Attacks against Grup Yorum: ‘They want to ‘Yavuz Bingölize’ us’

This is a translation of a recent interview by Tugay Candan from IleriHaber (https://ilerihaber.org/icerik/grup-yoruma-yonelik-saldirilar-bizi-yavuz-bingollestirmek-istiyorlar-118542.html)

Grup Yorum is facing a new wave of attacks. Group members were detained in a raid last week and İdil Cultural Center was destroyed. We had a talk with the members of Yorum about what happened during the raid, what the attacks were aimed at, how they will continue on this road, and the artist’s struggle against fascism.

Grup Yorum has been active in the field of political and original music since 1987 and has always been a part of the revolutionary struggle; Like the soldiers of the struggle which it sings the songs, marches and laments of, Grup Yorum has always been forced to pay a price. Despite this, neither the struggle was over, nor the voice of Grup Yorum was muted. But, especially after 2015, while the AKP government tried to imprison the country under fascist conditions, Grup Yorum also faced intense pressure. With the bans, it was almost made unable to perform concerts. Its members were imprisoned and became immortal in death fasts. They tried to terrorize İdil Cultural Center…

These attacks, aimed at preventing the group from meeting with the masses, expressed the projection of a fear, and always aroused anger among those who loved Grup Yorum. The most recent of these attacks was against İdil Cultural Center last week, as has been repeated many times. *

Group members Betül Varan, Bergün Varan, Sultan Gökçek, Eren Erdem and FOSEM worker Barış Gürses were taken into custody during the raid with a police army. The 4 days of detention period for the 5 people who were taken into custody did not make someone happy and so it was extended for 4 more days.

Another sign of fascism’s fearful resentment towards Grup Yorum was the images of destruction that emerged in the Idil Cultural Center after the raid. The institution was plundered from top to bottom, instruments were smashed, books were scattered on the floor …

We talked with the group members about what happened during the raid, what the attacks were aimed at, how to continue and the artist’s struggle against fascism.

THE RAID WAS NOT ENOUGH, THE THREATS CONTINUE…

After a banned and attacked concert attempt, İdil Cultural Center was raided again. There are inhuman images. Yorum members were also detained. What happened during the raid?

They came with dozens of special operations police and broke the doors of our institution and the windows of our cafe. It seemed like they were coming to occupy the enemy. They dragged our friends on the ground and detained them with torture. Then they destroyed our cultural center and cafe. They broke our baglama and violin, they broke its strings. They broke the shelves of our library, they scattered all our books on the floor. They left almost no usable items in our cultural center. On the other hand, a police officer who says that he is from the Istanbul Security Political Branch constantly calls and threatens our institution.

In a very glorious and honorable resistance, we buried our 2 members and 2 lives. Today, thanks to them, we are doing our revolutionary art with our heads high. Our album works continue, we are making new compositions. We published our new magazine. Our work continues with full speed and enthusiasm. Our members have been released, we are together with them again. They wanted to isolate us from our people. They wanted even the slightest voice of ours not to be hear. But they couldn’t achieve this. In this period, we think that we have a more place in the language and the heart of the people. And this, is the defeat of fascism. This raid they carried out shows the bad temper they have because of defeat.

“OUR CULTURAL CENTER HAS BEEN RAIDED FOR THE SECOND TIME IN TWO MONTHS”

This is not the first time we have encountered these raids and attacks. With the solidarity and support of our people, we know how to re-build our cultural center after every raid. On the other hand, our cultural center was raided for the second time in two months. We are very angry because of these raids. One of the demands of Helin and İbrahim was that our cultural center was not raided. Therefore, our anger is even greater. We never see raids as normal, we don’t get used to them. We also want people not to see the raids on İdil Cultural Center as ordinary, everyday events.

“WE SING OUR SONGS FOR A COUNTRY WE DREAM OF”

The resistance that made Helin and İbrahim eternal started because of these pressures. What is the power that ignores the call of two people who want to make their voices heard at the cost of their lives and what is the purpose of these raids? Why is there so much fear of Grup Yorum’s voice?

For 35 years, we have been singing our folk songs for a country we have been dreaming of. What kind of a country? An independent Turkey; a country where imperialism does not penetrate to our bones. A democratic Turkey where fascism does not use its shabby laws to cover up its injustices. A socialist Turkey where exploitation of labor, hunger, poverty, unemployment does not exist. For this, we made songs about Soma, about the massacres in Lice, Sur and Cizre. We made songs for Berkin Elvan, sick prisoners, for the 17 August earthquake.

“WE’RE GOING THROUGH THE MOST INTENSIVE ATTACKS”

For this reason, we are faced with the pressures and attacks of those who have been enemies of our dreams for 35 years. Albums were shot at with live bullets, concerts were banned, rehearsals were raided, detained, tortured, captured; we have experienced all of these. Today we are experiencing the most intense of these attacks; Because there is a government in our country whose crisis of failure to manage is getting deeper and they will never get out of this crisis. As a music group calling on the people to “not be hopeless, resist, fight, make them pay the price”, and which calls on the people to establish their own power, we have become a much more serious threat to AKP fascism. Such that; awards were placed on our heads, our concerts were banned in 81 provinces by a notice of the Ministry of Interior, all our members were arrested, our cultural center was raided 10 times in 3 years. What they want to do to us is to destroy the idea of being a revolutionary artist, and make us into a “Yavuz Bingöl”. Fascism was saying that if you are going to make music, you will do it as I want, within the boundaries I have determined. They aimed to liquidate Grup Yorum with all its identity, what it produced, the values it created. We chose the path of resistance by saying” either surrender or death”. We were able to reach even the deafest ears with our death fast resistance; thus, we lifted the dark isolation on us. Even this interview today, if we’re able to do it then we owe this to our death fast resistance. Of course, the period is still not over. As long as we are ruled by fascism, we will continue to face pressures, attacks and prohibitions. Maybe we will encounter even heavier attacks than today. But at all costs; We will continue to walk our own path, to resist even if we pay a huge price for our rights and justice. And fascism will not grant us our concert right, we will get it piece by piece!

“A GOVERNMENT WHICH IS AN ENEMY TO THE PEOPLE, TO ART, TO THE ARTIST…”

While the pressures on Grup Yorum have been going on for a long time, we see that the artistic activities of the artists known with their “opposition” identity were also prevented during this process. AKP has waged an all-out war against art. What do you think about the importance of art solidarity in such an environment?

What we call art is the expression of the people’s own experiences by different means. Today, the people are experiencing hunger, poverty and injustice. Artists who describe these in their works also encounter pressures and prohibitions. In other words, we have a government that is an enemy to the people, to art, to the artist.

Nazi Germany’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels has the words: “When it comes to culture, my hand goes to my gun in my waist.” AKP fascism also feeds on the same vein. One of the former ministers said, “We will clear the weeds in the field of culture and art”. Today, they block the activities of the artists by using the pandemic as an excuse, sometimes without even making up any excuses. Concerts are banned, theater halls are closed, plays are stopped. They condemn artists to starvation, and nearly 100 musicians committed suicide during the virus period.

“THEY CANNOT BUILD A HEGEMONY  IN THE FIELD OF CULTURE AND ARTS”

Still, they cannot establish their hegemony in the field of culture and arts. They admit this with their own mouths, saying “We couldn’t create the results we wanted in this area.” Yes, they can never make a poet like Nazım Hikmet. They do not have Helin Bölek, İbrahim Gökçek, Grup Yorum who will die for their art.

This is the power of the art of the people, of socialist realist art. Artists and intellectuals of our country should also be aware of this power. Increasing this power requires standing “shoulder to shoulder against Fascism”. In recent history, we have experienced very positive examples of artist solidarity in our country. Take the June Uprising process in 2013 as an example.

There is only one reason fascism seems strong; the disorganization of the people, artists and intellectuals. We call on all art workers who are against fascism and make art for the people to come together at the Art Assembly. (the Art Assembly was created by Grup Yorum to bring together progressive artists).

MESSAGE FROM YORUM: “BE OUR VOICE BE OUR BREATH”

What is Grup Yorum’s message to the people?

We are the artists of the people. We take our strength from the people, we rely on our people in the face of all difficulties. There have never been big big sponsors behind us. We have never received support from the government. We never received funds and grants from EU-US imperialism, and never made our art using these. So, our only support was the people. We held our huge square concerts, where we gathered millions, and our İnönü concert, which is the most crowded concert in our country, with the power of our people and solidarity. When there is not a single Yorum member left, our listeners come out and embrace Yorum. This is how we embody the slogan “Grup Yorum is the people, cannot be silenced”. All our people; We invite our listeners, intellectuals and artists, you press workers, to embrace Yorum, and to be our breath.