Muslim youth gather in Istanbul for sake of Palestine
Youth organizations and student unions from 30 countries gathered in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Saturday for a conference devoted to show solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The two-day event, which tackles recent developments in the Palestinian territories, is organized by Turkey-based Anadolu Youth Association and the International Coalition of Youth and Student Unions to Support Palestine.
"We are organizing this conference for the second year in a row with Palestine, Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and Al-Aqsa Mosque topping its agenda," Salih Turan, head of Anadolu Youth Association, said in his opening speech.
He said the conference aims to show solidarity with the Palestinian people in their defense of Al-Aqsa mosque and their lands.
"We represent the youth of all Muslim world who have the same feelings we hold towards Palestine," he said.
Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war. U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, however, have so far failed to resolve the conflict.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
Ihab Nafi, head of the International Coalition of Youth and Student Unions to Support Palestine, said the conference aims to keep the Palestinian cause alive in the hearts of people in the Muslim world.
"We organize such conferences to send a message to the whole world that the Palestinian cause cannot be erased from our daily agenda," Nafi told Anadolu Agency.
"The Arab and Muslim peoples will not relinquish their rights in Palestine," he stressed.
Nafi said organizers have chosen Turkey to host the conference due to the Turkish defense of the Palestinian cause.
"We send special greetings to the Turkish leadership and people who maintain their support for the Palestinian cause in this sensitive era of our history," he said.
- FREE PALESTINE
Aamiena Breda, a student from the female wing of South Africa's Youth for Al-Quds, said she attended the conference because "Palestine holds an important place in our hearts as Muslims."
"We came here to Istanbul with a view to learning more about the Palestinian issue and gaining a better perspective about it," she told Anadolu Agency.
"We want to take this information home and share it with our family and our friends in South Africa."
Algerian student Darjan Bilal said the Palestinian cause represents a doctrine for him.
"In Algeria, we have been brought up to support Palestine," he said. "I hope to see Palestine one day totally free."
Coming from Bangladesh to take part in the conference, student Ammar Hussein said "Knowledge is basically the main point of coming here in order to know the latest developments of the Palestinian cause".
"Such conferences pose an opportunity for raising the awareness of Muslim youth on the Palestinian issue and on other neighboring Muslim countries which are in a dire need for our help and support," Hussein said.
Istanbul has recently hosted many conferences on the Palestinian issue, the latest of which was in February when more than 5,000 Palestinians from around the world held their first-ever conference in the city.