Shot to death while carrying wounded activists
Çetin Topçuoplu was himself gravely wounded several minutes after bringing a wounded activist to the infirmary and lost his life onboard the Mavi Marmara before the eyes of his wife Çiğdem Topçuoğlu.
Palestine 07.06.2011

Çetin Topçuoğlu was helping with carrying to the infirmary the activists wounded in early moments of the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara boat but was himself wounded after leaving the last wounded man at the infirmary. He was gravely wounded and lost his life before the eyes of his wife Çiğdem Topçuoğlu. His wife accounted the attack moment.

Çiğdem Topçuoğlu was born in 1965 in Adana Province. She is a national taekwondo athlete and winner of the 2011 Turkey taekwondo championship. She took part in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla with her martyred husband Çetin Topçuoğlu (born1956), who was also a national taekwondo athlete. Çiğdem and Çetin Topçuoğlu have a son named Aytek (born 1984). Çiğdem is a taekwondo instructor at Çukurova University. She accounts what happened during the Israeli attack:

The atmosphere in the ship was wonderful. Everybody there was joyful. We had great memories. What we experienced in Antalya and even before the journey began was unforgettable. For one thing birds were escorting us. They started accompanying us at Antalya Port. Çetin was taking their pictures. There were even birds onboard the boat. Just as I said to Çetin ‘Your birds have left you,’ a sparrow appeared above the sea. ‘You see, they have not left me,’ he replied, pointing to the sparrow. That sparrow flew over the passengers and settled on Çetin’s shoulder. It was as if he had some sort of bonding with birds. I had laid my husband’s bloody clothes on a chair in the courtyard for drying while we were in jail. I was contemplating. At that moment a bird appeared and perched on the window. It could not get in. I felt like that bird spoke to me until I returned to Turkey. And also a bird has been following me everywhere since I returned to Turkey. We have birds on our balcony too. My husband loved birds. Allah gave me birds to remind me of my late husband.    

*

It was 10:00 pm on 30 May. We both had noticed lights around the ship and panicked. We learnt that we were completely surrounded after contacting other vessels in the flotilla. There was going to be a live concert broadcast from the boat and everybody were waiting for the concert in excitement. We were told the concert had been called off. At midnight we saw from the upper deck assault boats were circling us and harassing the ship. Çetin was with me and we were praying. We sat at the upper deck until sunrise, praying and reciting surah Ya Sin. We departed at the time of call for morning prayers. ‘May Allah guard you!’ he prayed and I told him to be careful.  He checked my life vest and fastened so tightly that I had difficulty in breathing. ‘Çetin, you fastened it too tight,’ I said. ‘This vest will never come off you. I do not want to see you up here. Promise me!’ he said. I replied ‘I promise,’ and went downstairs. I performed morning prayers when I got downstairs. No sooner had I finished praying than a friend rushed in saying ‘We have been attacked, everybody pray urgently, ladies be calm!’ All women began praying. I had shut iron windows of the hall for the protection of the women beforehand. We had also put a woman guard at the door so that women would not go out and cause any panic or chaos.           

I went to the upper deck. Çetin was carrying the wounded. He brought our neighbor, then another friend and lastly an Israeli soldier was brought in. I saw a green, luminous spot on the right arm of Çetin. ‘My rose, you have been wounded?’ I asked pointing to the pretty coat he was wearing. ‘It is nothing serious. This coat does not permeate anything,’ he replied and left, adding ‘You too be careful my rose.’ I also wanted to go out. We were staying in a corridor where they were putting the wounded. I tried to leave through left exit. Çetin was at the other end and there was 20 meters between us. He somehow approached me said ‘Get inside!’ I could hear Çetin talking while I was inside. He was talking frequently and warning his friends saying ‘Be careful with the wounded!’ I did not hear him speak for a while and asked a brother beside me ‘Have you seen Çetin?’ I hurled outside without waiting for his ‘Çetin is fine’ response and saw a man lying on the floor. At first I could not realize he was Çetin. I went up to him and touched his legs and said something like ‘My rose, why are lying here? Get up, here is like battleground, I think you are wounded!’ I raised his left arm but got no reaction. His arm fell… I lowered over him and felt his breath and heartbeat. He was breathing very deeply. I ripped his clothes, there was no sign of bleeding in his body. I started applying cardiac massage but felt something bursting under my hands when I did the massage for a second time. They had used bullets that exploded inside the body. Blood began gushing out of Çetin’s mouth and nose. I noticed he had been shot in the back of his head and there were also bullets in his body. I remember saying ‘Doctor, he is breathing, give him a breathing tube.’ They gave him a breathing tube. The doctor said pointing at me ‘Take her away!’ He did not know I was his wife. I was not aware of what I was doing but still think I did not cause any trouble. I told Çetin ‘Çetin, tell me your last words, I know you will not make it.’ I was telling myself ‘My Lord, let him tell me something for the last time and then take him.’ Allah answered my prayers and I heard Çetin murmuring and trying to tell me something. I gave him water and recited the Quran. ‘I am contented with you and I hope Allah is too. I give you my blessing a thousand time. I promise to you, I and your son will follow in your footsteps. Now that you are going, give our greetings to our Prophet Muhammad,’ I told him and got up.          

*

They were holding light to our cell in the prison every half an hour. They questioned me at the prison. I did not want to be questioned alone and asked for a lawyer. I asked for one of our lawyer friends to accompany me but they did not allow it. I was questioned alone. They knew my husband had died and showed me photographs of the martyrs. I recognized our friend Cevdet when I saw his photograph. When I reacted saying ‘Oh, it is brother Cevdet,’ they asked ‘Where do you know him?’ I told them he took pictures onboard and helped us at the press room. They showed my husband’s picture at the last questioning. They asked ‘Is this your husband or not? How many Israeli soldiers did he kill? Which terror organization are you a member of? Why did you come to occupy our land?’ and many more such nonsense questions. The questioners spoke good Turkish with Istanbul accent. The persecution went on until we got out of the prison. They did not allow us talk on the phone. I did not eat or drink anything they gave us in the prison…

(You can read more about the ordeal of Çiğdem Topçuoğlu and other flotilla participants in Freedom Flotilla through Language of Global Conscience-Interviews with Passengers published by IHH Book: http://www.ihh.org.tr/mavi-marmara-yayin-dunyasina-da-yelken-acti/en)

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