DR ARIEF RACHMAN was one of the humanitarian workers onboard the aid ship Mavi Marmara that was raided and attacked by the Israeli commandos on May 31. He had just finished the Fajr prayer on the back of deck 4 when he first heard repeated shoutings, "Allahu Akbar!"; he ran downstairs to his cabin, grabbed his life jacket and ran back again to the right side of the deck.
The following was his story:
As soon as I opened the door to the deck, a strong gush of wind hit me and I realised that the Israeli helicopter was above us. Then I heard the explosions, "Dum! Dum! Dum!" from noise grenades, and realised how critical the situation had become. So I ran upstairs to deck 5 where Indonesian volunteer Nurfitri Moeslim Taher approached me and said, "I'm staying with you."
We were behind the captain's deck, and we saw the flurry of activists running in our direction - only seconds before the Israeli soldiers rappeled onto the ship. Around two minutes afterward, the first victim was brought to me, a long-haired, bulky man in a black t-shirt who was hyperventilating. We cut off his life jacket and checked for injuries; there was none. I told him to breath properly, and he soon recovered. He gestured towards his ears and I understood that he had probably stood too close to the explosions.
The man stood up and ran outside again, yelling, "Don't let them in to the captain's deck!"
The second victim was brought in, also in shock but with drops of blood on his sleeves. After checking him and finding no wounds, I shouted for several men to bring him to the passenger cabin. It was then that I heard noises, "Pull him here! Pull him here!"
I turned and saw a man squatting whilst holding the head of the third victim - lying inert in the corridor near the cafe on the deck. I shouted to the man who was squatting, who in fact was my first patient, to pull the victim towards me because they were exposed and I would be exposed too if I went to them. I did not want to take any risks - a useless doctor is a dead doctor. If I were to die there, I would be of no use to others.
The squatting man apparently did not hear me, he did not move. So I grabbed several men to come with me and ran towards them, and pulled the victim to a more sheltered spot. Under the dim glow of the lamp, I saw my third patient, a bearded man, his face expressionless.
I touched his neck and found no pulse. A little snoring-like sound came from him. I then detected a small wound, not much bigger than a pencil tip, between his two eyes.
Someone shouted and asked me to do a CPR on him, but I said that the victim had been shot on the head and probably brain-injured. A CPR would do no good.
Suddenly, the man who was still squatting and holding the victim's head began to wail like a wild animal. Again. And again. And then he whispered hoarsely to me, "Doctor, I can feel his brain on my hand..."
The bullet that had entered between the victim's eyes, I suspected, had gone right through his head, destroyed his brain and left a big gaping hole on the back of his head.
The man had been shot at close range.
I asked several volunteers to get a stretcher, and it was then that I spotted Fahmi Bulent Yildirim, the president of the Turkish humanitarian organisation Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) who organised the Freedom Flotilla, standing behind me. His face was stony, and he tried to go towards the captain's deck but he was prevented from doing so by many people around him.
Bulent took off his white shirt. Someone tied it to a wooden stick and began to wave it...
All of the sudden, I felt silence around me. I felt empty. I felt defeated. A victim was dead and lost to me.
I had always thought that we would win. I had thought that no matter what, the Mavi Marmara would reach Gaza. I moved to the lower deck and saw the lobby outside of the information booth there had turned into an ER. I saw at least six victims being administered to. I saw blood everywhere.
I saw a woman sitting close to the head of one dead body, in tears and in prayers. Later I learned that they were a Turkish couple - the husband was shot before the wife's eyes.
I and other men prayed that Allah accept those who died as Syuhada. I then got up again and walked towards the sick bay to tend to even more wounded people...
The following is the story of Nurfitri Moeslim Taher, an Indonesian school teacher:
It was almost midnight when Fahmi Bulent Yildirim told everybody onboard the Mavi Marmara that there had been communication with the Israeli side, and that our ship was then 75 nautical miles from the shore of Gaza, but that we were moving away anyway.
I stood outside and counted at least 19 ships and boats around the Mavi Marmara including two warships.
I helped a fellow passenger put on her life jacket shortly before I heard shots. I was then already with Dr Arief Rachman, helping the first victim, a man by the name of Osama Qashoo. It was Osama who later returned to us with our third patient, that Arief and I pulled into safety.
Osama held the man's head as we were pulling, and I could see blood trailing behind us. We had been trying to check the back of the victim's body, when Osama pulled out his hands from behind the head and showed us the blood and what could have only been the splatter of brain tissues.
Dr Arief yelled for a piece of cloth. There was none nearby, I had no choice, so I took off my headscarf and gave it to him so he could wrap the man's head. Osama began to wail. And wailed. And wailed.
With his bloodied hand, he caressed the man's head over and over, smearing even more blood to the hair and face, and continued to wail. Until Bulent came and sharply told Osama, "That's enough."
I stood up and wrested the scarf around Bulent's neck and used it to cover my hair again.
For days afterward I could not stop seeing in my mind, the blood and the brain tissue. I do not know which had been more traumatic, the sight, or Osama's wailing.
I saw Bulent take off his white shirt and had somebody wave this white flag of ours outside. The shootings did not abate.
Dr Arief and I ran downstairs and I saw a man with a gaping wound in his abdomen. I tried to do as much as I could before the Israelis took over the ship and we were all herded into the halls of the passengers.
I could still see the laser pointers of the Israeli snipers; when one friend tried to get up from his seat and walked toward me, I snapped at him. "Sit down. You have the laser light between your eyes!"
Then we were all herded out the halls, searched, and handcuffed. Together with hundreds of the activists, I was made to sit under the sun for hours on the fourth deck.
I dozed off, jerked back into wakefulness, and dozed off again. After the attack, to me there was no longer anything more heart-gripping.
After yet another spell of sleepiness, I felt I had to go to the bathroom really badly, so I got up from my chair and was immediately greeted with a shout from one of the black-fatigued, masked soldiers: "Sit down!"
I sat down, and stood up again and tried to plead. Until finally somebody relented and let me go - to the men's bathroom. I didn't know why. I met Al-Jazeera journalist Jamal Elshayyal who told me to go to the shower cubicle, and said he would stand guard outside.
Only later did I know the reason why I was prevented from going to the women's toilet: there were two dead bodies there.
Dzikrullah W Pramudya and Santi Soekanto are contributing editors of The Brunei Times who were onboard the aid ship "Mavi Marmara".
-The Brunei Times/Asia News Network