Police in Turkey arrested a famous pop star after she implied the country’s religious schools breed perverts.
Gulsen Bayraktar Colakoglu – widely known in Turkey by her first name – was arrested in Istanbul on Thursday (25th August).
Her arrest came after the city’s chief prosecutor’s office began investigating the 46-year-old on charges of “inciting people to hatred and hostility”.
The charges are believed to refer to the singer’s onstage remarks about Turkey’s Imam Hatip religious schools, of which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an alumnus.
In footage from a concert in April, Gulsen can be heard saying: “He had studied at an Imam Hatip school. That is where his perversion comes from.” It is not clear whom she was referring to.
Gulsen took to social media on the day of her arrest to explain that her comments were just a joke and to apologise to anyone she may have offended.
She said on Instagram Stories: “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.
“I am sorry that my words gave material to malicious people who aim to polarise our country.”
But that was not enough to stop several members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) – under whose watch the number of Imam Hatip schools has skyrocketed – from excoriating the award-winning songstress.
AKP spokesperson Omer Celik accused the singer of “forming and spreading hatred”, adding: “Targeting a fraction of society with the allegations of ‘perversion’ and trying to separate Turkey is a crime of hatred and disgrace of humanity.”
While AKP deputy chair Numan Kurtulmuş accused the singer of “using remarks that insult and hostilise” and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag slammed her “backward mentality”.
Gulsen’s lawyer Emek Emre has said he will appeal the decision to formally arrest the singer.
He said: “We were not accepting such a decision. There can be dimensions of criticism. This does not have to be a crime. We are of the opinion that the measure of arrest is disproportionate.”
President Erdogan has been accused of using religion to boost his ratings ahead of the 2023 general election.
Some recent opinion polls put the opposition Republican People’s Party ahead of his AKP.
Gulsen has nine studio albums under her belt and numerous number-one hits on Turkey’s official music chart.
She has long been criticised by Turkish conservatives for her racy outfits and support for LGBT rights.
Singers and other artists have felt unfairly singled out during President Erdogan’s two decades in power.
A string of concerts were cancelled across Turkey this year by ruling party officials on seemingly spurious grounds.