A thought on the martyrdom of Helin Bolek

Pratyay Banerjee

Helin Bolek, a member of the outlawed Turkish band passed away on 3rd April on the 288th day of her hunger strike against the fascist Turkish government. Bolek was staging her hunger strike in order to compel the Turkish government to permit the band to stage their musical performances. Turkish government’s repressive measure on the Kurds and other minorities of their country is well known to the world. Since last December, the fascist Turkish government is carrying out military invasion in the autonomous Kurdish region, so well known as Rojava.  The world in which we live is increasingly witnessing advent of right wing fascist forces all over the world. Attack on minorities, curbing of democratic spaces, jingoism, hate crime, racism and gender oppression are increasingly taking place in our country, as well as in other parts of this globe.

It has been reported that Helin Bolek was a member of the band entitled Grup Yorum, and they were famous for their protest songs. This folk collective was banned by the fascist Turkish government in 2016; many of the members have been imprisoned. Bolek and her comrade Ibrahim Gokcek embarked upon a hunger strike to persuade the government on restricting its ban on the group from performing in public spaces. Commenting on the tragic demise of Helin Bolek, Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) of PEN America, made the following statement-

We are immensely saddened to learn of Helin Bölek’s passing. We strongly condemn the actions of the Turkish government that led to her death. Bölek was on a death fast because the Turkish authorities refused to guarantee this artistic group several of the most basic liberties necessary to a free and democratic society: that Grup Yorum be allowed to make music in peace, that their cultural center not be raided again and again, that their concerts not be banned, and that their members not be imprisoned for merely making music. Artists take risks, but they should not have to risk their lives. Turkish authorities’ hostile attitude toward freedom of expression and their continued crackdown on artists, writers, thinkers, and activists, especially those working on Kurdish issues, must cease immediately, and Grup Yorum members still in prison must be unconditionally released. Bölek’s death makes the truth painfully clear: The very lives of artists are on the line.”

At present, Ibrahim Gokcek, the other performer is continuing with his 300days of fasting to move the government to allow him to play his guitar at public performances.

The attack on progressive writers, intellectuals, artists and signers is not only a case of Turkey alone. In our country, from Somen Chanda to Safdar Hashmi, we can very well think of creative artists and writers who became the victim of successive reactionary regimes in India.

Presently we are facing a phase lockdown all over the world owing to the threat of contamination of COVID19. And there is no denying the fact that this new situation has robbed us of the most effective means of protesting against any form of injustice, namely, taking to the street and voicing against any oppressive measure by the rulers, be it of our country or elsewhere. It is an impediment for all of us; for people who believe in justice freedom and equality.

To conclude, the outset of a global pandemic of Corona virus is certainly a threat to our civilization. Yet, we must not forget that other forms of viruses do exist and are no less lethal, they stem from inequality, oppression and injustice.

Thus, in this present circumstances, we must avail every opportunity to address issues of social and political significance, through social medias and other existing modes of creating public opinion

Source: [1] https://pen.org/press-release/turkish-musician-dies-following-hunger

2 thoughts on “A thought on the martyrdom of Helin Bolek”

  1. Suchhanda Mukhopadhyay

    My regards and love to Helin Bolek.Its an inspiration to all of thus people.Thanks Pratyay Da ,for your humble and some thoughtfull discussion on her and turkish politics,exploitation..etc.

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