover of the Mavi Marmaris, not nine. The ninth victim was an American teenager, 19-year-old Furkan Doğan. Doğan has usually been described in the media as either a Turk or a dual Turkish-American citizen, but in fact carried only an American passport with a Turkish residency stamp. Furkan’s father, Professor Ahmet Doğan, believes that the press is portraying his son as either a dual national or a Turkish citizen in an effort to “cover up” the reality of his son’s death.

He concludes:

Maritime law, which began to be codified in the early 17th century, is the oldest corpus of international law in the world. To abandon it to justify an armed attack on an unarmed vessel in international waters is to invite the law of the jungle to replace it, where might makes right.

As America prides itself as pre-eminently a nation of laws, Washington must realize the future consequences of ignoring such a blatant violation of international law to be whitewashed by a commission composed of perpetrators supporting the attack. Israel’s government has already announced that its commission will not be able to interview members of the Shayetet 13 Naval Special Forces.

If Israel is sincere about getting to the bottom of what happened on 31 May, it can begin by returning the video equipment, cameras and computers aboard the Mavi Marmaris, as well as returning the flotilla vessels.

Given the visual evidence and testimonies of other Americans aboard the Mavi Marmaris, it would seem that the US government’s fundamental responsibility should extend to supporting Turkey’s and other nations’ calls for an international investigation into Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla, to include a complete accounting of the circumstances of the death of American teenager Furkan Doğan, shot five times by Israeli commandos on a civilian ship on the high seas for the crime of holding a camera.

The friends of Furkan Doğan have created a Facebook page in his honor, and a news video has been posted of an interview with Furkan's father recalling the kind of son his boy was. It's in Turkish.

What has Israel's brutality done to the region?

Ankara’s National Security Council names Israel as central threat to Turkey’s security for first time since 1949, fails to mention Iran, Syria.

Turkey’s already tense relations with Israel continued their apparent downward spiral on Saturday as Channel 10 reported that a central Ankara policy paper defined Israel as a central threat to Turkey’s security, blaming Jerusalem’s policies for destabilizing the entire region.

Tensions between Israel and Turkey peaked earlier this year, following a deadly Israeli raid aboard a Turkish aid ship sailing to Gaza in attempt to violate the Israeli naval blockade. On May 31, Israeli navy commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara and killed nine Turkish activists on board after facing violence from the passengers.

The Channel 10 report on Saturday, citing Turkish media outlets, said Turkey’s National Security Council rectified an amendment to Ankara’s central policy paper, nicknamed the “secret constitution,” defining Israel as “a central threat to Turkey.”

“The region’s instability stems from Israeli actions and policy, which could lead to an arms race in the Middle East,” the paper outlining Turkey’s foreign and home policy for the next five years said, adding that those actions posed “a major threat on Turkey.”

Channel 10 also said Turkish media dubbed the amendment “historic,” as it represented the first time Israel had been seen as a threat on Turkey since 1949. The document fails to mention Iran or Syria as outside threats, apparently as a result of Ankara’s recently improved relations with both states.

Earlier this month Haaretz quoted Turkish reports as expecting that, for the first time since the Cold War, Turkey to remove Iran, Iraq, Russia, and Greece from their list of “threatening countries.”

The reports claimed that such a move would directly affect Turkey’s foreign policy, as laid out by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoğlu, whose goal is to rid Turkey of any problems with its neighbors.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (notice the similarity of his last name to Doğan's) reiterated his demand that Israel apologize for its May attack on the Gaza flotilla, saying “Israel must apologize to Turkey and pay compensation for the state terrorism in the Mediterranean.”

“If it does not, it will be doomed to remain isolated in the Middle East,” Erdoğan added.

The Turkish premier also criticized the United States for continuing to support Israel after the “uncivilized” attack during a recent state visit to Pakistan.

“Nine Turkish martyrs on the ship received 21 bullets from Israeli soldiers in their bodies, we provided post mortem reports and even the pictures to the EU and U.S. but Washington is not ready to condemn the state terrorism of Israel against Turkey which means that the U.S. is supporting an international terrorist who killed our citizens in international waters,” Erdoğan said. (Not to mention one of its own citizens.)

Source: Haaretz

Here's yet another report, this one by Paul Jay, writing for Huffington Post:

... during my recent visit to Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut and the West Bank, I often heard, "it's not the Jews, the enemy is the occupation." Most Palestinians are aware of the Jewish activists who put their bodies and lives on the line in solidarity with their struggle. I heard strong critiques of tactics that target Israeli civilians. There is a growing civil rights movement amongst Palestinians whose objective is to live equally with Jews in one state. Many people see the struggle against elites, including their own.

Of course, in the West Bank, one can find vicious angry words against "the Jews". But I have never experienced anything like the hatred and profound systemic and mainstream racism that I found in Israel. I can only imagine this must be what it used to be like in the American South or in the early '30s in Germany. From a foreign minister who can openly talk about expelling citizens of his own country based on their ethnic origin; to the widespread acceptance of civilian deaths in Gaza and Lebanon—far too many Israeli Jews have internalized the language of 'Palestinian hatred'. I guess decades of occupation and war does that to a people.

When a Jew can pick up the paper and read that Furkan Doğan, a 19-year-old Turkish-American on a ship loaded with food was shot at close range by an Israeli commando four times in the head and once in the chest and believe this boy was an al-Qaeda terrorist and so it's all justified (a claim the Israeli army had to withdraw); that it's okay to turn Gaza into a ghetto where the object is to make the population's life miserable so to better bring down a political enemy; that illegal settlements and the occupation of another people's land is justified because 'they're terrorists who hate us' which makes them less human than we are—then the process of dehumanizing 'the other' has gone far beyond the pale.

Here's another report about the execution of Furkan Doğan:

Israeli Disinformation Challenged:
New Smuggled Clip Shows IDF Commandos Kicking and Apparently Shooting Victim
Saturday, 06/12/2010
by Dave Lindorff

The false narrative initially put out by the Israeli government of hapless IDF commandos severely threatened by hardened "terrorists" on the Mavi Marmara has fallen apart, amid revelations of doctored photos, dubbed voices and other deceptions and the patent absurdity of the claim that the commandos had boarded the ship armed only with "paint guns" and low-caliber pistols. Now the Big Lie stands further exposed, thanks to a smuggled-out video showing IDF commandos kicking a prone, helpless victim and then apparently executing him with semi-automatic rifle fire at almost point-blank range.

This smuggled video, showing IDF commandos brutally kicking their captive, who is clearly posing no threat to them, and then firing four shots downward, shows these commandos were on the ship with intent to kill and injure, and that is what they did. They were certainly not kicking and shooting here to protect their lives. This looks more like a Rodney King moment than self-defense.

Update: My colleague Linn Washington, who is knowledgeable about firearms, says that the gun in the video appears to be a pump-action Remington 870 shotgun—a potent and lethal firearm used widely by police for "riot control," that could cause the types of wounds found in the Turkish autopsies of victims if fired at close range, and one that is in the Israeli arsenal.

There are claims from Turkish sources that this clip depicts the 19-year-old American-born Furkan Doğan being executed. Doğan's autopsy showed he was shot four times in the face, and at least once in the back.

IDF defenders are claiming that the video doesn't actually show the victim, but unless you think the first commando is kicking soccer goals on the deck, and the shooter is firing at the deck for sport, there can be no doubt that the target of both acts of violence is being first pummeled with kicks, and then peppered with bullets.

So far, the President Obama and the White House and State Department have made no condemnation of Israel's illegal and murderous attack in international waters on a civilian ship flying the flag of a NATO ally.

This video is, for me, reminiscent of the video from the Tet Offensive in the 1968 in the Vietnam War, which showed a South Vietnamese officer executing a captured Viet Cong fighter with a pistol shot to the head, and also of the 1979 video of a soldier in the army of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza executing the ABC newsman Bill Stewart (which came across a monitor in a local ABC newsroom I happened to be visiting in rural North Carolina, causing absolute pandemonium and outrage).

Both those earlier videos of military atrocities by soldiers for regimes backed by the US significantly turned American public opinion against the US puppet regimes and the wars they were fighting. Hopefully this latest video of another atrocity by a client regime's stormtroopers will have the same effect.

To help make sure that happens, send this page link to your local newspaper editor and to your local TV news stations, and demand that they air this video. No more censorship of this story! And by the way, kudos to Counterpunch, to, to Smirking Chimp and to Public Record for having the guts to run this story and the link when most other alternative and progressive sites have been afraid to, or have pulled it when attacked.

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