By David Martinez
On May 7, İbrahim Gökçek died after 323 days of fasting in protest of the Turkish state’s repression of his band, Grup Yorum. The Turkish state has labeled the musicians terrorists for their popularity and support of Democratic revolution in Turkey. The state fears support for Grup Yorum so much that they stole İbrahim’s body in a massive police operation so they could control any funeral demonstrations.
İbrahim’s death follows soon after the passing of his bandmate, Helin Bölek, who died after 288 days of her own death fast. The musicians demanded that the Turkish state end its persecution of the group, which has been banned from performing, faces imprisonment, and is subject to constant police raids in which officers have smashed the band’s instruments.
Turkey’s latest crime was to raid the location where İbrahim’s family was planning his funeral in order to steal his 100 pound body and control any subsequent mass demonstrations. Police launched tear gas into the building as İbrahim’s family was mourning. Hundreds of militarized officers swarmed the Gazi neighborhood in Istanbul and detained İbrahim’s father, as well as arresting his lawyers and brutalizing many others; 20 were arrested in total.
As the police assaulted the family, many residents of the neighborhood were outside agitating, chanting, and bearing witness to the old state’s total depravity.
The police took the body to the Kayseri region in an attempt to bury it quickly and avoid protests. In Kayseri, known as a stronghold for Turkey’s far-right, the convoy carrying İbrahim’s body was stopped by fascists. One group, the Gray Wolves, threatened to attack any funeral that might be held there, and a member said, “Even if you bury him, we are going to take his body out and burn him.”
The police finally allowed İbrahim’s body to be returned to his family after mass protests, but remained as so-called ‘escorts.’ His wife was allowed to be present at the burial, but many more family and friends were restricted from attending. Nonetheless, the funeral included combative speeches and chants in honor of his sacrifice for the struggle.
Other demonstrations in honor of İbrahim have taken place in cities across Europe, which are home to many Turkish immigrants and progressive organizations that support the people’s struggles in Turkey. At the gatherings, protesters denounced the Turkish state and the fascists who threatened his funeral.
In a letter written in the week prior to his death, İbrahim called on more people, particularly artists and intellectuals, to join together in resistance, writing:
“Why are such simple and humane demands not met? I want our demands to be fulfilled! Now, with all our strength, we must put pressure on the government to meet our demands. Without losing time, our intellectual and artist friends should talk with the relevant ministry and the presidency by forming committees among themselves and ensure that our demands are met. I greet you all with the warmth of Helin and Mustafa and with the enthusiasm of our resistance!”
Long live İbrahim Gökçek!