Turkish pop star Gulsen Colakoglu jailed after joke about religious schools in Turkey

The charges appear to relate to a video circulating on social media at a Gulsen concert in April, when she joked about one of the musicians.

He « graduated from Imam Hatip (religious schools). That’s where his evil side comes from, » she said.

Several Twitter users could be seen sharing the video on Thursday with a hashtag calling for his arrest and saying it is offensive to associate schools with perverts.

Gulsen denies committing a crime and is appealing the arrest, according to his lawyer Emek Emre.

After his detention, Gulsen shared a message on his official Twitter and Instagram accounts, apologizing to « anyone who was offended » by the joke and saying it was twisted by « malicious people who aim to polarize our country. « .

« I made a joke with my colleagues, who I worked with for many years in the business. It was posted by people who aim to polarize society, » she said.

« By standing up for the freedom I believe in, I see myself being thrust into the radical end I criticize. I apologize to anyone who was offended by my speech in the video, » she said.

She later said in testimony that it was an « unfortunate joke » and asked to be released, saying she had a child in her care and would report to court or to a post. police when needed, according to Anadolu.

Gulsen has previously been targeted by Turkish conservative groups for her revealing stage outfits and support for the LGBTQ community.

The Muslim-majority country is officially secular but highly polarized on issues surrounding secularism, religion, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.

Imam Hatip schools, which teach religious studies alongside the Turkish curriculum, have grown during the two decades the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power. Schools are known to train young people to become imams or preachers. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the school, as did many members of the AKP party.

Controversy in Turkey

Reactions to the arrest came from ordinary Turks, celebrities and even political parties.

After his arrest, social media posts showed Gulsen fans in a crowded football stadium singing his songs in a show of solidarity.

Award-winning British-Turkish novelist Elif Shafak has called for Gulsen’s release, as have other cultural figures.

« I deeply regret the arrest of artist @gulsen. She was targeted for her bold advocacy of women’s rights, LGBT+ rights, secularism, democracy and pluralism. This is a lynching campaign. This is neither legal nor conscientious. Free both. # gulsenserbestbırakılsın », she tweeted.

Iconic Turkish pop star Tarkan also took to Twitter on Friday, writing that « this injustice towards Gulsen must stop and Gulsen must be freed immediately. »

« Those who prosecute without arrest and sometimes even release without trial those who sexually abuse children, murder women, rape women, but when it comes to Gulsen, they act quickly. Our justice system, which ignores those who are corrupt , steal, break the law, slaughter nature, kill animals, use religion as a tool for their own sectarian ideas and polarize society, stop Gulsen in one fell swoop, » he also wrote.

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AKP members defended arrest, with AKP spokesman Omer Celik saying ‘incitement to hatred is not an art form’ in a Twitter post.

Turkey’s Treasury and Finance Minister Dr. Nurettin Nebati tweeted: « Our Imam Hatip High Schools are our distinguished institutions raising generations endowed with our national and moral values ​​and moral maturity. I strongly condemn this distorted language and the distorted mentality behind it, which targets our young people who are studying in our Imam Hatip schools, and I find that unacceptable. »

Meanwhile, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party described the backlash against Gulsen as a fabricated controversy meant to « play our young people against each other ».

« For a long time, a wind of peace has been blowing over young people with different lifestyles. The purpose (of the arrest) is to take a joke that has overshot its mark and pit our young people against each other. This is to stay more in power, and more to steal and break, » Kemal Kilicdaroglu wrote on Twitter.

Presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey are both scheduled for early next summer.

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