Turkish pop star, Gulsen Bayraktar Colakoglu, famous for her daring outfits and support for the rights of the LGBTQ community, was arrested at her home in Istanbul for comments made on stage about Imam Hatip religious schools.

A Turkish court on Thursday, August 25, 2022 ordered the arrest of a pop star famous for her daring outfits and her support for the rights of the LGBTQ community and charged her with “incitement to hatred” for a comment on religious schools.

Singer Gulsen Bayraktar Colakoglu, 46 and known by her first name on stage, was arrested at her home in Istanbul and taken to court. A judge has ordered her jailed pending an investigation into remarks she made on stage in April about Imam Hatip religious schools.

Gulsen apologized for her comment.

These schools, which prepare children to become Muslim preachers, remain controversial among secular Turks. A snippet of those comments went viral and sparked outrage among senior members of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist party this week.

Gulsen is a household name in Turkey and his case has made headlines in the officially secular but predominantly Muslim country. 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 his controversial comment, Gulsen remarked to a stranger on stage, seemingly in jest, that his “perversion” was due to his upbringing at an Imam Hatip school. “Targeting a fraction of society with allegations of + perversion + and trying to divide Turkey is a hate crime and a shame for humanity”, declared Omer Celik, the spokesperson for the AKP.

Gulsen went public with an apology on social media before his arrest. “I am sorry that my words gave material to malicious people who aim to divide our country,” she wrote. Lawyer Veysell Ok, from the NGO Turkey’s Media and Law Studies, said the Istanbul court had no legal basis to jail Gulsen.

“Gulsen was arrested on charges that wouldn’t have landed her in jail even if she had been convicted,” Ok tweeted. “This has nothing to do with the law.”


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