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Turkish authorities clamp down on revolutionary concert amid snap election rumours

ISTANBUL authorities were accused today of being afraid of a music concert after a Grup Yorum performance due to be held in August was banned amid rumours of an imminent snap election.

The revolutionary musicians were due to perform in memory of bass player Ibrahim Gokcek and singer Helin Bolek, who died after going on hunger strike for the right to play music and for the removal of the group’s musicians from a notorious government terror list.

The Istanbul show is “Helin and Ibrahim’s gift to the world,” the band said, as it called on supporters to come and “break the chains” imposed by the Turkish state.

But despite reports that the performance had been agreed by the authorities, Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya, an appointee of authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said it would not be taking place.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu from the Kemalist Republican People’s Party (CHP), who won last year’s much criticised rerun election by more than 800,000 votes, remained silent on the concert ban, which has been imposed with the prospect of an early election in August or September.

His failure to speak out exposes a weakness in the CHP claims that it acts even as a nominal opposition to Mr Erdogan’s ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP).

Progressive Lawyers Association Ankara chair Murat Yilmaz, who has previously represented the band, told the Morning Star that the authorities were “afraid of a concert.”

“It is already tragic that people lay down their lives for a concert,” he said, describing the ban on the performance as “absolute arbitrariness.”

“If Turkey had ever complied with the law, the constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights and claimed to be a democratic country, then people would never have lost their lives by laying down their bodies on hunger strike,” he said.

But he said that the AKP was silencing the band along with all forms of opposition, including students and workers.

Grup Yorum had played many concerts with hundreds of thousands of people attending with no incidents occurring and nobody being hurt, Mr Yilmaz explained, adding that there was no basis in law for the ban.

The band has long been targeted by the Turkish state, which insists they are linked to the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), which it deems a terrorist organisation.

Its community centre has been subjected to numerous raids, with equipment smashed, while its concerts have been banned by the authorities.

As many as 10 band members have been jailed with others placed on the notorious grey terrorist list with a 300,000 Turkish lira bounty on their heads.

“We hope the days will come soon to this country that Grup Yorum can sing their songs freely,” Mr Yilmaz said.

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