Turkey: A pop star imprisoned for remarks on a religious school

Turkey: A pop star imprisoned for remarks on a religious school

A Turkish court on Thursday ordered the arrest of a pop star known for her courageous organizations and support for the rights of the LGBTQ community, accusing her of “inciting hatred” over a remark about religious schools. Singer Gulsen Bayratr Kolakoglu, 46 and better known by her first name on stage, was arrested at her home in Istanbul and taken to court.

A judge has ordered Imam Hatip to remain in prison pending an investigation into the April remarks he made on stage about religious schools.

These schools, which prepare children to become Muslim preachers, remain controversial among secular Turks.

An excerpt from those remarks went viral and sparked outrage this week among senior members of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic Party.

Gulsen is a household name in Turkey and his case made headlines in the officially secular but predominantly Muslim country.

Gulsen © AP

President Erdogan and his ruling AKP party will need a strong turnout from their core socially conservative voters to turn the tide in the polls ahead of next June’s elections.

In her controversial remarks, Gulson joked to a stranger on stage, that her “distortion” was due to her upbringing at an Imam Hatip school.

“Targeting a section of society with allegations of ‘perversion’ and trying to divide Turkey is a hate crime and an insult to humanity,” AKP spokesman Omar Selic said.

Before his arrest, Gulsen made public apologizing on social media. “I’m sorry that my words gave material to malicious people who aim to divide our country,” she wrote.

Vessel Ok, a lawyer for the NGO Turkey’s Media and Law Studies, said the court in Istanbul had no legal basis to send Gulsen to prison.

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“Gulsen was arrested on the allegation that even if he had been convicted, he would not have been imprisoned,” OK tweeted. “It has nothing to do with the law.”

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