On Monday, 30 March, the UK’s Turkish community was rocked by news of the death of popular musician Doğan Ahmet.
The founder member of legendary Turkish pop-folk band Konkurt died of coronavirus a day after being admitted to North Middlesex Hospital, in North London, aged 72.
Twenty-four hours later, the community was in shock when his older sister Samime Bilginer also passed away from the virus at the same hospital.
Mrs Bilginer’s husband Dr. Tahsin Bilginer, a retired GP and former Turkish Cypriot community leader, is recovering from the disease.
Condolence messages have poured in from across the community and Cyprus for the well-loved brother and sister, originally from Mağusa/Famagusta.
Ersin Tatar, the Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), wrote on his Facebook page:
“I have learned with great sadness the death of Dr Tahsin Bilginer’s beloved wife Samime Bilginer. May God have mercy on her soul. My deepest condolences to Dr. Tahsin Bilginer and his family.”
A statement issued by the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations in Britain (CTCA UK) said:
“Samime’s tireless contribution to her community and the cause of Turkish Women in London leaves a legacy we will never forget.”
Oya Tuncalı, the Turkish Cypriot Ambassador to London, penned the following message on Facebook with a photo of herself and the Bilginer couple:
“We have been plunged into mourning by the loss of our beloved Samime Bilginer. We extend our condolences and patience to the Bilginer family.”
Mrs Bilginer, 79, had studied pharmacy in Istanbul. She moved to London in the 1960s and set up home in North London with her doctor husband. The couple went on to have three children, two daughters and a son, and are known for their charitable works.
An active member of the Turkish Women’s Philanthropic Association (TWPA) since its formation in 1975, Mrs Bilginer served on its various committees until her death, and regularly supported other community groups and local Turkish schools.
She and her husband went into self-isolation two weeks ago after showing symptoms for the virus. While Dr Bilginer’s health improved, his wife’s condition deteriorated and she was admitted into hospital last Monday, 16 March. The grandmother of nine sadly passed away just over a week later.
Mrs Bilginer and her brother Doğan Ahmet were from a family of five siblings. Their mother hailed from Ergazi, a village north of Mağusa, which has a large presence in London. Mr Ahmet had set off for London with a small group of friends in 1970.
The singer and guitarist had already reached prominence in his homeland with high school band Feveranlar.
In London, he teamed up with his brother Mehmet (bass, vocals), Hussein Katkın (keyboard, vocals), and Hasan Ahmet (drums, vocals) to form Konkurt. The band played popular Turkish folk, rock and pop covers, as well as their own compositions, such as Gülüm and Aşkımızı Kim Çaldı.
Described as the “Turkish Beatles”, Konkurt performed throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s. Regularly booked for Turkish weddings, parties and community events, their lively eclectic sets had guests singing and dancing, earning them a big fan base.
Their musical talents also attracted the attention of Turkey’s leading artists when they visited the British capital. Among the musical luminaries Konkurt shared the stage with was star rocker Barış Manço, playing together twice in the late 70s and early 80s.
Responding to the news of the death of Doğan Ahmet, another UK Turkish band Sevenler Muzik Group posted:
“Unfortunately we’ve lost another great musician and friend Dogan Konkurt Feveranlar singing with his brother Mehmet and cousin Ali popcu (wearing the green top) to the corona virus so this is my tribute to him and his family rest in peace abi x”.
Family, friends and fans also posted their condolences, including İbrahim Engür, who said:
“We are sad to learn that we have lost our brother Dogan Konkurt Feveranlar [sic] to the Corona virus in London. He was an angel, let your place be light, Doğan Abi.”
Coronavirus deaths, particularly among the UK’s Turkish Cypriot community, have been especially high.
To date, 27 have passed away from the disease, along with nine known victims originally from Turkey, bringing the community’s death toll to at least 36.
Most of the victims have been male and over the age of sixty, and many are thought to have had underlying health conditions.
Turkish Cypriot coronavirus victims:
Ahmet Raşit, Elmaziye Kamil, Mustafa Ahmet, Şengül Besim, Mustafa Mehmet, Kamil Ahmet, Yıldıray Faik, Mehmet Abdurrahman, Hasan Ali, Hüseyin Yusuf, Güney Osman Tarzan, Zülfiye Osman, Safi Levent, Niyazi Numanoğlu, Rahme Ahmet Tayip, Doğan Ahmet, Arif Niyazi, Çetin Çetinkaya, Mehmet Erdoğan, Tayfun Salih, Samime Bilginer, Serdar Balı, Hilmi Miski, Ahmet Kamil, Osman Mehmet and Özkan Hüseyin.
Victims of coronavirus originating from Turkey include:
Hayri Ergönül, İlyas Güngör, Hacı Ali Doğuş, Melik Ejder Ülkümen, Serkan Aydın, Hüseyin Arslan, Ali Kalaycı and Mahmut Özcan.