According to latest reports from Bianet, the İstanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court has accepted an indictment of life imprisonment filed against Grup Yorum guitarist İbrahim Gökçek. The musician is currently on a death fast. His hearing is scheduled for 14 February 2020.
Turkish music band Grup Yorum’s members have been on hunger strike since 16 May 2019 in response to the restrictions to their freedom of artistic expression imposed by the authorities, reported Grup Yorum Solidarity Committee. Due to Grup Yorum’s political songs, the Turkish government deemed the members as terrorists and jailed several group members on the charges of “membership of a terrorist organization.”
According to the Grup Yorum Solidarity Committee, Grup Yorum’s guitarist, İbrahim Gökçek and 5 other group members have been placed on the “most wanted terrorists” Turkish list. There is a reward of 300,000 Turkish lira (46,000 euros) set on each of them. Gökçek has been jailed for almost 2 years based on a “secret witness” statement and without any indictment or court hearing.
Musician Bahar Kurt suspended her hunger strike while guitarist İbrahim Gökçek and singer Helin Bölek turned their hunger strike into a death fast. Bahar Kurt and Helin Bölek have been released from prison at the end of 2019.
After 199 days of hunger strike, the imprisoned guitarist of @Grup_YORUM İbrahim Gökçek has now begun a DEATH FAST.
During visitation with his lawyer, İbrahim has said that he will begun a death fast for the demands to be met. pic.twitter.com/YwmnRF9Qk2
— Free Grup Yorum! (@freegrupyorum) January 3, 2020
“Freedom of artistic expression is a human right, recognised and guaranteed by the Turkish authority,” said Dr Srirak Plipat Freemuse Executive Director. “But this right to free expression of artists of Grup Yorum has been violated persistently to the point where artists go on hunger strike over 200 days. This must stop. Turkey must show respect to the human rights of its own people.”
According to the Grup Yorum Solidarity Committee, the arrested members who are on hunger strike, have stated the following demands:
- Grup Yorum’s members be released, and the cases be dropped.
- police raids be ended in the İdil Cultural Centre [in Okmeydanı, İstanbul], that was raided for 10 times in 2 years
- the removal of the wanted ‘terrorist lists’ of the Ministry of Interior upon Grup Yorum’s members and sympathizers.
- the removal of the ban on concerts and venues to Grup Yorum concerts.
“They have been resisting with legitimate demands, they want to freely sing their songs which fight for social justice. İbrahim Gökçek, the imprisoned guitarist, has changed his 200-day hunger strike to death fast on January 3rd. Bahar Kurt and Helin Bölek have been on hunger strike for over 200 days,” Grup Yorum Solidarity Committee told Freemuse.
They further added that “Death is approaching the musicians of Grup Yorum and their demands must be accepted. Songs cannot be silenced!”
The demands remain unanswered while the health of the artists is critical. Grup Yorum Solidarity Committee reports that as of 16 January 2020:
Bahar Kurt – has been on hunger strike for 219 days and has now suspended it.
Helin Bölek – has been on hunger strike for 211 days
İbrahim Gökçek – changed his hunger strike on the 200th day to death fast, therefore, he is currently on the 212th day and 13th day of death fast
Freemuse and Susma Platformu (Speak Up Platform) / P24 Platform for Independent Journalism call for the Turkish authorities to release detained musicians, end illegitimate restrictions of freedom of artistic expression of the group and accepting the demands of striking artists. Freemuse and Susma Platformu (Speak Up Platform) / P24 Platform for Independent Journalism stand with Grup Yorum’s members and together with 134 politicians, journalists, writers and artists we support the band.
Please join us by taking actions calling on the Turkish authority to end human rights violations and accept the demand of Grup Yorum by signing the petition.