"We're not asking for compassion, we're asking for justice”

Ibrahim Gökçek, a musician of the Grup Yorum band, who has been on death fast for 316 days, has addressed the public with an appeal: "Death can only be prevented if our demands are met.”

For 316 days now, Ibrahim Gökçek, bassist of the socialist band Grup Yorum, has been on death fast against state repression against his group. With the protest, the 39-year-old musician demands 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 Turkish government has so far strictly rejected the demands. First the hunger strike must be ended, then one can talk, said officials from Ankara.  

In a message from Ibrahim Gökçek, which was spread on Twitter on Tuesday, he announced that the hunger strike would not be ended. "Our demands are legitimate, why are they not being met?", asked the visibly weakened musician. "We have given the biggest and best attended concerts. We made the people's songs and became one with the people." 

The band, whose last folk concert in 2015 attracted one and a half million visitors, has not been allowed to perform for five years. Under the state of emergency declared by the AKP government after the failed coup in summer 2016, the names of the band members were even put on a terror list. They are accused of membership in the "Revolutionary People's Liberation Party - Front" (DHKP-C). The government offered bounties between 300,000 and 1 million Turkish Lira, "Dead or Alive." Bounties against artists were last seen in Hitler's fascism.

On hunger strike since February 2019

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."

Grup Yorum

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.

PKK calls for urgent action for Ibrahim Gökçek

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) Committee for Culture and Art called for urgent action for Ibrahim Gökçek on Monday. "Whether inside or outside, those who resist must not be left alone. Before further deaths occur, pressure must be exerted on the government to ensure that the demands are met. Even under the current conditions there are different methods for this. It is enough not to be indifferent - resistance is possible under all circumstances."

HBDH: Fascism does not flinch even in times of Corona

The "United Revolutionary Movement of the Peoples " (Halkların Birleşik Devrim Hareketi, HBDH) also demands urgent action for Ibrahim Gökçek. In a statement published today, the alliance points to the "ruthless attacks" that the Turkish state continues to carry out in all areas of life even in times of Coronavirus.

"The state also uses extreme brutality against members of Grup Yorum who defend human dignity with their revolutionary art and against those who demand a fair trial by going on hunger strike. Only recently Helin Bölek and Mustafa Koçak joined the Caravan of Immortals. Ibrahim Gökçek, who has refused to eat for the 316th day in a row, can also leave at any time. We must act urgently - for Ibrahim and for the political prisoners. Let's take our democratic and legitimate rights in hand and carry the resistance to victory,” said the HBDH statement.