Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Barack Obama hold press conference at the White House May 16, 2013 (Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan allegedly invited a special personal guest to accompany him on his visit to the U.S. this week.
According to Turkish media, the father of one of the radical Islamist activists killed in Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara in 2010 (the Gaza flotilla) was included as an invited guest in the prime minister’s delegation in the hopes he might be able to meet President Barack Obama.
Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old with both Turkish and U.S. citizenship, joined the Gaza flotilla where he expressed his desire for “martyrdom.” His father now wants the U.S. government to sue Israel over the raid in which the IDF says its forces were defending themselves from what appeared to them to be an organized attack launched by passengers armed with knives and metal bars as the commandos boarded the ship.
Today’s Zaman reports:
Ahmet Dogan, who asked Erdogan to deliver a letter to US President Barack Obama, joined Erdogan’s delegation upon a request by the Turkish prime minister.
Dogan said Erdogan told him: “I can give this letter [to him], but it is better if you give the letter to him yourself. I will include you among the members of the official delegation.” Dogan also said the prime minister told him he should meet with Obama if they can arrange an appointment with him. The victim’s father said he described Furkan and wrote about his son’s life in the letter.
It’s unknown if the father’s letter was delivered to Obama or if he actually met the President during the trip. That the radical activist’s father was with the prime minister’s entourage was not addressed during the joint Obama-Erdogan press conference Thursday or at the White House or State Department briefings of the past few days.
Furkan Dogan, along with eight Turkish activists, was killed in a battle with Israeli commandos who boarded the ship to enforce the naval blockade on Gaza, instituted after Palestinian terrorists were caught smuggling heavy weapons to the territory by ship.
Flotilla organizers claimed they were on a humanitarian mission, but an Israeli think tank reported that seven of the nine passengers killed had professed a desire to die as “martyrs” before the boat set sail to Gaza. Radical Muslim terrorists and their supporters often glorify the idea of martyrdom for Allah, achieved via jihad.
The Jerusalem Post cited the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center which reported a month after the raid that eight of the nine passengers killed were members of the IHH, a Turkish group that calls itself humanitarian but which the Israeli government along with some U.S. and European lawmakers characterize as radical Islamist in nature. The State Department has not included the IHH on its list of terrorist groups.
According to the Israeli think tank report, a Turkish newspaper printed this quote from 19-year-old Furqan Dogan’s diary, in which he said he wanted to be a martyr, providing strong evidence his intentions were not peaceful: “These are the last hours before I join the sweet experience of being a shahid (martyr). Is there anything more beautiful than this?”
On his visit to Israel in March, President Obama convinced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to issue an apology to Turkey for the killing of the flotilla activists and to offer financial compensation for those killed. In exchange, Turkey was supposed to promise to drop any legal suits against the Israeli servicemen involved.
Ever since the apology, Turkey has appeared to backtrack on the deal personally brokered by Obama. Earlier this week, lawyers for the Turks killed filed a complaint against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. That venue is chosen when parties seek investigations of war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.
Officially, the suit was referred to the court by Comoros, a small African country in which the Mavi Marmara was registered. Michael Rubin of Commentary Magazine suggests Erdogan wants “plausible deniability,” that it’s not the Turkish government filing the suit in defiance of Obama’s request.
Rubin reveals that the law firm behind the ICC filing employs one principal who is “a long-time AKP party [Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party] activist and the other has been intimately involved in the IHH.” Rubin writes:
Anyone who believes that Erdogan seeks to bury that hatchet more than rub salt into the wounds of the last two years needs only to consider the special guest whom he has had join his delegation.[…]
It is actually quite amazing: Erdogan has endorsed an Al Qaeda financier, embraced not only Hamas but the most militant faction within that terrorist organization, defended the Sudanese leader against charges of genocide, and has been the largest leak in multilateral efforts to sanction Iran. And yet, Obama will not only welcome him to the White House with the highest honors, but help fulfill the Turkish premier’s blatant desire to use the White House as the backdrop to follow through on his pledge to bash Israel at every opportunity.
Erdogan has already rejected a personal request from Secretary of State John Kerry to hold off on visiting the Gaza Strip. Positioned next to Obama, Erdogan used the White House backdrop Thursday to announce the June timeframe for his trip to meet with Hamas leaders in Gaza, a group the U.S. defines as a terrorist organization.
At the press conference, Obama emphasized his strong relations with the Turkish leader. “This visit reflects the importance that the United States places on our relationship with our ally, Turkey, and I value so much the partnership that I’ve been able to develop with Prime Minister Erdogan,” Obama said according to the White House transcript.
Just two days after Turkish citizens got the International Criminal Court to investigate a possible case against Israel, Obama took a moment to compliment Erdogan for the steps he’s taken to fulfill the arrangement Obama brokered between Israel and Turkey.
“Given our shared interest in peace, I want to note the Prime Minister’s efforts to normalize relations with Israel,” Obama said.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at his daily news briefing Tuesday, “Turkey is one of our strongest partners.”
Besides meeting Obama, Erdogan placed a foundation stone at a new Turkish-American cultural center in Maryland.
According to Hurriyet Daily News, Erdogan said the center reflects the “alliance of civilizations.”
“In a period marked by Islamophobia, this center will express the brotherhood showing how wrong [Islamophobia] is,” he said.