The World Mourns the Passing of Turkish singer Helin Bölek after 300-day hunger strike

Helin Bölek courtesy of Twitter for Android

“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 . . . ” Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) of PEN America



The world mourns the death of Turkish singer Helin Bölek. Ms. Bölek died Friday after a nearly 300-day hunger strike. She was a member of the music collective Grup Yorum, which has faced ongoing persecution by the Turkish government for years. Bölek had been on a hunger strike to protest her imprisonment and that of eight other band members during 2019.


Ms. Bölek, originally the daughter of a family from Diyarbakır, worked in art during her youth. She took part in the group as a soloist. During a police operation in İdil Culture Center in Istanbul in November 2016, she was first detained with the seven members of the group on charges of “resisting the police, insulting and being a member of a terrorist organization” and then arrested. In addition to Ms. Bölek, Bahar Kurt, Barış Yüksel, İbrahim Gökçek (who is currently in day 291 of his hunger strike), and Ali Aracı announced that they started an “indefinite and irreversible” hunger strike on May 17, 2019, to end their pressures, concert bans, raids on cultural centers. On March 11, 2020, on the day of the conflict, İbrahim Gökçek on the 268th day of the death fast and Helin Bölek on the 265th day were taken out to the Umraniye Training and Research Hospital after the police raid that morning in their home in Küçük Armutlu, Istanbul. In a statement made by their lawyer Didem Ünsal, the two Grup Yorum members stated that they were taken to the hospital by ambulance and that they were admitted to the emergency room, where they declared that they did not accept the intervention and treatment.

Grup Yorum is a band from Turkey known for their political songwriting. Grup Yorum (Yorum means interpretation or comment in Turkish) has released twenty-three albums and one film since 1985. Some of the group’s concerts and albumswere banned over the years, and some of the group members were allegedly arrested or tortured.Yorum remains popular and their albums continue to sell well in Turkey and internationally. Yorum has also given concerts in Germany, Austria, Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom, Greece and Syria. The group publishes an art, culture, literature, and music magazine entitled Tavir, and several group members manage a cultural center in the Okmeydanı neighborhood of Istanbul called İdil Kültür Merkezi.

 


Although Ms. Bölek was released on November 20, she continued her hunger strike with the intent to pursue it until her own death, alongside Grup Yorum member İbrahim Gökçek. Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) of PEN America, said the following:

“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.”

This post is complied courtesy of Wikipedia, PEN America, YouTube, and various news reports.

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you would like to learn more about Grup Yorum, please read ARC’s profile of the band. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC here.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Suspension of ABC Reporter “Sends the Wrong Message” says PEN America; News Outlets Defend Wright

Journalist David Wright meets Pope Francis en route to South America, July 2015 courtesy of Manitoba321 under   CC BY-SA 4.0 license

David Wright is an Emmy Award-winning Canadian-American broadcast journalist and political activist, a former correspondent for ABC News, and a self-described socialist. His work appears on Nightline, World News Tonight, Good Morning America and 20/20.



ABC News on Wednesday announced it had suspended correspondent David Wright for comments he made that were secretly recorded and disseminated by a right-wing activist group.

“ABC’s decision essentially—and wrongly—suggests that journalists are unable to do their work professionally if they have private opinions, as any individual does. In doing so, it hands a victory to an outfit whose mission is to use underhanded tactics to undermine public faith in the credibility of a free press. Wright was expressing his personal opinions at a bar, and even gave a disclaimer that his comments were separate from his professional work. To punish him for this sends the wrong message to the public and to those who seek to further drive distrust in professional media.”  Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. Free Expressions Programs, PEN America.

NEWS OUTLETS SPEAK OUT:

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Timed for Election Season, PEN America Launches Free Speech 2020

 

George Orwell statue at the headquarters of the BBC courtesy of Matt Brown under CC BY 2.0

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”, words from George Orwell’s proposed preface to Animal Farm (1945)



PEN America launches Free Speech 2020, a yearlong initiative to mobilize writers and readers to elevate free speech issues and defend free expression throughout this election season. Deploying on social media and at PEN.org, the initiative will feature Q&As with presidential candidates, authors, and activists about the value of free speech; research profiling the major threats to free expression in the U.S.; and resources to guide PEN America Members and partners to defend against those threats. Free Speech 2020 will also mobilize PEN America Members and supporters across the country with a series of events, trainings, and conversations about the importance of protecting our right to speak.

With this ” . .  . the American people start making their voices heard [with the kick-off of] an election season that promises to be a pivotal moment for free expression in this country. That’s why we feel it’s the perfect time to unify our commitment to defending free speech under this organization-wide initiative,” said Summer Lopez, senior director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “We’ll be building on our existing work and expanding our national footprint to fight for free expression across the country.”

Free Speech 2020 will continue through November, highlighting four major themes:

  • Defending press freedom. PEN America will build on its landmark report on the local news crisis; continue fighting in the courts to defend press freedom; conduct trainings and assemble resources for reporters to know their rights; and lead nationwide media literacy trainings.
  • Combatting disinformation. PEN America will partner with tech companies, government entities, and parties and candidates from across the political spectrum to push back against misleading information. The organization will also lead media literacy trainings, build on its pathbreaking disinformation report, and call on the digital platforms to step up their efforts to battle false information.
  • Fighting online harassment. PEN America will fan out across the country to engage with writers, journalists, and newsroom leaders in the best practices to strike back against online abuse, which imperils free speech and free dialogue. The organization will build on its Online Harassment Field Manual and additional resources.
  • Upholding protest rights. PEN America will speak out against violations of the constitutional right to demonstrate throughout the election cycle, fightingrestrictions such as the DC Mall Protest Tax, and will also publish research on legislative trends that threaten the right to protest.

“We’re at a key inflection point in the U.S., and this election season is already bringing new and unique threats to free speech,” said Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “Across the country and across our digital platforms, we’re mobilizing to stand up for the public’s right to speak out and the public’s right to know. As writers, readers, and defenders of the written word, that’s our driving mission this election year.”

Through February, PEN America will be featuring Q&As with presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang (PEN America has contacted all major-party candidates for interviews). Also this month, PEN America will include video, audio, and web interviews with authors about their perspectives on free speech in 2020, which kicked off with an interview from author Mira Jacob.

For more information, visit pen.org/free-speech-2020.

***

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Jamie Dedes:

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

Environmental reporter Philip Jacobson was detained and provisionally released this week, purportedly due to a visa issue.

Deforestation in Riau, Sumatra, to make way for an oil palm plantation, HaydenOil Palm Concession under CC BY 2.0 license

“Journalism is clearly not a crime. This case is an administrative matter, a visa problem, not a criminal one,” Harsono said. [Andreas Harsono, Indonesian research at Human Rights Watch] HERE.



The detention of a U.S. journalist in Indonesia may have been linked to his news outlet’s reporting critical of the government. Environmental reporter Philip Jacobson was detained and provisionally released this week, purportedly due to a visa issue. PEN America advises Indonesian officials to resolve the case promptly and drop any criminal charges.

“While we are relieved that Philip has been temporarily released, we remain concerned that he is being targeted for his work in an attempt to send a warning signal to those journalists and news outlets who undertake investigative reporting on sensitive topics in Indonesia,” said Karin Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “Even if there is evidence of a visa-related violation, it should be handled as an administrative rather than a criminal matter and be resolved as quickly as possible, and we call on the authorities to allow both Indonesian and foreign journalists to work freely and without fear of retaliation.”

Jacobson, a U.S. citizen who works as an editor and strategist at Mongabay, a multilingual environmental news website, was in Indonesia on a business visa. On December 17, the day Jacobson was scheduled to leave the city Palangkaraya, immigration officers came to the guesthouse where he was staying and instructed him to remain in the city while they conducted an investigation into an alleged violation of his visa. They also confiscated Jacobson’s passport.

On January 21, authorities took him into custody and held him in a detention center for three days. On Friday, he was released into “city detention.” Law enforcement officials said he violated the terms of his visa and could face a prison sentence of up to five years. The day before he was approached by officials, he had attended a hearing between local lawmakers and an indigenous rights group but was not reporting on the event. His employer Mongabay has recently published articles that criticize Indonesia’s handling of conflict with indigenous communities over land rights, deforestation of Indonesian rainforests, and corruption.

This post is courtesy of PEN America, Reuters, and Wikipedia

***

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Jamie DedesAbout /Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium Ko-fi

Your donation HERE helps to fund the ongoing mission of The Poet by Day in support of poets and writers, freedom of artistic expression, and human rights.

Poetry rocks the world!



FEEL THE BERN

For Peace, Sustainability, Social Justice

The Poet by Day officially endorses Bernie Sanders for President.

The New New Deal

Link HERE for Bernie’s schedule of events around the country.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” Bernie Sanders



“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton