Turkish humanitarian organization İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı (IHH) whose well known ever since the bloody tragedy of the Israeli attack on the humanitarian ship Freedom Flotila back in 2010, which killed nine Turkish activists and injuring hundreds.
IHH also known as one of inisiators to breach Israeli blockade imposed in Gaza Strip few years ago which sparks international outcry.
Since 2009, IHH has set up its branch in the blockaded area. While Turkish assistance for Gazans through this organisation had reached about USD 100 million.
On that occasion, Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)’s correspondent had an opportunity to visit IHH headquarter in Gaza City and met its chairman Mohammed Kaya or well known as Abu Matin.
MINA: How did the establishment of Gaza-branched IHH started?
Abu Matin: At the time of 2008-2009 war (known as El-Furqan war) we came through the Rafah border with other humanitarian organisations and various assistances, we can get into the Gaza Strip in the last four days of the war. After the war ended, we began the establishment of our branch office in the strip.
At that time we were together with the chairman of the Turkish’s IHH, and also there were many problems in the Gaza Strip. To that end, we decided to open a branch office in Gaza, in order to simplify the delivering aids and services to Gaza.
In its early years, we opened a small office in Gaza City, then Gaza government gave us land so that we built our headquarter right on it untill now.
In this office there’s an administration room, as well as orphans services room.
MINA: What programs have been done by IHH in Gaza?
Abu Matin: We are Muslim NGO from Turkey, which most of its support comes from the Turkish people, institutions and its companies that specifically gives its support for Palestinians in the blockade Gaza Strip.
Since the Gaza-branched built, we started to provide services to 2,500 orphans and up to now has reached 14,500 orphans colaborating with ministry in Gaza.
Also in addition, we provided other assistance depending on the needs or ongoing season, as at the time of Ramadan, Eid al-Adha (Qurban), or during the summer school or new school year.
In addition, after the El-Furqan war, we provided reconstruction assistance to the Gazans whose homes were destroyed. We were the first humanitarian agency who rebuild the destroyed houses.
At that time we started to build a three-storey building which has 6 apartments. After that we made a lot of programs throughout the Gaza Strip, from Rafah to Bayt Hanoun, from south to north in accordance with our ability levels.
We have programs in the health sector, such as the establishment of the Health Center (Clinical Center) in Rafah, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, as well as assistance in the medical devices Bayt Hanoun Hospital in collaboration with the Mayor of Bayt Hanoun within two years . After that, we hand it over to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.
Then we also provide assistance in the form of medicines, particularly in the event of war, in cooperation with the local Ministry of Health.
We made a very important programs, namely by establishing the Ottoman Cultural Center. Our help is not only formed direct assistance such as food and beverages, but we also want to provide knowledge to the Palestinians.
At that time we established five cultural centers throughout the Gaza Strip, which is in Jabaliya, Gaza, Rafah and Khan Younis and Nasr. But after one year we conducted an evaluation, we closed two cultural centers, and until now there are three places keep running since six years ago.
In the Cultural Center in the Gaza Strip, we have a program such as English course for men, women, and computers, sewing, also memorizing Al-Quran (Tahfidz Al-Quran).
We as Turkish people feel that our culture is not much different from the Palestinian culture, so not to impose Turkish culture in Palestine, because basically as fellow Muslims our culture is one.
MINA: How much funding has been channeled by Gaza-branched IHH since its establishment?
Abu Matin: Average in every year about 8 million dollars. The first year alone, we delivered aid by 12 million US dollars. For orphans itself we distributed 7 billion dollars every year. Indeed most of the grant funding is devoted to orphans.
For this year, we are sure there will be more help for Gazans, We are currently waiting for the entry of materials for buildings, for the construction of schools, mosques, centers of orphans, 120 apartments planned. But all we are waiting for the entry of construction materials into the Gaza Strip.
If we take into account to date of nearly 100 million US dollars, and also we say that Muslims in Turkey and various countries around the world, such as South Africa, Qatar, Yemen, Indonesia, Malaysia is very keen to cooperate together with us for various programs in the Gaza Strip.
MINA: How do you think the situation in the Gaza Strip today?
Abu Matin: Currently the situation in Gaza is very difficult. I heard from many people here that they have never felt a very difficult day as nowadays.
For example, all local public servants do not earn a salary since last year. In economy sector too, traders experiencing very difficult conditions because of long term blockade. In addition, the daily electricity were also more difficult, sometimes we only get six hours per day or eight hours each day light on.
MINA: We heard IHH in Gaza distribute aid to the civil servants, is that true?
Abu Matin: Today we know that civil servants in the Gaza Strip do not get a salary since last year. So we made a program of assistance by distributing 7,000 food packages each valued at 120 NIS, and we will continue the program until the end of this crisis, insha-Allah.
MINA: Indonesia and Turkey have a quite strong historical relationship, when Sultan Abdul Hamid became Caliph, he sent envoys to Indonesia, such as teachers, preachers, to spread Islam in the country, what do you think?
Abu Matin: Our goal as a Muslim is not Turkish, Kurdish or Arabic, our goal is to Muslims as a whole. We do not want the State of Utsmaniah or the state of Turkey, what we want is to unite the Muslims of the whole world as one like in the past.
First the Muslims wherever they are, they have a clear goal, as an example of Sultan Abdul Hamid II when he sent a delegation to Indonesia, New Zealand, and others around the world. They were instructed to never think back, since when it has reached the destination, the boat carrying the delegates directly burned, so there is no chance to come back.
But now the situation is very difficult. For that we must unite among Muslims in this world, only then will come the victory of unity in Muslims countries, Insha-Allah.(L/R04/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)