All-female flotilla members aim to break Gaza blockade

Flotilla carrying women only sails off to Gaza Strip to end Israeli siege

All-female flotilla members aim to break Gaza blockade

World Bulletin / News Desk

Six years have passed since Turkish activist Cigdem Topcuoglu lost her husband during an Israeli raid on a flotilla bound for Gaza, but this hasn’t stopped her from trying to break the almost 10-year old blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Topcuoglu is one of numerous other all-women passengers aboard the "Women's boat to Gaza" which would sail off to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday from Messina, Italy.

"Women's boat to Gaza" is among four flotillas of the international Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC), which is a grassroots people-to-people solidarity movement supported by the NGOs from all over the world.

"Here, there are people from different religions and different nations. The group here is like the one in Mavi Marmara," Topcuoglu said, referring to the Turkish flotilla that was raided by Israeli commandos in 2010.

"The only difference is our male friends and brothers are not here now. I have been welcomed with a great attention here," she said.

Topcuoglu said that, in the six years since the Mavi Marmara incident, the siege of Gaza has continued unabated. 

"I believe that this cause will continue as long as the women stand in solidarity. The Palestine cause will go on. Palestine cause is not just a foodstuff struggle. I want to underline this; it is for the sake of humanity, which has to be supported by all the people," she added.

Retired US Army Colonel Ann Wright, who was also a passenger on Mavi Marmara, is also aboard the "Women's boat to Gaza".

"People are very committed to breaking the Israeli blockade Gaza that has infected so terrible on the people of Gaza," said Wright, who resigned from the U.S. government in March 2003 when she opposed the war in Iraq.

"I, as an American citizen, am committed to challenging policies of the United States which protect Israel and neglects Palestinians," she added.

Message to Israel 

As soon as she joined the all-women freedom flotilla, Topcuoglu said she shared her experience and her memories with her mates. 

"We, the women, are not violent, we are all peaceful people. Everything will be okay if nobody prevents us. If Israel acts wisely, it needs to allow us there. It [Israel] needs to allow this flotilla," Topcuoglu said.

Wright said she anticipated the Israeli soldiers would stop the boat but that "they will not hurt any of the women".

"We will be saying, as women, as mothers any of these young soldiers, that there is no need to hurt us. We are challenging the policies of your state," Wright added.

The Zaytouna-Oliva boat, part of the Women’s Boat to Gaza (WBG) mission, left Barcelona last Wednesday and reached Corsica’s capital, Ajaccio, early Monday morning, carrying women from nine countries across five continents.

Meanwhile, its sister boat Amal-Hope was forced to sail back to Barcelona because of mechanical problems.

“Based on a professional assessment, she [Amal-Hope boat] will not be in condition to follow Zaytouna-Oliva,” the organizers said on their website, adding that they “are actively pursuing a new ship and are launching a campaign to defray this additional cost.”

The new boat, "Felix", Wright said, would sail instead of Amal boat on Tuesday and is expected to reach the Gaza Strip in the first week of October.

In June 2015, Israeli forces captured the "Marianne" - a Gaza-bound aid ship similar to the Mavi Marmara - and arrested activists on board.

In 2010, Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara -- a Turkish aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip -- in international waters. 

The attack on the six civilian vessels, which had been trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, resulted in the death of nine Turkish citizens and left another 30 injured, one of whom later succumbed to his injuries.

Blockaded by Israel – by air, land and sea – since 2007, the Gaza Strip has seven border crossings linking it to the outside world. Six of these are controlled by Israel, while the seventh – the Rafah crossing – is controlled by Egypt, which keeps it tightly sealed for the most part.

Israel sealed four of its commercial crossings with Gaza in June 2007 after Palestinian resistance movement Hamas wrested control of the strip from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

As it currently stands, the Israeli authorities allow the Kerem Shalom crossing – which links Gaza to both Israel and Egypt – to operate for commercial purposes.

The Gaza-Israel Erez crossing, meanwhile, is generally devoted to the movement of individuals between the blockaded Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Eylül 2016, 10:06