Women speak about attack on Gaza aid convoy

Sarah Colborne at a recent rally

Sarah Colborne at a recent rally

Following Monday's attack on the aid convoy to Gaza which left at least nine people dead and dozens injured,  all the surviving men, women and children on the boats were arrested and jailed. The Israelis reported that the boats had been carrying weapons and posed a threat to Israel's security. Most of the activists have been released now and are beginning to tell their side of the story.

They all claim that no one on the boat was armed. Speaking at Istanbul Airport, this morning, Paveen Yaqub from Manchester,  said she was  kicked and abused by two Israeli policemen when they boarded the Mavi Marmara. "They were kicking my legs to make me fall and mocking me in Hebrew," she said. "They were trying to take trophy pictures with me and they liked laughing in my face. They took pleasure in humiliating us."

Visibly shaken and holding back tears, she said: "We were terrorized for the last few days by the Israeli authorities. It was an insane situation. I'm exhausted. I haven't slept for days."

Sarah Colborne, from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, witnessed several unarmed people being shot. She said: "We had no weapons. We were on a peaceful humanitarian mission. We knew there might be problems with the Israelis because of the way they treated previous convoys in the past and because of the way they treat the Palestinian people.

"We never considered that they would murder so many people on a humanitarian mission. It was very clear there was no way we could have been carrying weapons on board. Yet we were attacked with live gunfire."

A spokeswoman for the Turkish aid agency IHH, (The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief) said:

"First and foremost, these ships did not set sails against Israel or any other country. These ships set sail to bring humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza who are suffering under a very heavy embargo."

She explained that IHH is member of United Nations 'Social and Economic Councils' at consultant status. "IHH is an NGO that has made its mission to help people that have been deprived or victimized in many countries for past 15 years without any distinction of colour, caste, creed, religion, race or geography."

Alongside Oxfam, CAFOD and other agencies, IHH provided emergency relief after the Haiti earthquake. It runs health, relief, education and water projects in 120 countries including east and west Africa,  Bosnia,  Palestine, Vietnam USA, Afghanistan, Haiti, Greece and Georgia.

She said: "As if murdering our workers in cold blood was not enough,  just after this distressing incident, all our websites were attacked so that actual information flow to the public was blocked.

Turkey society has a long history of fighting injustice, she explained. "500 years ago our people helped Sephardic Jews from extinction". During WWII  Turkish consulates in Europe offered a sanctuary for victims of Nazis.

She concluded that the IHH aid effort has no affiliation with any Palestinian political or official group.  "This is not a political but a humanitarian effort. World public opinion can get true information from our official web site at: www.ihh.org.tr "

Israeli Prime Minister Netenyahu said: "These people are terrorists. We have to protect ourselves from them."

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