Turkish pop star Gulsen arrested over religious comment

Singer placed in custody for remark about Turkey's controversial Imam Hatip religious schools

Turkey's AKP spokesman Omer Celik said singer Gulsen was trying to divide the country. Photo: @Gulsen / Instagram
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A Turkish pop star was in custody on Thursday on charges of “inciting hatred” over a comment about religious schools.

Gulsen Bayraktar Colakoglu, 46, who is known by her first name on stage, was detained at home in Istanbul and taken to court.

She was remanded in custody by a judge pending an investigation into remarks she made on stage in April about Imam Hatip religious schools.

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

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

Mr 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.

“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 apologised on social media before 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 lawyer Emek Emre vowed to appeal against her arrest and seek her immediate release.

“Our client has not committed any crime,” Mr Emre said.

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

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 singer.

Updated: August 26, 2022, 10:07 AM