Gaza aid ship survivor recalls being shot at by Israeli navy 14 years on

-Credit: (Image: Palestine Solidarity Campaign./PA Wire)
-Credit: (Image: Palestine Solidarity Campaign./PA Wire)


A Bristol man who was onboard a Gaza aid convoy boat that was attacked has spoken of his experience 14 years on. Sakir Yildrim, from Fishponds, was narrowly missed by the Israeli navy’s bullets, when on board the Mavi Marmara when it was attacked in May, 2010.

Mr Yildrim saw a friend get shot in the forehead during the brutal attack which left 10 dead and more than 50 people injured. To mark the 14th anniversary of the horrific event, he spoke to a crowd at a Gaza rally held at College Green.

While sailing in international waters Mr Yildrim and others on the ship spotted an Israeli navy helicopter at around 11pm and were followed until the early hours of the morning. “The Israeli navy started shooting at the boat and passengers from all sides.

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“You can imagine it was a terrifying experience and a terrible injustice. I still have dreams about it. The boat was seized and we were robbed of everything - passports, credit cards, money, we had some computers. There was a friend of mine and they had taken all his credit cards and they spent some money in Tel Aviv on electronic goods,” Mr Yildrim recalled.

Hasina Khan, also part of the Bristol-Gaza link group, remembers that week 14 years ago with horror. She and others from Bristol who had helped to organise the aid, lost all contact with those on board the ship and at one point did not know if their two friends who had travelled from Bristol were dead or alive.

Hasina said: “I was involved in the Bristol contingent of the Mavi Marmara, there were probably around five of us involved. We actually had a massive board with a hundred squares on it at the time and our campaign was to fundraise for a hundred bags of cement to rebuild Gaza.

“When people donated they signed a square and it was an amazing response from the people of Bristol, as usual. But that all got confiscated along with everything else when Israel attacked the ship.

“It was being live streamed at the time but then it just completely cut out and then we heard on the news that the ship had been attacked by the Israeli navy. It was quite big news in Bristol at the time, I remember doing several radio interviews about it.

“That was probably one of the worst weeks ever because the two people from Bristol, we did not know if they were alive. I just kept ringing and ringing them. It was just horrific, their witness statements were awful when they got back.”

Speaking to the Bristol Post from his hotel room in Turkey in June 2010, Mr Yildrim said: “We had seen a ship at about 10pm, I woke up at 4am and it was getting closer. I went upstairs and there were warships and smaller boats surrounding us, two submarines and helicopters coming from all sides.

“The helicopters came down and I saw the lasers from the gun sights. I hid quickly. They killed the guy next to me, blew his brain out. I tried to go downstairs to warn people and I saw about three or four other people killed. They made us sit or kneel on the deck.

“They kept going up and down, they sprayed us with water and then the wind was freezing.I was thinking ‘I wish I could die and get it over with’. We were then taken to jail. The conditions were awful.”

Mr Yildirim went on to say he had been robbed of everything and all he had left were the clothes on his back. He had been put up in a hotel by the Turkish government and stayed in the country to attend the funerals of those who had been killed on Mavi Marmara.

Following the permanent Israeli blockade on Gaza which began in 2007, restricting the flow of essential goods into the Gaza strip, a group called Bristol-Gaza link was formed to help deliver aid to those in Gaza. Those who held a regular peace vigil for Gaza wanted to do something practical to help and Mr Yildrim drove a 40 tonne aid truck painted with a Wallace and Gromit illustration filled with donations from members of the public, Southmead hospital and the British Red Cross.

After having some difficulties at the Egyptian border the 40-tonne truck packed with aid made it to Gaza on What was Mr Yildrim’s second trip having driven an ambulance he purchased to the Al Shifa hospital back in 2008. But in 2010 they decided to take the aid by boat instead due to others being prevented from entering Gaza via Egypt.