Two boats are a day and a half from Gaza, and plan to arrive at daylight

Democracy Now! is covering the latest Gaza flotilla, with exclusive video coverage from Jihan Hafiz, who is aboard the Canadian boat, the Tahrir. And here is a portion of Amy Goodman’s conversation with Hafiz, one of five journalists on the boat.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, we can hear you fine. Can you tell us the latest report from where you are in international waters? You’re on the Tahrir, the Canadian boat. The other boat that is alongside of you, the Irish boat—have you made contact yet? And what are your plans, the group’s plans, on the two boats at this point?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes, for the first time today, actually since this trip was planned, the delegations from the Canadian boat were able to make physical contact with the Irish boat. As we’ve been sailing, it’s been—the seas—the waters have been very rough here. So they haven’t been able to board the boat, and we haven’t been able to board their vessel. However, the plan is to continue the voyage, to continue this voyage to Gaza, regardless of the threats coming from the Israeli government. And in fact, both teams met today to hold meetings with the journalists and delegates on board to discuss a strategy for when the Israelis do intercept the boat, if they intercept the boat, and what will take place from there.

We’re about 120—excuse me, 150 to 170 kilometers off the coast of Gaza. It will take us about another day and a half to get there.

As I mentioned in the report, the activists and the organizers of both flotillas do not want to reach Gaza’s borders, at least the territorial region, until daylight. They do not want to have a similar situation to what happened to the Mavi Marmara. That boat was attacked in the evening. And they want to avoid any kind of misperception about violence, if violence is committed. As mentioned in the report, as well, there’s also a commitment to nonviolent resistance. There was training for that today on the boats to make sure that if we do come in contact with the Israelis, there will be no confrontation from those on either boats. Aside from that, the spirits have been very high.

AMY GOODMAN: Jihan, is there a boat that is following you?

JIHAN HAFIZ: At the moment, there is not. There was—last night, up until 4:00 in the morning, on our side, there was an unidentified boat that was following us. The only other boat that followed us out of international waters was the Turkish coast guard. So, from the boat, we all presumed it was the Turkish coast guard, but there’s no longer anyone following us. It’s only the Irish boat and the Canadian in open waters.

AMY GOODMAN: Jihan, we—you took us on a tour of the boat you are on, the Tahrir, and we met some of the activists on board—Canadian, Australian, there’s a U.S. citizen on board, as well. Who’s on the Irish boat?

JIHAN HAFIZ: These are solely Irish delegates. Some of them are former members of parliament. We haven’t been able to sit down and speak with them, but we do know that there are three to five on board who are former members of parliament. Also, they’re a group that has been making—that has continuously made efforts, through different initiatives, to reach Gaza. And we haven’t been able to speak with them, but they have been to Gaza a number of times before, some of the delegates. And they planned this on their own, in close coordination with the steering committee here. However, we have not been in touch with them at all. They’ve sort of been on their own in this journey, mainly because of the waters, but also because of the secrecy of the planning of this. So they’re mainly—it’s mainly an Irish delegation.

I also want to mention that the Canadian boat was restricted to 12 people. Of the 36 who were meant to come along on the Tahrir, the Canadian boat, only 12 were allowed on, whereas the Irish boat, they only allowed them to have 12 on, but they snuck some people on their boat. And so, the entire Irish delegation that came to Turkey to take this—to make this voyage to Gaza is present, and they’re heading in that direction now. We have—supporters from this boat are still in Turkey. Some returned home, and they’re working on—they’re working on logistical work, as well as media work, to communicate with people on the boat. The internet hasn’t been—hasn’t been precise at times. It goes out every now and then. But there is a lot of international support from the organizations represented on this boat, as well as the Irish one, including a number of committees around the world that are supporting what these Freedom Waves to Gaza are: essentially, an extension of the Free Gaza movement, which is a movement to break the siege by any means, at any costs.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there fear on board your boat, the Tahrir, the Canadian boat that you’re covering? There are 12 people on board the boat, is that right? The captain, six activists and five journalists?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes. There is concern. I wouldn’t say “fear.” I think people here are defiant, in that they believe in what they’re doing, and they believe that what they’re doing is peaceful and that they will—even if there is any kind of—if the Israelis do board the boat or intercept the boat, there will not be any resistance, any violent confrontation from any of the activists here. So the concern is mainly losing—losing a lot of their equipment.

(mondoweiss.net / 03.11.2011)

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