14 November 2019 | Ali Abo Rezeg
Five months before he passed away, the first elected Palestinian President Yasser Arafat had sent a message to the Turkish government to continue defending the holy city of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and Al-Aqsa mosque.
Arafat, who was also founder of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), died on Nov 11, 2004 at the age of 75, in Clamart — southwestern suburbs of Paris, capital of France.
Talking to Anadolu Agency, Huseyin Tanriverdi, former Turkish MP, said he had visited Ramallah in May 2004, where Arafat had been kept confined within his Mukataa (headquarters) for over two years by the Israeli army.
Recalling his visit, Tanriverdi, who also served as head of the Turkish-Palestinian Committee in the Turkish parliament, said the Palestinian leader during the meeting told him quite explicitly, to convey to the leaders in Ankara, to defend the city of Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa mosque.
“I have a message for you and the Turkish people. You are the ones [Ottomans] who saved Al-Quds in different times of history. You are the ones who named the city as Haram al-Sharif [The blessed],” Arafat told Tanriverdi, who was then a member of Turkish parliament.
Arafat during his discussion traced the history and told the Turkish MP, that your nation has proved that you know the value and significance of the city of Jerusalem for the Islamic world. He even went on to say, that the Al-Quds or Jerusalem has been vested in your (Turkey) trusteeship or guardianship and called on Ankara to play its role.
“Al-Quds is in your guardianship. You have to assume your responsibilities in defending and protecting the city, as you [Ottomans] did in the past,” Tanriverdi quoted Arafat as saying. The city of Jerusalem remained under the control of the Ottomans for nearly 400 years, before the region was annexed by British in 1917.
Arafat set up martyr’s fund
Remembering Arafat, the Palestinian Ambassador to Ankara Faed Mustafa, recounted the background of martyr’s fund, which was set up in 1965, by the leader to provide an institutional support to the families of martyrs.
“An Algerian donor gave Arafat 16,000-pound sterling ($20,439) in the early days of the PLO foundation. It was a huge amount those days. The nascent organization was in dire need of a financial support. Instead using the amount for office requirements, Arafat set up the martyr’s fund to help the bereaved Palestinian families,” said Mustafa.
The fund is still used to provide aid and stipends to the families of martyrs and injured Palestinians.
The envoy recollected that Arafat would start his day by reading the Palestinian local dailies. His interest in the newspapers was to check appeals of people seeking help. He would mark and clip the portion of the newspaper, put his signature on it, and dispatch to the concerned authority for appropriate action.
Mustafa, who has worked with the leader said, he had designated a particular day to meet Palestinian children. “You will find out that many Palestinian children, born between 1980-1990, have photos with the leader,” he said.
The envoy said the bitter reality is that Arafat’s loss has created a void not only for Palestinians but for the Arabs, Muslims and the whole world. Palestinians still remember the painful moments when they were waiting for the body of the departed leader coming from Paris, 15 years ago.
Arafat returned to Palestine in 1994 following decades of struggle against the Israeli occupation from abroad. During the second Palestinian Intifada, which erupted in 2001 against then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s incursion in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Israeli occupation forces imposed a blockade on Arafat’s residence in the West Bank’s city of Ramallah.