Turkey. May 7, 2020. Thousands paid tribute to Ibrahim Gökçek, a musician of the Grup Yorum band, who was on death fast for 323 days and has passed away earlier today.
Originally published by ANF News.
Ibrahim Gökçek, bassist of the socialist band Grup Yorum, led a death fast protest for 323 days in protest at the state repression against his group. With the protest, the 39-year-old musician demanded the lifting of the concert ban of Grup Yorum, an end to the police raids against the Idil cultural centre, the release of all imprisoned band members and the cessation of all legal proceedings.
The musician ended his death fast on the 323rd day, on May 5, after Turkish officials agreed for a talk with the band for permission to make concerts.
After ending the fast, Gökçek was taken under treatment in the intensive care unit of Reyap Istanbul Hospital in the Esenyurt district. Gökçek was connected to respirator after a deterioration of his condition last night. His heart has stopped at around 1 pm today.
Thousands attended the farewell ceremony at the Cemevi (Alevi place of prayer) in the Gazi neighborhood. The crowd sang all together songs and anthems of Grup Yorum around the coffin with Gökçek’s body covered in red flags.
The ceremony was also attended by the families of Grup Yorum member Helin Bölek who also died while on death fast on April 3rd and political prisoner Mustafa Koçak who lost his life on day 297 of death fast, APRİL 24, demanding fair trial. HDP deputy Musa Piroğlu, several artists and representatives of political parties were also present in the farewell ceremony.
Grup Yorum was established against the backdrop of the repressive political climate after the 1980 military coup. It has produced twenty-three albums and one film since 1985. Many concerts and albums of the band were banned, while several band members have been arrested and even tortured. Despite such oppression, the band is still very popular both at home and abroad.
Since its foundation 35 years ago, Grup Yorum has been participating in the social struggles in Turkey, clearly positioning itself on the side of the peoples. In the songs sung in Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic, which deal with the oppression of the people, the band always calls for fraternity among the peoples, unity and justice. Their songs are played at strikes, bereavements, funerals, demonstrations and weddings. Their popularity and the support of the fighting and oppressed people of the country is also the reason why Grup Yorum has always been subjected to repression since its foundation in 1985.
Over the last three years, the police have raided at least eight times the İdil Cultural Center in İstanbul, where the band carries out its activities. During the raids, musical instruments of the band were either broken or taken away, music books damaged. According to a statement by the band, the police arrested a total of 30 people in these raids. Band members initiated a hunger strike in June 2019 in protest of these attacks. The band demands the release of its arrested members, removal of arrest warrants against some other members, termination of incessant police raids into the İdil Cultural Center, and an end to arbitrary bans on their concerts and cultural events.
In February 2019 Ibrahim Gökçek was arrested together with his band colleague Helin Bölek during a raid on the Idil Cultural Centre in Istanbul. After their release from prison in February 2020, both transformed their hunger strike, which they had started in prison, into a “death fast” to which Bölek succumbed on April 4 at the age of 28. During the “death fast”, the participants only ingest sugar water and salt, and in some cases vitamin B supplements, in order to be able to think clearly.
“Helin died because she wanted to sing her songs,” said Gökçek. “We just wanted to do our art. They left us no other way but death,” he added and announced: “Our resistance will not end without concrete achievement.” The band should be allowed to name a date and a place where they can give a concert. Furthermore, the imprisoned group members Ali Aracı and Sultan Gökçek should be released. The latter is the wife of Ibrahim Gökçek. “This is the only way to stop deaths. We do not want compassion, nor conscience. We demand justice. We want justice and Grup Yorum’s legitimate demands to be met.”
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