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Gaza Flotilla Incident: Mavi Marmara Casualties Identified as Members of Turkish Islamist Organizations

Nearly all of the casualties aboard the Mavi Marmara were fully identified as members of Turkish Islamist organizations, most of them radical and anti-Western in nature, and half of those killed had declared their wish to die as martyrs.

Since the violent confrontation aboard the ship Mavi Marmara, information accumulated made it possible to identify the nine Turkish nationals killed, as well as analyze their affiliation and political and ideological views. It was found that 8 out of the 9 casualties belonged to IHH or affiliated groups. The affiliated groups included the Turkish Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi), an Islamic party established in 2001 that espouses cooperation between Muslim countries, war on Zionism and confrontation with the West. The ninth killed was a citizen of both Turkey and the U.S. and was not known as affiliated with any Islamist organization. Statements made by relatives of four of the casualties also revealed their desire to die as shaheeds (martyrs).

No human rights activists from Western countries and from the Arab/Muslim world were among the victims as they avoided joining the organized fighting against the IDF, stayed inside the ship and did not go to the upper deck where the fighting took place.

The following are the names and gathered information on the casualties aboard the Mavi Marmara:

  • Ibrahim Bilgen, 61, electronics engineer from Siirt, member of the association of electronics engineers in Turkey, originally from Mosul, Iraq. He ran in the 2007 elections on behalf of the Felicity Party, and also ran for mayor of Siirt in 2009. He was married and father of six. A relative of his noted that he wanted to die as a shaheed. He joined the flotilla as an IHH volunteer.
  • Ali Haydar Bengi, 39, owner of a telephone repair store in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey (a city known as a stronghold of radical Islamic parties). He graduated from Al-Azhar University in Cairo (Arabic literature). He was married and father of four. Member of the Felicity Party. Was active in Islamic organizations and was chairman of an Islamic charitable society in Diyarbakir named Özgürlükler Eğitim Kültür ve Dayanışma Derneği (Ayder, the brotherhood association for a bright future, rights, and liberty). His wife said in an interview that he had wanted to reach Palestine for many years, and constantly prayed to Allah to grant him martyrdom. His friends said that he wanted to be a shaheed and that he “had an intense desire to die as a shaheed”. The association he headed was affiliated with the IHH and its operatives collected equipment and food for the organization prior to setting sail.
  • Cevdet Kiliçlar, 38, from Kayseri. Graduate of the media faculty in the University of Marmara, formerly employed as a journalist for the National Gazette and the Anatolia Times. In the past year, he worked as a reporter and website manager for the IHH. He is married and father of two. A recorded statement by Kiliçlar was found aboard the Mavi Marmara: “While our friends were praying at the [Istanbul] Fatih Mosque in memory of the brothers killed in battle in Afghanistan, we boarded this ship [Mavi Marmara] and were therefore unable to take part in the prayer. May the souls [of those killed in Afghanistan] be in paradise. We, too, prayed on our way to our brothers in Gaza, and I pray that Allah will grant us a happy ending, just like those shaheeds”.1
  • Çetin Topçuoglu, 54, from Adana. Amateur soccer player and former Taekwondo champion. Trained the Turkish Taekwondo team. Married and father of one. His wife, Çigdem Topçuoglu, was also on the Mavi Marmara with friends and family. Member of AYDER, a humanitarian aid organization affiliated with IHH. Took part in the previous aid convoy to the Gaza Strip which arrived in El-Arish (and confronted Egyptian security forces). Before departing, he left a letter hinting that he expected to die as a shaheed and called on others to aspire to a similar death.
  • Necdet Yildirim, 32, from Malatya. IHH operative in Istanbul. Worked at a sports association in Istanbul ( Married and father of one. There is a possibility (although we don't have any information on that) that he may be related to IHH leader Bulent Yildirim.
  • Fahri Yaldiz, 43, fireman in the town of Adiyaman (eastern Antalya). Married and father of four. Worked as a security guard at IHH conferences. IHH operative in the town where he lived. During the municipal elections he worked as a bodyguard for the mayor on behalf of Refah, Erbakan’s Islamist party. In 2007, he made extensive preparations for taking part in the flotilla and had a passport issued ( Prior to his departure, he announced that he was going to be a shaheed and said goodbye to his wife and children.
  • Cengiz Songür, 47, from Konya. Came on board the ship in Antalya. Married and father of seven. Worked as a textile salesman for living. Activist in the Islamic association Izmir Özgür-Der, which espouses a radical Islamic ideology similar to that of IHH. The association provides aid to Muslims worldwide, including in Afghanistan, Egypt, and Lebanon (similarly to IHH).
  • Cengiz Akyüz, 41, from Iskenderun. Married and father of three. IHH operative. Joined the flotilla with Zakariya Kanat, the director of the Hatay branch (Alexandretta) of IHH. Left a will prior to his departure (
  • Furkan Dogan, 19, senior high school student in Kayseri. The son of Dr. Ahmet Dogan from the University of Erciyes. Citizen of both Turkey and the U.S. We have no information about his links to any Islamic organizations.

Sources: Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center