Istanbul has a very large waterfront, perhaps the city with the largest waterfront in the world. (I don’t know, but I can’t think of another one.)
The city sits on both sides of the Bosphorus Strait connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
This waterfront is both a blessing and a curse.
Historically it opened up the city to foreign trade and commerce. As a result, Istanbul is truly a bustling, cosmopolitan city today. Prime Minister Erdogan and President Obama mentioned last week in the press conference at the White House that they want to increase trade between our two countries.
But this waterfront also left the city vulnerable. Many battles were waged to gain control over this strategic spot highlighting the city’s violent history. The great forts and thick walls are still visible today.
A battle of another sort occurred three years ago (May 31, 2010) onboard a Turkish ship called the Mavi Marmara. Along with 5 other ships, the passengers on the Mavi Marmara attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza to bring humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.
The Mavi Marmara
Nine Turkish citizens (one with dual US citizenship) were killed that night by Israeli commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara in international waters to prevent the ship from reaching Gaza. [Under any other circumstances, their actions would have been considered an act of piracy!]
“Midnight on the Mavi Marmara” edited by Moustafa Bayoumi, is a good resource for those interested in learning more. And this video (one hour) is also a good resource. The Israeli commandos board the ship about 35-40 minutes into the video.
Understandably, there was international outrage over Israel’s actions on the Mavi Marmara. Turkey threatened to break off diplomatic relations with Israel and demanded an apology.
Three years later, after Secretary of State John Kerry expressed sympathy for the families of the victims of the Mavi Marmara, comparing the violence on the Mavi Marmara with the violence at the Boston Marathon, he was criticized by Israeli politicians.
Asked about the recent thawing of relations between Israel and Turkey, Kerry said of the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010, “I know it’s an emotional issue with some people. I particularly say to the families of people who were lost in the incident, we understand these tragedies completely and we sympathize with them. And nobody — I mean, I have just been through the week of Boston and I have deep feelings for what happens when you have violence and something happens and you lose people that are near and dear to you. It affects a community, it affects a country. We’re very sensitive to that.”
On May 17th, Kerry met with Ahmet Doğan, whose son Furkan Doğan was one of the Mavi Marmara victims. Reportedly, he handed a note to Kerry for President Obama.
I have no idea what this father might have written but I hope he asked Obama to do everything in his power to hold Israel accountable for the death of his son. So long as the Israeli Occupation Forces can act with impunity, no one is safe.
Furkan Doğan, Turkish-American citizen, was the youngest victim on the Mavi Marmara (May 31, 2010)