On the first anniversary of Israel’s deadly attack on the Gaza-bound aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, we feature an interview with Ahmet Dogan, the father of Turkish-American Furkan Dogan, the youngest of nine activists killed in the raid.
Furkan Dogan was born in Troy, New York, and moved to Turkey when he was two years old. An autopsy showed that on May 31, 2010, he was shot at close range, once in the chest and four times in the head.
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AMY GOODMAN: The father of an 18-year-old American citizen killed in an Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year is in the United States to call for an investigation into his son’s killing. Furkan Dogan was the youngest victim of Israel’s deadly May 31st raid on the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the six-boat flotilla. Turkish autopsy reports revealed he was shot five times at close range by Israeli commandos. Eight other Turkish nationals were also killed in the attack. Last month, an Israeli inquiry absolved the government and military of any wrongdoing in the raid.
Furkan Dogan was an American citizen of Turkish origin. He was born in 1991, not far from here, in upstate New York, in Troy. His father, Ahmet Dogan, had come to the area from Turkey to study accounting at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, RPI. The family returned to Turkey in 1993.
This week, Ahmet Dogan arrived in Washington in an attempt to convince U.S. officials to open an investigation into his son’s death. He arrived in New York last night and joins us here in our studio. We’re also joined by his lawyer, Ugur Sevgili, who will help with translation.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ahmet Dogan.
AHMET DOGAN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: My condolences on the death of your son.
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] Thank you very much for giving us your precious time.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about Furkan. How old was Furkan? How did he end up on the Mavi Marmara?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] He was graduated from the high school, while he was 18. Prior to his graduation, he found out that he received some — he was following the news about the situation, the horrible situation, in Gaza, so he was deeply interested. And one day, he saw the billboard, in the city of Kayseri, advertising the flotilla campaign. So he applied online; he made an applied application via internet. But indeed, prior to this campaign, his initial plan was to come to U.S. to visit the place he was born and to take language courses in Chicago. So, the Gaza flotilla was not in his mind.
AMY GOODMAN: How old was your son when he was killed?
AHMET DOGAN: In American style, he was 18. But we, in Turkey, we call it 19.
AMY GOODMAN: Your son was born here.
AHMET DOGAN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: When did you move back to Turkey.
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] As soon as I received an MBA degree in 1993, we returned. I and the whole family returned to Turkey. At that time, Furkan was two years old.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did he get interested in the Israel-Palestine conflict? Why did he want to go on the Mavi Marmara?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] Furkan was the kind of boy having a huge heart, and he was very generous and always trying to help to the people that are in need. In his last two, three years, Furkan indeed already had some interest on the horrible situation in Gaza, especially. He was collecting news, op-eds, photos, video clips, through internet, about the horrible situation — humanitarian situation, poverty situation — in Gaza. And his idea was he always wanted to help to the people there, especially to the children. He was always telling myself that one day he will go and bring toys and documents, notebooks, books and food to those people, to the children, with his own hands.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahmet Dogan, what was your response, as his father, when he said he would go on this aid flotilla to Gaza?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] As was said, Furkan did his initial application via internet, and then he came to home, and he asked for our permission. And while he was asking that, he said that his initial idea — he said, “I know that I want to — first, my initial idea was to go to U.S.A., but I changed my mind. There is a flotilla going to Gaza, and I am deeply interested to go there. One can always go to U.S., but one cannot always go to Gaza.” And upon such honorable request and moral positioning, I and my wife were not in a position to reject it. So we allowed him to go.
AMY GOODMAN: So your son went on the Mavi Marmara. What did you then hear? How were you monitoring what was happening, you and your wife?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] We sent our goodbyes to Furkan in the city of Kayseri, where we live, and our last contact with him was in the port of Antalya in the south region of Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. It was night. And that was our last contact, via mobile phone call. And since then, we were just watching the flotilla via online or through live TV news.
AMY GOODMAN: And when did you hear he was killed?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] Obviously we didn’t know that Furkan was dead, and it took us three days to find out that he was dead. In that period of time, I personally had contacted Turkish authorities, minister of foreign affairs of Turkey in Ankara. And I also contacted the U.S. embassy in Ankara, as well as the U.S. consulate in Istanbul. But nobody knew where my child was. Nobody knew what happened to Furkan. So, on the 3rd of June, I was the first one who found out that — who has seen his body in the morgue, among these nine people.
We didn’t know that Furkan was dead, so when I left to the city of Istanbul to welcome my son in the airport, I brought new clothes, clean clothes, for my son, because I thought he had a horrible experience. So I never thought that something happened to him, but I kept on — in this period of time, I kept on calling the authorities. No responses arrived. Then, one morning, next morning, they called me. They told me that there are three unidentified bodies in the morgue, so they told me to check for them. But I still didn’t believe that Furkan was there. I did it as a matter of — I did it just to see, even though I didn’t believe, just to see if he is there. So I went to the morgue. I saw the body.
AMY GOODMAN: What has been the response of the Turkish authorities and of the U.S. government, since he was a U.S. citizen?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] There’s a criminal investigation going on by a Turkish prosecutor within Turkey. But after this date, I am not sure that there is an investigation in relation to the death of my son here in the U.S., so it is for that reason that I am here in U.S., to seek for justice on behalf of my son.
AMY GOODMAN: Did the U.S. embassy, ambassador, in Turkey call you? Did they talk to you about this American citizen who was killed?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] American authorities, the embassy, has learned of the death of my son through myself on the day that I had a live TV press conference to the public audience in Turkey. So I suppose that was the moment that the embassy authorities found out the death of my son. And subsequently, they have contacted me. And in their initial contact, they also stated their condolences for the death of my son.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the Israeli authorities?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] No Israeli authorities, and neither any Israeli citizen, has contacted me for the cause that they did and for the death of my son, unfortunately.
AMY GOODMAN: What are you asking for here in the United States? You’ve come back to Turkey —- is this the first time you’ve returned since you were -—
AHMET DOGAN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — a graduate student at RPI?
AHMET DOGAN: Yes, this is the first time.
AMY GOODMAN: And what are you demanding of the Obama administration?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] My son was killed on international waters in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers. He was first injured by three shots behind his back, and then another soldier came and shot him in the middle of his eyebrows — one here and one in his right nose. He was murdered by Israeli soldiers. Among all other passengers, he was there for humanitarian purposes, not more than that.
So, I want from the Obama administration to seek justice for my son. He’s a U.S. citizen. I want them — I want the committers or perpetrators of this crime to be prosecuted by the U.S. authorities. Not only that, I want the U.S. authorities also to claim compensation. I want U.S. authorities to push Israel to apologize to me and to the other victims of this flotilla incident.
On another note, Furkan, by the time Furkan was — during the incident, Furkan was shooting the incident, all the actions, with his own private video camera. So I want that back. I want the clothes of the moment that Furkan was shot. I want his mobile phone and all other of his personal belongings, especially the camera, the fact that it has a high value of evidence. I want them back, and I want the U.S. authority to push Israeli authorities to bring these — send those things back to us.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you learn exactly what happened to your son? Who told you? Who described the last moments of his life?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] While I was in the morgue, the doctor told me that Furkan was shot in point-blank range, one shot from his eyebrows, in between, and one shot on his right side of his nose. And secondly, the official autopsy report also explained this cause, the situation of death of my son. Thirdly, one of the — there was one of the injured person among these passengers. He also eyewitnessed how my son was murdered. He told me that he was injured — by the time he was injured, the soldiers were pulling the injured body of my son to the corner, and then one other soldier came and shot him in a point-blank range. And there are witnesses. And they also kicked my son while he was lying on the deck.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ahmet Dogan. His 18-year-old son Furkan, a U.S. citizen, was killed by Israeli force in the Gaza flotilla attack on the Mavi Marmara, shot five times, including four times in the head.
His translator is also his lawyer. He is Ugur Sevgili, a Turkish lawyer who’s come here. And Ugur, I was wondering if you can talk. You are representing a number of people on the Mavi Marmara. Talk about this case and what you’re doing here.
UGUR SEVGILI: OK. We represent the whole Turkish victims of the Mavi Marmara, of the Gaza flotilla.
AMY GOODMAN: How many?
UGUR SEVGILI: Approximately 350 Turkish citizens. But on another note, as you know, the Gaza flotilla was composed of mainly international victims, but we only represent the Turkish ones, as well as a Turkish NGO. What we did, we always cooperated with the prosecutor in Turkey. As you know, there’s an ongoing investigation. So we kept on feeding the prosecutor, sending him the evidence that we receive, sharing our thoughts. And I think very soon there will be an indictment in Turkey against the perpetrators of these crimes, most for [inaudible] the officials in Israel. And the case is in relation to universal jurisdiction in Turkey. We, the lawyers of this case, we also brought this international case before the International Criminal Court, under Article 15.3 of the Rome Statute. We want the prosecutor of the ICC, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo, to initiate an investigation and to prosecute the perpetrators of the crime.
AMY GOODMAN: The International Criminal Court.
UGUR SEVGILI: Yeah, International Criminal Court. Our claim, that in that flotilla, that they — that war crimes have been committed. And this claim has also been supported by the report of the United Nations fact-finding mission of the U.N. Human Rights Council. In parentheses, it was the report which was only objected by the U.S. government.
And after this, we also came to U.S. to represent our client here. In the last — since last Saturday we have been here in the U.S., and we have visited many officials, indeed, in Washington. They were very kind. They were deeply interested in our case, and they listened to us very carefully. But none of them told us whether there is an ongoing investigation or not. So we are not really sure what is happening behind the scenes.
But the picture that I have, that we have, is that the State Department is waiting the outcome of the — the result of the U.N. by U.N. panel of inquiry. And the DOJ, Department of Justice, is waiting the result of the investigation in Turkey, the criminal investigation in Turkey. So, maybe after these finals started on both sides, the U.S. will take some steps.
AMY GOODMAN: Has the Prime Minister, Erdogan, taken a stand?
UGUR SEVGILI: Yeah, definitely. He kept on calling him in person. He visited him.
AMY GOODMAN: You met with the Prime Minister of Turkey?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] He personally visited us at our home for condolences.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you met the Corrie family, Rachel’s parents? Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer on March 16, 2003. She was crushed to death as she was defending a Palestinian family’s home from being bulldozed.
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] Approximately two weeks ago, they came to Istanbul. They were invited by a theater organization in Istanbul. There was a performance in Turkey dedicated for Rachel Corrie, so they were the special invitees. So I was also invited to that meeting, to that event. So we had a chance to meet each other, and we discussed for hours and hours about the incident of both children.
AMY GOODMAN: And what did you take away from that? Was your wife there also?
AHMET DOGAN: No.
AMY GOODMAN: Just you.
AHMET DOGAN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you have other children?
AHMET DOGAN: Yes, I have one daughter and one son.
AMY GOODMAN: How old is she?
AHMET DOGAN: Twenty-seven. My son is 23. Furkan was the youngest one.
AMY GOODMAN: And what effect has this had on them?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] No words can reflect their feeling.
AMY GOODMAN: And on your wife?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] She is doing fine.
AMY GOODMAN: You come here at a very unusual time, at a time of major upheaval in the Middle East, popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen. What are your thoughts?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] I always knew that the Gaza flotilla incident is a turning point of the horrible situation in the Middle East. It has a widespread effect. But I wasn’t expecting that the outcome of the flotilla incident would be that much quick. Especially, I was expecting something will happen in Egypt, the fact I knew that the people in Egypt were not happy with the political relation between the Israel-Gaza situation and Egypt. The people want to help the people in Gaza. The Egyptians want to help in Gaza, to the Gazan people. But because of the authoritative regime there, they could not. But today, because of the death of my son, because of what happened on Mavi Marmara, the whole Middle East — people in the Middle East are rising, fighting for their own freedom. And I support them by heart.
AMY GOODMAN: And as you leave the United States, what thoughts would you like to leave Americans with? What message do you have?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] My son was murdered. The way he was murdered is unacceptable. It was unhuman. No justice system can accept that. And besides, he’s an American citizen.
What happened to my son was obvious. The crime was obvious. So what I want the people in here, in U.S., is to seek justice on behalf of my son, to make pressure to the authorities, to political institutions here in U.S., to send letters, to do PR activities, and to push the Congress members, House of Representatives, to take action. But unfortunately, up to this day, no action has taken by the U.S. authorities.
Unfortunately, I see that the news, on the U.S. news, the situation on Mavi Marmara, what happened on Mavi Marmara vessel, what happened to my son, is not shown, is limited. Somehow, I have a feeling like it is being covered by the major press organizations. So I want the U.S. people to push these press organizations and to show it more.
So, it is for that reason that I highly appreciate for your invitation, and I thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: There is a ship of Jewish Americans that will go, like the Mavi Marmara, to challenge, an aid flotilla to Gaza that is leaving in the next months. What are your thoughts about this group?
AHMET DOGAN: [translated] After the Mavi Marmara incident, the blockade on Gaza is a bit softened, but there is still a blockade there. So such activities, such humanitarian aid campaigns to Gaza, is very important, because the outcome — there is no final — there is still blockade there. So, we have to lift the blockade there. And it is for that reason I am very happy that there are campaigns going on from U.S., especially from the U.S. and the Jews together. And they are really fighting for that, and I support them by heart.
I wish Furkan would be here. And I am sure if he would be here, he definitely will attend those campaign, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much.
AHMET DOGAN: Thank you.