Procter & Gamble staff held hostage in Turkish factory in “Gaza protest” freed

Procter & Gamble staff held hostage in Turkish factory in “Gaza protest” freed
Photo posted online by local Kocaeli Gundem newspaper said to show paintings of Turkish and Palestinian flags and protest slogans including “Doors will be opened for Gaza” at factory where seven people are being held hostage. / Kocaeli Gundem online
By bne IntelliNews February 1, 2024

Turkish police late on February 1 released seven workers taken hostage by a pro-Palestinian gunman at a plant near Istanbul owned by US consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. The man, detained unharmed, was protesting at the war in Gaza, according to officials.

Police staged a raid nearly nine hours into the standoff when the gunman took a bathroom break.

Local governor Seddar Yavuz told reporters: “The man’s aim was to stop Israel’s massacre in Gaza and to open the Rafa gate in Egypt [for the delivery of humanitarian aid for trapped civilians].

“When he went out for a bathroom break, our security forces carried out an operation without harming the hostages.”

Images that appeared in Turkish media during the hostage standoff showed a man wearing what appeared to be a rudimentary explosives belt and holding a handgun.

Distressed relatives of the hostages who gathered at the cordoned-off factory in Gebze industrial zone, Kocaeli province, broke into applause when informed by local officials about the release of their loved ones.

“We are very happy after the tense long hours of waiting,” said Fatma Dursun, whose nephew was taken hostage. Thank God they are all safe and sound,” she told AFP.

DHA news agency reported that people involved in the hostage-taking incident claimed their actions were to highlight the loss of life in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza attacked and besieged by Israel. Around 27,000 people have been killed in Gaza in Israel’s military operation since October 7, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry.

DHA also published a photo of some of the hostages celebrating a birthday. It reported that staff had brought a cake into work for one of their colleagues, and that the hostage takers allowed them to celebrate.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been particularly outspoken about the situation in Gaza. He has frequently referred to Israeli “war crimes” and compared the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Adolf Hitler. However, he has come under fire for maintaining trade with Israel, including oil deliveries.

Local media also published photographs of a Palestinian flag along with a Turkish flag that were painted at the entrance of the building with writing that stated “Doors will be opened for Gaza” and “Either musalla or death”. Musalla is an Arabic word meaning a space apart from a mosque that is mainly used for funeral prayers in Islam.

The seven people who were taken hostage were six men and one woman, Demiroren News Agency said.

One photo from the scene shown by local media showed the man with an apparent gun in one hand and making a 'V' sign with his other hand in front of the wall with the Turkish and Palestinian flags and Gaza slogans.

Around the world, global brands with perceived links to Israel have been targeted with boycotts amid criticism of Israel’s war against Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza and the decision of the US and other major Western powers not to demand Israel stop the conflict despite tens of thousands of civilian deaths.

In November, the US Embassy in Ankara warned US citizens against potential attacks on certain US-branded businesses as Israel stepped up its invasion of Gaza. 

In October, McDonald’s Turkey  donated a million dollars in humanitarian aid to Gaza to underline that it has no connection to McDonald’s Israel. The move was confirmed by McDonald’s Turkey (McDonaldsTR) in a statement amid simmering anger in Middle Eastern countries that back the Palestinian cause over how McDonald’s Israel was delivering free meal boxes to Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers involved in Gaza Strip military operations and Israel’s besieging of the Palestinian territory.

Starbucks, though it has stated it has no links to Israel, has faced protests and vandalism in Turkey, with incidents in which customers were left shaken up by aggressive demonstrators.

P&G uses Turkey as a hub for operations in eight countries. Its four facilities in Turkey manufacture products for brands including Oral-B, Gillette and Fairy. The factory in Gebze mainly makes cosmetics.