Mrs. Emine Erdogan, wife of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan invited the international community to adopt a more active stance to bring an end to the human tragedy in Palestine.
First ladies of several countries met Saturday in Istanbul to call for peace in Palestine. Emine Erdogan who pioneered the meeting of "Women for Peace in Palestine" noted that their appeal was for the immediate cessation of the attacks, realization of the ceasefire and lifting of the embargoes.
Attendants of the meeting were Jordan's Queen Rania, Syria's first lady Asma Assad, Qatari Amir's wife Nasser Al-Missned, Pakistani Prime Minister's wife Begum Fauzia Yousuf Raza Gilani, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's daughter, Aisha, Lebanon's first lady Wafa Sleiman and several woman ministers, parliamentarians from Azerbaijan, Syria, Pakistan, Jordan and Turkey.
The meeting was also attended by officials of several aid organizations from Turkey, Syria, Qatar, Jordan and the United Nations.
Greeting her guests and thanking them for responding rapidly to her invitation and came to Istanbul meeting to share the sufferings of the people of Gaza, Mrs. Erdogan said, "As you all are aware, a major human tragedy is taking place in Gaza. The embargo that has been continuing for a long time in Gaza was causing the deaths of people one-by-one. Now following these latest attacks, one-by-one deaths have been replaced by deaths in large groups. We have witnessed, just in the past two weeks alone, merciless killings of close to 800 persons by heavy weapons. What we are witnessing cannot be expressed by words. This time around, phosphorus bombs are being rained on innocent civilians that have been deprived of their most basic human rights and means. Civilians who have been deprived of electricity, water, food, clothing and most basic health needs are being killed in front of cameras and the very eyes of the whole world with inhuman methods."
"This brutality that is being carried out almost in the form of live broadcasts, clearly demonstrates the dimensions of the indifference and insensitivity. Words fail to describe in particular the suffering of women and children. Children of Gaza, just like the children the world over, like our children, wanted milk, wanted bread, wanted toys and to play.Those innocent infants, wanted to go to school, to go to the park, to learn and to play. How tragic it is that they died on their bicycles and in the parks they played in. They sought refuge in schools, but were killed there too. They sought refuge in mosques, but were killed again.They were taken to hospitals, but could not escape the death machines even there. The warmest and most secure place for them was their mothers? arms, their cradles... But death sought them out even in their mothers? arms and in their cradles. They were not on any of the sides of this conflict." She said.
"They could not comprehend why the elders were fighting, why they were shooting at one another, why they were launching missiles. Maybe as we are speaking here at this very moment, another woman, another innocent child, another baby is dying. Let there be no doubt that: The death of children is the death of innocence, and the death of innocence is the downfall of humanity."
"Those who do not respect innocence and legitimacy cannot speak of human values and humanity. Those who kill children and civilians cannot hide behind any excuse and pretext, they cannot justify these murders and cannot escape being judged in the conscience of humanity, she said. "I am speaking and expressing my sorrow here, first and foremost as a mother and not as the representative of any political view. As mothers, even when our children fall while playing in a park and hurt their knee or elbow our hearts cannot help but feel the pain."
"There, when a child loses a leg or an arm because of a bullet from a heavy weapon, imagine how their mothers are desperately trying to ease their pain, and soothe those tiny hearts? Does she say: ?Don?t be afraid my child, it will get better? or does she wrap their wounds with a piece of cloth torn from her skirt instead of a bandage? I cannot even imagine this and I cannot find words to express the sorrow in our hearts. This brutality does not only target a child?s innocence and universal human values, but also targets a mother?s compassion, affection and love."
Mrs. Erdogan said, "Those dying in Gaza are not just innocent civilians, or innocent women and children. In Gaza, the conscience and compassion of humanity as a whole is dying. Those who remain indifferent to the killings by saying "those who die here are Palestinians and Moslems" should once again question themselves and their own conscience."
Quoting from Exodus Chapter (20:13) of the Old Testament that states "Thou shall not kill" and Chapter 19 of the Gospel of Matthew that states "Thou shalt not murder; thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself..." and Verse 32 of the Surah of Al-Maidah of the Holy Koran that states ?Whosoever killeth a human being, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind. and whosoever saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all men,? she asked "While all monotheistic religions consider human life as sacred, what is the meaning of these murders, what is the meaning of these killings and what is the meaning of this brutality?"
"Appeal to whole humanity"
"The life of Gazans are also sacred, and their life is also valuable. Our appeal here is not addressed to one single religion, one single sect or political view or one single country. Our appeal is to the whole of humanity. Because what is being lost in front of our eyes is our own humanity," she said, "Regrettably the tears we are shedding for them do not suffice to ease the pains, silence the screams and heal the wounds. Those people expect more concrete steps to be taken. The people over there urgently need medicine, food, clothing and fuel. The people there need hope, love and solidarity. We can become hope for them. We can become a light of life for them. We can provide them with better living conditions. Instead of the methods of solving problems by way of crude force, we can deliver them love, affection and compassion.Thus we can ease the pain in the hearts of the helpless people there, including the elderly, women and children, and console them to some extent. Let's join our hands and hearts and do what is necessary to mobilize the humanitarian assistance organizations. I am convinced that if you take these steps, history will speak of you as having 'small steps but large hearts'."
Gazan women, children not alone
"I hope that the joint and strong voiced appeal that we will extend on the occasion of this meeting will spread to the whole world and turn into a strong pressure for ending Israel's attacks without delay. Our appeal is for the immediate cessation of the attacks, realization of the ceasefire and lifting of the embargoes. I invite the international community to adopt a more active stance to bring an end to this human tragedy,." she said.
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"As you know, the UN Security Council has called for a permanent and immediate ceasefire in Gaza. We expect a positive response to this resolution and this call which was adopted by a vote of 14 out of 15 members, with the abstention of the US. I genuinely believe that our calls in the Istanbul Appeal that we plan to make are going to make important contributions to peace. I would like to address especially the women and children of Gaza: You are not alone. You are not without friends. We have always stood by you. And we will always stand by you."
Mrs. Erdogan concluded her speech by reciting a few verses of a poem by prominent Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet:
"I come and stand at every door
But none can hear my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead
My hair was scorched by swirling flame
My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind
Death came and turned my bones to dust
And that was scattered by the wind
I need no fruit, I need no rice
I need no sweets, nor even bread
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead, for I am dead
All that I need is that for peace
You fight today, you fight today
So that the children of this world
Can live and grow and laugh and play"
After the meeting, Mrs. Erdogan read out a statement adopted at the meeting. Noting that loss of human life including elders, disabled, women and children caused deep sorrow, the statement called for an immediate end to killing of civilians and their being deprived of their most basic needs such as medicine and food.
The statement called Israel to comply with UN Resolutions and end the embargo and draw back its military powers from Gaza. It added that international institutions should not be prevented from reaching civilians. Noting that the bombing of UNRWA schools should be interrogated, the statement said a coalition should be formed to support the peace call in Istanbul.
Mrs. Erdogan noted that they would form a steering committee to coordinate their following actions to help bring a lasting peace in Middle East and ease the pains and sufferings of humanity.
Karen Koning Abuzayd, Commissioner-General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), said in a video message that what occured in Gaza did not comply with any law or rule acceptable to humanity.
Actor Antonio Banderas said in a message the meeting would definitely bear fruit. Vioence can never be a solution for disputes. The only method to slove problems is dialogue, tolerance and respect to human rights.
Carla Bruni, wife of French President Nicholas Sarkozy; Sonsoles Espinosa, wife of Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero; Liri Berisha, wife of Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair sent support messages to the meeting.
Saime Toptan, wife of Turkish parliament speaker Köksal Toptan; State Minister Nimet Çubukçu, Zeynep Babacan, wife of Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan; Esra Albayrak and Sümeyye Erdoğan, daughters of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan; Edibe Sözen, Deputy Chairman of AK Party and other prominent woman figures of Turkey in politics, economy and art attended the meeting.
Foreing celebrities such as Raghda, Julia Boutros, Elias Bou Saab, Sami Yusuf, Abbas Al Loury, Waga Mouselly, Suzan Nejmaddin and Samer Basri also attended the meeting.