Bristol kebab seller Sakir Yildirim speaks of Gaza aid convoy terror
ONE of the Bristol activists caught in a commando raid on an aid ship bound for Gaza has spoken of the moment he thought he was going to die.
Dad-of-three Sakir Yildirim, from Fishponds, told the Evening Post he saw his friends shot in front of him by the Israeli military on the Mavi Marmara and had all his money and personal documents taken from him.
Israeli armed forces boarded eight vessels carrying aid to the Gaza Strip on Monday, clashing with some of the 600 protesters on board and killing at least nine civilians.
Speaking from a hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, the 41-year-old kebab seller said: "We had seen a ship at about 10pm, I woke up at 4am and it was getting closer.
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"I went upstairs and there were warships and smaller boats surrounding us, two submarines and helicopters coming from all sides.
"The helicopters came down and I saw the lasers from the gun sights. I hid quickly.
"They killed the guy next to me, blew his brain out.
"I tried to go downstairs to warn people. I saw about three or four other people killed."
For the next three to four hours Mr Yildirim said he was on the ship surrounded by helicopters.
"They made us sit or kneel on the deck. You can imagine the wind from the helicopter when it takes off", he said.
"They kept going up and down, they sprayed us with water and then the wind was freezing.
"I was thinking 'I wish I could die and get it over with'.
"We were then taken to jail. The conditions were awful."
Mr Yildirim said he was now being put up by the Turkish government in a hotel with more than 100 other activists but had no money or possessions.
He said: "They've robbed me of my money, my passport, my driving licence. All I have is what I am wearing. My T-shirt was stained with blood but I've cleaned it."
Mr Yildirim will stay in Turkey until Sunday in order to attend the funerals of those who were killed in the incident, which happened in international waters as the aid flotilla headed towards soldiers and a big rally planned for Saturday.
He said: "I've managed to speak to my family, who were very worried.
"It is my decision to stay here until Sunday.
"The people who were killed were people who I have travelled with before and on previous trips. I want to stay for their funerals."
Another activist, Cliff Hanley, a 61-year-old artist from Southville, was also on the ship with Mr Yildirim carrying thousands of tons of aid, some bought with money raised in Bristol, to Gaza.
The Foreign Office has confirmed that all 34 British activists involved had been accounted for. One had been deported direct to the UK, one had gone to relatives in Israel and the others were deported from Israel to Turkey on Wednesday night.