The Turkish Relief Fund (IHH)
The İnsani Yardım Vakfı, the Turkish Relief Fund (IHH) has become increasingly active in delivering aid to Gaza. It played a major role in the Viva Palestine aid convoy that attempted to break the siege on Gaza from Egypt in January 2010, and is now contributing four out of nine vessels for the Freedom Flotilla including a passenger ship that will carry 500 of the 800 people going to Gaza.
The IHH was founded in 1995 by a group of inidividual human rights workers who became active in the aftermath of the Bosnian war. Since then it has expanded to working in more than 80 countries. While its work is primarily in Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the IHH also operates in South America and South East Asia. In Gaza alone, the IHH has delivered $24 million worth of aid between 2005 and 2009.
Israel has declared the IHH illegal, the reasons for which are unknown but are speculated to be due to the organization’s dealings with Hamas in delivering aid to Gaza. Hamas rules the Gaza strip and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel. Its representative in the West Bank, Izzet Shahin, was arrested in April this year and deported in mid-May for belonging to the group. The group believes the arrest was a tactic by Israel to intimidate it before it sails for Gaza.
Free Gaza Movement
The Free Gaza Movement (FGM) is part of the flotilla of nine ships that are sailing to Gaza to break Israel’s naval blockade. The movement was the first to attempt it. Participation on the flotilla will be its ninth attempt to break the blockade.
The FGM is a Cyprus based organisation that was formed by a coalition of human rights organisations to bring attention to the Israeli blockade of Gaza since Hamas took control of the territory in 2007.
The first sail, organised by the FGM and the International Solidarity Movement, was organised in August 2008. There were seven subsequent attempts, four successful ones and three unsuccessful, since Israel declared a naval blockade of Gaza in January 2009.
It has received endorsement from a number of prominent personalities and organisations including Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd Session of the UN General Assembly, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, and academics Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein.
Leaders support for the project
“if Israel tries to stop the ships, we will sue her in European courts.” Josef Zisyadis: member of Swiss parliament
“We believe that Israel will not intercept these vessels because the sea is open, and human rights organizations have been successful in similar previous operations proving that breaking the siege of Gaza is possible.” John Ging, Secretary-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
“Irish passport holders (must) be treated respectfully and be allowed complete their mission (to Gaza). It is the least we should be insisting on, given the gross abuse of Irish passports by Israeli agents in recent times.” Senator Mark Dearey, Irish Green Party spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Defence
“Breaking the oppressive siege on the Gaza Strip... is at the top of Turkey’s list of priorities.” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey