Helin Bolek’s Defense

On the one year anniversary of Grup Yorum member Helin Bolek falling martyr, we share with you her defense in court.

Art is the product of a human. It arises from human interactions. It tells social life and events in an aesthetic language. This language sometimes becomes painting, sculpture, sometimes theatre, these are just formal differences. What is essential is that it was born out of the need to tell people what they lived through, their struggle for life, their hopes, pains and longings. So, art is a necessity, like bread, like water…

The person is not a machine. It wants to feed the world of emotions and thoughts. It wants to attribute meanings to its experiences and to reach the beauty of producing and creating. Art and artist emerge from such social conditions.

Art has an important function in social development. It informs, educates, transforms spiritually and does these by giving an aesthetic pleasure. The bourgeoisie, on the other hand, declares art unattainable in a melancholic, mystical realm. The reactionary art of the bourgeoisie corrupts and devalues people, let alone develop them. Our art aims to move society to an advanced level and to create new values in every sense culturally.

However, the field of culture and art has been seen as something above the class in the hands of bourgeois and petty bourgeois intellectuals and has been privileged. In a bourgeois order, the people cannot make sufficient use of educational opportunities, since privileges are in the hands of a wealthy class.

As you know, anything can be bought and sold in capitalism. Including feelings and thoughts. And like everything else in culture and art, it is turned into a commodity that can be bought and sold with money under capitalism. People who can barely feed, barely bring the end of the month, can hardly spare any money for a culture and art event. There are millions of people in our country who have never been to a movie theater, never seen a theater hall, or watched a concert with tickets. It would be the biggest mistake to hold the public responsible by saying ‘ignorant’ for this painting. Those responsible are those who leave us hungry and poor. Even if they are ignorant, the fault is at those who leave them ignorant.

The price of a concert ticket can correspond to the average kitchen cost of a family for a week. The price of an average instrument can amount to half of a person’s monthly salary. I don’t even include the training and maintenance costs of this. Together with all of this, it is said that art is not the “mortar” of the people. After all, art is the work of talented people, “What do people understand from art?” isn’t it? From a point of view, what the people knows about in terms of art is to watch 1-2 artists performing on the ‘makeshift’ stages that municipalities bring to their districts and to watch TV series in the evening. And most importantly, this is so normalized that people no longer need music, theatre or movies. These feelings of aesthetics and pleasure, which are among the most important rights of people, are constantly being pulled down. We want to deliver to our people this right stolen from capitalism. We say that our people, our poor people deserve the best of everything. And that’s why we organize free concerts for them to attend. We don’t make makeshift scenes for free. In these concerts, we keep the stage performance high with symphony orchestras, dance groups and various stage shows.

In the place where art is taken out of expensive places, where it is handled in a manner that includes the problems of the people, and where it is explained in the language that the people understand, the people give the reward for this. And we owe our existence to this for the past 32 years.

There is an accusation against us in our indictment, it is claimed that we financed the organization with the revenues we obtained from the concerts we organized. Before I can grasp the illogicality of these claims, I need to share some information about our concerts.

I mentioned that we organize free concerts. These concerts are huge, massive, but costly concerts. I will give you some information to understand this, the cost of only the sound system we installed in these concerts is 200 thousand TL. Not to mention all the technical equipment and other expenses. Among the free concerts we gave in poor neighbourhoods, areas, squares, the largest of these concerts was the Independent Turkey concerts.

2011 – 350 thousand

2012 – 550 thousand

2013 – 750 thousand

2014 – over 1 million

2015 – banned

2016 – banned

The fact that the concert is banned does not change the situation for us. Again, we continue our preparations, rehearsals and works until the last day. We rent the technical equipment to set up the sound system, the stage. As we can see from our history, we have always had this determination in breaking the prohibitions.

There is a direct effort of the people in the preparation of this concert from beginning to end and in meeting all the concerts needs. In the presence of Yorum, it is actually its own labour that it claims. Everyone is working hard to ensure their participation in the concert, without expecting anything in return. Some brings their car keys in case we need it, some shopkeepers give crates of fruit, snacks and water so that it can be sold. They print some of the materials, some of them sews the costumes. Some of them take out the last 20 TL in their pocket and gives it to us. Our concerts are organized with such a great collaboration.

Of course, these are not enough financially. We are trying to pay this debt by organizing tours and paid concerts all year after the concert. It is not easy because this is not our only expense. We have a cultural centre, we have units such as FOSEM (photography and cinema workers), IHT (İdil People’s Theatre). There is the Tavır magazine, a culture and art magazine that we publish monthly. We have dozens of books waiting to be released from Tavır publishing. Let’s consider their expenses too. To add to this, we are a group of 13 people. Ultimately, in line with needs we also have expenses. With every police raid towards our cultural centre it, our institution is destroyed, our instruments are crushed. Apart from the spiritual side, do you know what kind of a hardship it gives us financially? You don’t know, of course, if you did, you would know that this claim in the indictment is baseless and ridiculous, and you wouldn’t accuse us of it.

We are not such rich people. We do not have such big sponsors. The issue of sponsorship is seen only economically, but it is a political mechanism. While the artists, who stand by the peoples of the world and whose language is their voice, face all kinds of pressure and restrictions, the artists who are the slapstick of the bourgeoisie and its order, who rely on the EU monopolies, and who turn their backs on the people and labour, benefit from all kinds of encouragement and blessings of the order.

We are the artists of the people, our art is for the people, not the bourgeoisie. Therefore, we are not supported by the Koc Family or the Sabancı Family or the Zorlu family (these are series of wealthy families in Turkey).

So how do we do it? As a big family with our audience.

We concretize in our choirs that the people are not only a buyer but also a producer of art. The choral works we carry out are for the direct participation of the people in the production of culture and arts. We want the children of the people to be the artists of the people. We know that not only the wealthy, but also poor children can become artists if they have the opportunity. Producing is not the job of a handful of elites, anyone can do it. Here, we want to eliminate this situation and create equal opportunity with the music education we provide there by establishing folk choirs.

Until now, we have started choral works in 8 provinces aside from Istanbul. We had dozens of students in Hatay, Adana, Dersim, Ankara, Antalya, Bursa, Eskişehir and İzmir. Some of them have studied music at university, others will sing for the first time in a crowded place. Some are a retired uncle at the age of 50-60, some a little girl who is starting school new. Some housewives, some doctors.

We didn’t care if anyone sang very well, whether they were educated or not. We believe that talents do not exist from birth, but can be developed by working. We’ve done this over and over again, creating many examples.

We did not get people to sing, and then laugh at them like they do in TV shows. We did not mock them. Competition in art education is out of the question. Contrary to the logic of competition and defeating each other, we have dominated collectivism. We tried to give the feeling of being US instead of selfishness. We explained that everything can be learned and taught with labour. To protect the cultural values and heritage of the people, to develop it, to carry it forward and to spread it to the whole peoples is the responsibility of being the artist and intellectual of the people. We act with this sense of responsibility while forming our choirs. Our choirs are among the most valuable steps we have taken in the struggle to create a new person. We are trying to create a world full of people who love their people, their homeland, and live with dignity and honour. Is this our crime?

Students who join our choirs are threatened with dismissal from schools and work, they’re threatened with arrests and jailings. Likewise, families are constantly threatened and harassed. We are trying to be terrorized with the claim of ‘recruiting members for the organization’. We are right and legitimate. We haven’t had any practice that we could not defend until now. We have not experienced any situation that we cannot explain. Here, attacks are directed at our righteousness and legitimacy. We do not want our students to be like the artists and fake heroes who are whirling in the swamp.

We want them to take the true folk heroes as an example and aspire Köroğlu, Karacaoğlan and Dadaloğlu. We have 32 years of experience, both technically and culturally, and we transfer this knowledge to our people with our choirs and courses. So, we fulfil the requirements of being an artist of the people. No matter what we go through, whatever the cost, nothing will prevent us from continuing to be ‘as it should be’. In prison, we continued to do what we were doing before we were jailed. When we are released, we will continue on from where we left off. We fulfil our responsibility to the people of Turkey, actually even all the peoples of the world.

Helin Bolek