Fans were attacked at a listening party in a record shop in Istanbul’s picturesque Beyoğlu neighbourhood, on June 17, by a group of individuals who were apparently enraged by the fact that the youngsters were drinking alcohol during the holy month of Ramadan. The Velvet IndieGround music store played host to an unusual round of violence, which resulted in almost 20 people getting injured, during an event organised to celebrate the release of English rock band Radiohead’s new album.
The incident of intolerance in secular Turkey drew around 300 protesters to the streets. The Istanbul police reportedly used tear gas to disperse them. Enraged victims also took to social media and spoke about the open assault on men and women by a mob that brandished pipes, sticks, and glass bottles, and openly threatened to burn the store down for its patrons “not feeling any shame” for enjoying music and drinking beer during the holy month.
One of the fans who was attacked — who was live streaming the listening party on Periscope — has uploaded a video of the attack on YouTube. He then wrote about his ordeal on Reddit and was joined there on a now-closed thread by another victim who was at the Velvet IndieGround at the time when the fans were attacked.
“They were determined to kill us. We were beaten by more than 20 men with pipes in their hands, beer bottles were broken on our heads, I don’t even know how we made it out… Weird Fishes is my favourite song in the world, and I was dancing to it outside when it all started. Now it has so much more meaning for me.”
The fans were listening to Radiohead’s acclaimed new album, A Moon Shaped Pool, when they were attacked, prompting Radiohead fans worldwide to come out in support of their Turkish counterparts. The store, Velvet IndieGround, is owned by Seogu Lee, a South Korean who was also attacked and who has been asked to shut shop by his landowners following the disturbance.
“Our hearts go out to those attacked tonight at Velvet IndieGround in Istanbul. We hope that someday we will be able to look back on such acts of violent intolerance as things of the ancient past. For now, we can only offer our fans in Istanbul our love and support.”
While the holy month of Ramadan calls for austerity and fasting, it goes without saying that the decision of whether to practice religious rituals or not rests entirely on an individual — especially in a society that was hitherto free and inclusive of alternate lifestyles as Istanbul’s. Pretty much like Beyoğlu mayor Ahmet Misbah Demircan, who called the attack “a planned assassination of social peace,” Istanbul residents are shocked at such an open show of intolerance in a society which is largely tolerant of alcohol and the enjoyment of music in spite of a majority of its population being Muslim. On Saturday, many gathered in solidarity with the fans attacked, but the Istanbul police were quick to use water cannons and tear gas on them.
While Istanbul marches in the Middle East’s largest gay pride parade today, the role of the police which did not provide permission for the parade remains to be seen.
[Photo by Dominique Soguel/AP Images]