Street Band Assaulted by Muslims in Istanbul for Playing ‘Jewish’ Music
A mob self-identifying as outraged Muslims attacked a Turkish street band in Istanbul this week for playing the Italian left-wing fight song “Bella Ciao,” complaining that the song was a “Jewish march” and that bands should not be allowed to play “Israeli music” freely in Turkey.
The band, Group Letter, was playing in public in Avcılar, Istanbul, apparently too close to a nearby mosque. A mob approached, with large pit bull dogs in tow, and chased them out of the area. “You can’t play Jewish marches here, you can’t play Israeli music here,” one man yelled, though Hurriyet reports witnesses identified the song they were playing as “Bella Ciao,” a staple in left-wing protests popularized in Turkey during 2013’s Taksim Square protests against the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Muslims cannot allow stolen Jewish music. … I cannot let it happen,” one protester said.
A man identified as a member of Group Letter, Ozcan Arslan, said after the incident that the band would continue to play in public, as it believed it has more support than opponents. “Music does not know religion, language, race, no denomination,” he says, blaming “a mindset of intolerance and criticism” for the attack. Arslan did say they would prefer to perform with local government help should they do so in public again, but that they have no plans to retire.
The band has posted many videos on Facebook, including one of their performance of “Bella Ciao” on another occasion:
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