Political musician on death fast to be released from prison
Group Yorum member İbrahim Gökçek has been in Silivri Prison since 1 March 2019. He has been on hunger strike since 18 June and turned the strike into death fast on 4 January 2020.
One of the most famous leftist political music bands in Turkey, Group Yorum has been under constant pressures and harassment of the government, especially after the abortive military coup in July 2016. Band members have been facing detentions, arrests, and bans due to their political ideas. Some members have been on hunger strike for 250 days to protest these unlawful pressures. Two of them did turn their hunger strikes into death fast in January.
Group Yorum (“interpretation” in Turkish) 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.
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.
The health condition of hungers strikers is rapidly deteriorating. Band member İbrahim Gökçek has been in Silivri Prison since 1 March 2019. He has been on hunger strike since 18 June and turned the strike into death fast on 4 January 2020. Band member Helin Bölek began her hunger strike on 19 June while in prison. She was released from prison on 20 November 2019, but continues with her strike due to ongoing pressures on the band. She too did turn her hunger strike into death fast on 20 January 2020. As of today, İbrahim Gökçek and Helin Bölek has been fasting for 251 and 249 days, respectively.
Istanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court ruled to release Gökçek from prison after getting the Forensic Medicine Institute that he cannot remain in jail due to health issues.