Grandson of Ottoman soldier recalls 1948 ‘Catastrophe’
"At that time, amid spreading fear in the region, many people sought refuge," Erdinc Suleyman told Anadolu Agency.
"Fearing for their lives, many Palestinians fled to Jordan, Syria, Egypt or Lebanon," he added.
Suleyman's grandfather, Zaki Suleyman, was an Ottoman army medic who performed his military service as an officer in the Palestinian city of Akka.
"After completing his military service," Suleyman said, "my grandfather decided to stay in Akka, where he opened a medical clinic."
"When the Israeli occupiers came to Akka," he recalled, "they confiscated his clinic and turned it into the city's new municipal headquarters."
According to Suleyman, Akka's "peaceful days" ended when British colonial forces invaded the region and Jews began their mass migration, paving the way for the new state of Israel.
Later, upon the expiry of Britain's "Palestine Mandate", Zionist gangs began storming Palestinian villages, many of the inhabitants of which were massacred.
Suleyman cited the massacres of Deir Yassin and Kafr Qasim in particular, which, he says, "served to bring fear to the region".
"At this point, my father sent his family -- including me -- to Lebanon," Suleyman remembers.
- TURKISH LINKS
Suleyman recalled his father's love of Turkish names, which is why he named his four children Leyla, Sevin, Erdinc and Erdoğan.
"My father brought private tutors for my mother, who didn't speak Arabic," Suleyman said.
He also remembers -- as a child -- meeting Turkey's third president, Celal Bayar, in the 1950s, when the latter visited Lebanon.
"A car arrived at our home at night from Turkey's embassy in Beirut," he said. "I remember going to the embassy with my mother to see the Turkish president."
Suleyman said that his mother, Bedia, had originally come to Akka by sea from Istanbul.
"My father served as customs director at the Akka Port," he said. "When the ship carrying my mother arrived, she was greeted with a small welcoming party."
Suleyman also remembers how his mother had wanted her children to learn Turkish, and how she had insisted on teaching the language to him and his siblings.
Suleyman later worked as an English teacher at a university in Lebanon, although he is no longer employed due to his age and health-related problems.
He doesn't want to retire in Lebanon, however, where, he says, "Palestinians are deprived of many of their rights".
The Palestine-Israel conflict dates back to 1917 when the British government, in the now-famous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".
According to UN refugee agency UNRWA, more than 1.5 million Palestinians now live in 58 refugee camps across the Middle East.