Three organizations – Istanbul Medical Doctors, the Artists” Assembly and Artists’ Initiative – had already raised the alarm last January 20, to attract attention to the hunger strike of members of the musical group Grup Yorum.
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Singer Helin Bölek and guitarist İbrahim Gökçek have been on hunger strike since May 16 2019. Bahar Kurt and Barış Yüksel ended their strike after 190 days and now support their friends. Bahar and Helin were freed end of 2019. Helin has continued her hunger strike on the outside. İbrahim Gökçek is still in jail. He was imprisonned on the basis of a “secret’ witness’ statements. He is at risk of a lifetime sentence and has been waiting for 2 years that his file be completed so that he can know at last what charges are held against him, and prepare his defense. The date of a first heraing has not yet been announced.
Accused of terrorism
The members of Grup Yorum are accused of belonging to a terrorist organization, in occurrence the People’s Revolutionary Liberation Party – Front (DHKP-C). Six members of the group, İnan Altın, Selma Altın, Ali Aracı, İbrahim Gökçek, Emel Yeşilırmak, İhsan Cibelik, appear on the “grey list” established by the Turkish Ministry of the Interior, as “wanted terrorists”. Turkey also offers informers a bonus of 300 000 Turkish lira (equivalent to 46 thousand €) per “head”.
Persecution by the Turkish State
The persecution to which the group has been and continues to be subjected could not be clearer. Annual concerts by the group “Independent Turkey” have been forbidden since 2015. The group managed to give one concert via internet on July 1st 2018. Their premises – the İdil Cultural Center in the Okmeydanı neighbhorhood in Istanbul, was raided eight times by the police in the past two years. Violent raids by the police on the centre occurred in October and November 2016, in May and September 2017 and in October and November 2018. During these raids, their musical instruments were smashed or seized, their music books were also damaged. According to the group’s statement, a total of 30 people were arrested during these raids.
On July 14 2018, Selma Altın and İnan Altın who had escaped incarceration decided to pursue their struggle in exile, in France.
The hunger strikers demand: the end to the raids and searches targeting the cultural center. The lifting of the prohibition on Grup Yorum concerts. Removal of Grup Yorum members from the lists of wanted individuals. And the withdrawal of the charges filed against group members…
We could have provided some news, offered a few lines from the letter Barış Yüksel sent to the newspaper Birgün. But the letter is “censored” to such a degree that the only thing visible is the beginning which reads “How are you? I am Barış Yüksel, member of Grup Yorum”…
Today Helin Bölek has been on hunger strike for 331 days, and İbrahim Gökçek for 235 days, and both are in more than critical condition… They need support from public opinion. As Helin said in a recent reportage: “Truthfully, the outcome will rest on the shoulders of those who love us, listen to us and who try to do something for us. I invite you all to multiply the voices.”
February 14, 2020:
“This 14th of February, we were supposed to celebrate this day for lovers, and today is our wedding anniversary. I’m being judged with my wife. They separated our cases, and she couldn’t come here today. I couldn’t see her. If we were outside, we might have drunk, as children of the people, a glass of ‘turşu suyu’ (traditional vegetable sausage drink), but they took away even that possibility. The four years of our five-year marriage were spent in prisons. Damn this system!”.
Six members of Grup Yorum, including İbrahim Gökçek who uttered these sentences, were today in court, after months of incarceration, for this first hearing. The court released them alone. Barış Yüksel is under judicial supervision, with weekly signatures at the police station. It has been decided to renew the imprisonment of all the other defendants, including İbrahim Gökçek, on hunger strike, and in a more than critical state. The court also requested that İbrahim Gökçek be examined by the health commission in order to obtain a report, and to decide whether he should remain in prison or not. The trial was exported to the court in Silivri. The next hearings are announced for 26 and 27 February 2020.
As a tribute to Grup Yorum…
“Bella Ciao” live in Istanbul in 2010…