Details Emerge On Slain Pro-Palestinian Activists

More details are emerging about the 9 men killed during Israel's deadly raid of a flotilla on Monday. The men ranged in age from 19 to 61 years old. They included an American of Turkish descent; a European Taekwondo champion who became Turkey's National team coach; an electrical engineer; a fire-fighter; and a journalist. And they were well-educated. Robert Siegel talks to reporter Julia Rooke about who these men were. The victims: Cengiz Akyuz, 41; Ali Haydar Bengi, 39; Ibrahim Bilgen, 61; Furkan Dogan, 19; Cevdet Kiliclar, 38; Cengiz Songur, 47; Cetin Topcuoglu, 54; Fahri Yaldiz, 43; and Necdet Yildirim, 32.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Reporter Julia Rooke is also in Istanbul, and she joins us now to tell us more about some of the nine victims who were killed Monday on the flotilla.

Julia Rooke, first, what can you tell us about the nine men?

Ms. JULIA ROOKE (Reporter): Well, they're all very interesting people. Theyve got a very religious background. They're all very conservative and they're all highly-educated. I mean there's one man here, Ali Haydar Bengi, who trained in Muslim theology at the Al-Azhar University in Egypt, which is a very prestigious place. And theres another man whos an electrical engineer. Now, he belongs to a party called Saadet and they espouse political Islam here in Turkey. And in fact most members of that party once belonged to the Coalition Government, the ruling party that was actually ousted from power by military coup in 1997.

So there's that theres a vein of conservatism and strong religious belief -Muslim belief that runs through all these people.

SIEGEL: And what have you learned about the American, 19-year-old Furkan Dogan?

Ms. ROOKE: We dont know very much about him. But we know that he's going to be buried in Kayseri, which is the capital of Anatolia - which is, again, a very religiously conservative area. It's where the current government, the AKP party, its where its backbone lives, really. It's where its voters are - it's core voters. And these are all highly-educated, wealthy Muslims.

And, Furkan Dogan, in fact, himself was a very talented boy. He was at a high school that specialized in science, which is very difficult to get into. And hed already qualified hed just qualified from the school when he went to join the flotilla and lost his life.

SIEGEL: I saw a remark attributed to Dogan's family, which suggested that they regarded his martyrdom as a heroic act.

Ms. ROOKE: Yes. Again, thats a common theme. At the funerals, people were chanting and saying that these are martyrs. In fact, some of the children who have now lost their fathers as a result of what happened have been, you know, calling their fathers martyrs. There's one child - one teenager who says that he wants to follow in his father's footsteps and become a martyr. And were there to be an aid convoy going to Gaza soon, he'd be on it, like tomorrow.

SIEGEL: From what I hear you saying, these people would be regarded by most Turks as not exactly typical. They were from a particular stream of Turkish life, on the religious side, perhaps on the extremely religious side. Fair?

Ms. ROOKE: They certainly are extremely religious, yes. I mean a lot of them belong to, like I said, political parties that associated with political Islam. There was one man who worked Vakat, which is considered to be a very conservative Islamic publication.

In fact, some of them are quite controversial characters, that political affiliations would be considered as radical Islam. But, of course, the people on the boat, they're not radical Islamists at all, they're just people providing humanitarian aid to those in need on the Gaza Strip.

So there's a debate and a big divide within Turkish society about whether they shouldve gone in the first place or not.

SIEGEL: Reporter Julia Rooke in Istanbul, thanks a lot for talking with us.

Ms. ROOKE: You're welcome.

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