Political musician on death fast against repression passes away

Helin Bölek, a member of the popular left-wing music group Grup Yorum, has died on death fast in Istanbul.

One of the most famous left-wing 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 to protest these unlawful pressures. Two of them did turn their hunger strikes into death fast in January.

Helin Bölek and Ibrahim Gökçek were arrested about a year ago during a house search at the Idil Cultural Centre in Istanbul. They are accused of membership in the banned Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C). Bölek was released in November 2019 and Gökçek on February 24. Both musicians continued their fast until the reprisals against the popular left music formation are ended.

Bölek and Gökçek were taken to Ümraniye Training and Research Hospital by force by the police on March 11. After six days they were brought back to the ‘Resistance House’, where they continued their actions after not allowing medical intervention.

Bölek has lost her life today, on the 288th day of her fast which calls for the release of the detained group members, the lifting of the arrest orders against them and an end to the ban on the performance of the band.


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.