Monday, May 31, 2010

The Israelis arrest a Syrian citizen who was with the Freedom Flotilla

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Updates below: Update 1 (June 1, 2010) & Update 2 (June 2, 2010)

The Damascus-based Syrian news website, DayPress, published today a report about a Syrian woman who was on board the Gaza Freedom Flotilla ship Mavi Marmara that was attacked yesterday morning in international waters off the Gaza coast by a large Israeli force in front of the watchful eye of the entire world. The attack resulted in killing up to 19 civilians on the ship and injuring tens more. The story of the Syrian participant was originally published in the Syrian newspaper al-Watan.

Here is a partial English translation of the Arabic-language DayPress story to provide some detail: 

The Syrian al-Watan newspaper said that Israeli forces arrested Syrian citizen Shatha Barakat, the only Syrian who was among 700 activists of different nationalities who were on board the ships of the Freedom Flotilla. Her husband Ayman Bkairati said in an interview with al-Watan that the last communication between them was the day before yesterday while she was on board the Mavi Marmara ship that was raided by Israeli commandos yesterday morning. He said that he saw her on television screens when the Freedom Flotilla was still on its way to Gaza and that she was in good health. He has not heard from her since she was taken to Ashkelon Prison because she refused to sign a form committing not to return to Gaza in the future.  
Regarding whether she was hurt during the Israeli attack on Mavi Marmara, Bkairati said that he received assurances from families of the Turks who were with his wife that she was not hurt during the attack, pointing out that it was the Turkish families who told him that Barakat was taken to Ashkelon Prison.

And regarding any official Syrian measures, Bkairati said that he has not been contacted yet by Syrian officials, attributing this to the fact that no one knew that his wife was heading to Gaza. Even her siblings did not know about this until the moment she arrived at the Damascus International Airport. He added that he was confident that the Syrian government would place great importance on the welfare of citizens like his wife had they known that a Syrian national was participating in the flotilla. His wife was the only Syrian who was accepted out of 10,600 applicants of different nationalities. The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation approved only 700 of those applicants.

Bkairati also said: When my wife was at the Damascus International Airport on her way to Turkey to join the Freedom Flotilla, a security officer at the airport stopped her because she had a large amount of medicines to treat eye conditions. He asked her about the reason she had all these medicines with her. She told him where she was going. He then helped her carry her luggage into the airport.

Mrs. Shatha Barakat was born in Idleb in 1965 and she resides in Damascus. She is a mother of three and has participated in national issues in the past. She works currently as a director of an institute that teaches computer systems. She also worked as a teacher in the past and has many writings in journalism and fiction.
Update 1 (June 1, 2010):

An official Syrian source said according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) that there were three other Syrians who were with the Freedom Flotilla along with Shatha Barakat. They are Archbishop Hilarion Capucci Bishop of Jerusalem in exile, Hasan al-Rifai & Mohammad Satleh. At the time of this writing, there are reports that Israel has agreed to release the Gaza Freedom Flotilla detainees within 48 hours.

Update 2 (June 2, 2010):

SANA reported today [AR] that the four Syrian activists with the Freedom Flotilla have arrived safely today at the Naseeb border crossing in Dara'a, Syria. Archbishop Capucci said that he was assaulted by the Israeli soldiers who handcuffed him and that one of the soldiers attempted to throw him on the ground. He emphasized that he would do this again along with all the activists to achieve the main goal of lifting the seige on Gaza. Mrs. Shatha Barakat said that the Israeli soldiers treated them in a brutal manner. She said the blood on the shawl she was wearing was that of a Turkish activist who was killed by the Israelis. She said some of the Turkish activists were thrown off the ship immediately after being killed. Syrian activist Hasan al-Rifai said that the decision to attack the activists on the ship was predetermined. He said that there were tens of dead and injured activists in the first 30 minutes of the attack; the soldiers were shooting directly at the activists and they killed two of the activists by direct shots to the head. Activist Mohammad Satleh expressed his satisfaction about what the Freedom Flotilla activists did and how it exposed the Israelis in front of the entire world.

Photo Credit: SANA