Turkey: Revolutionary Musician Helin Bölek Dies on Hunger Strike

By Jakob Stein

Last Friday, Helin Bölek, member of revolutionary Turkish band Grup Yorum died after being on hunger strike for 288 days. Both Bölek and one of her bandmates, İbrahim Gökçek, were on a death fast to protest the Turkish government’s intense repression of the group.

Helin Bölek before and during her death fast

Grup Yorum, first formed in 1985, have been the targets of state repression for many years; members have been subject to torture, imprisonment, and have been listed as “terrorists” by the government for their left-wing political stances. Bölek and Gökçek’s demands include the release of several jailed band members, a stop to the police raids on their cultural center, and a reversal of the 2016 ban on Grup Yorum concerts, which would often bring hundreds of thousands of fans in support.

In an interview with the French magazine Politis, Gökçek remarked:

“Making this decision was not that difficult given what we are going through every day. Our instruments and our music are systematically destroyed. Our concerts prohibited. Our names on terrorist lists, and we are imprisoned. So much has happened. Great injustices. Of course, from the start, we want to live. But sometimes in Turkey you have to be ready to die to stand up. 

When Grup Yorum was created, Turkey was silenced. We sang against injustices and we are still fighting today to show the evidence. We are fighting not only for ourselves, but for all the peoples of Turkey. And I know that if something happened to us, Helin [Bölek] or me, the resistance would not end.”

His words demonstrate the revolutionary courage and willingness to sacrifice that Bölek embodied in her death. In late February, Gökçek was released from prison after a medical report found that he was “not in a state to stay in prison,” however he continues his fast to this day.

İbrahim Gökçek before and during his death fast

Helin Bölek lives on in the struggle!