Turkish court jails pop star for religious comment

By: AFP
Published: 12:48 PM, 26 Aug, 2022
Turkish court jails pop star for religious comment
Caption: Singer Gulsen.
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A Turkish court Thursday jailed a pop star famous for her racy outfits and support for LGBTQ rights on charges of "inciting hatred" over a comment about religious schools.

Singer Gulsen Bayraktar Colakoglu -- a 46-year-old known by her first name on stage -- was detained at home in Istanbul and taken to court.

A judge then remanded her in jail pending an investigation into remarks she made on stage in April about Imam Hatip religious schools.

The schools raise children to be Muslim preachers and remain highly controversial among secular Turks.

A clip of the comments went viral and created outrage among senior members of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted party this week.

Gulsen is a household name in Turkey and her case has turned into headline news in the officially secular but mostly Muslim and highly polarised country.

Erdogan and his ruling AKP party will need a strong turnout from their core of socially conservative voters to reverse a slide in the polls ahead of a general election next June.

The controversial comment saw Gulsen remark to an unknown person on stage in apparent jest that his "perversion" was caused by his upbringing in an Imam Hatip school.

"Targeting a fraction of society with the allegations of 'perversion' and trying to divide Turkey is a crime of hatred and disgrace of humanity," AKP spokesman Omer Celik said.

Gulsen issued an apology on social media prior to her arrest.

"A joke I shared with my colleagues with whom I have worked for many years... was featured and published by those who aim to polarise society," she said.

"I am sorry that my words gave material to malicious people who aim to polarise our country."

Gulsen's attorney Emek Emre vowed to appeal the star's arrest and seek her immediate release.

"Our client has not committed any crime," he told reporters.

- Singled out -

Singers and other artists have long felt unfairly singled out during Erdogan's two decades in power.

A string of concerts were cancelled across Turkey this year by ruling party officials on seemingly spurious grounds.

Artists accuse the ruling party of trying to court the conservative Islamic core of Erdogan's support in the run-up to next year's polls.

But such cases have also given political ammunition to Erdogan's secular foes.

Staunchly secular CHP party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu called Thursday for Turkey's youth to come out and vote next year to save artists such as Gulsen from being jailed.

"I am calling out to the youth -- these unjust rulings will come to an end," Kilicdaroglu said in a social media post. "They are trying to rule this country by provoking and dividing you."

Late-night news of Gulsen's arrest prompted some Fenerbahce football fans to start singing one of her songs at Europa League match in Istanbul against Austria Vienna.

Social media posts showed a section of the packed stadium joining in the song in solidarity with the jailed star.

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.