Turkish police raided Idil Cultural Centre in Istanbul on Tuesday and detained five members of the left-wing music band Grup Yorum.
Five members of the left-wing music band Grup Yorum, Dilan Poyraz, Barış Yüksel, Fırat Kaya, Bergün Varan and Merve Kurt, were taken into custody during the raid.
One of the most famous left-wing political music bands in Turkey, Grup Yorum has been under constant pressure 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 went on hunger strike to protest these unlawful pressures. Two of them turned their hunger strikes into death fast in 2020.
Helin Bölek and Ibrahim Gökçek were arrested during a search at the Idil Cultural Centre in Istanbul in 2019. They were 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, 2020. Both musicians continued their fast, demanding that 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, 2020. After six days, they were brought back to the ‘Resistance House’, where they continued their action after not allowing medical intervention.
Bölek lost her life on the 288th day of her fast which called 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.
Ibrahim Gökçek, bassist of Grup Yorum, led a death fast protest for 323 days in protest at the state repression against his group. With the protest, the 39-year-old musician demanded 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 musician suspended his death fast on the 323rd day, on May 5, after Turkish officials agreed for a talk with the band for permission to make concerts.
After suspending the fast, Gökçek was taken under treatment in the intensive care unit of a hospital in the Esenyurt district. Gökçek was connected to respirator after a deterioration of his condition, and he passed away on May 7.
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 years, the police have carried out dozens of raids 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. With a hunger strike in June 2019, band members demanded the release of those arrested, removal of arrest warrants against some other members, termination of incessant police raids in the İdil Cultural Center, and an end to arbitrary bans on their concerts and cultural events.