The arrest of a Turkish pop star for a joke he made about religious schools has drawn a fierce response from critics of the government, who see him bent on punishing those who oppose his conservative views.
Pop singer Gulsen was jailed Thursday pending trial on a charge of hate speech after a pro-government media outlet released a video of a comment she made on stage in April.
“He studied at an Imam Hatip (school) before. That’s where his perversion comes from,” Gulsen says cheerfully in the video, referring to a musician in his band.
President Tayip Erdoganwhose Islamist-rooted AK Party first came to power some 20 years ago, studied at one of the country’s first Imam Hatip schools, which were founded by the state to educate young people to be imams and preachers.
Sabah, a pro-government newspaper, published the video on Wednesday, saying Gulsen had previously been criticized for “actions she displayed on stage, extremely low-cut dresses and carrying an LGBT flag.”
Several ministers reacted to Gulsen’s words on Twitter, with Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag condemning what he called “primitive” comments and an “old-fashioned mentality.”
“Inciting one part of society towards another using spiteful, hateful and discriminatory language under the guise of being an artist is the greatest disrespect to art,” he wrote.
On Thursday, Gulsen apologized to anyone who was offended by his comments, saying they were taken advantage of by some who wanted to polarize society.
Gulsen’s lawyer, Emek Emre, told Reuters his legal team had contested the formal arrest decision on Friday, saying the process of his detention had been illegal and irregular from the start.
“We expect everything to be done as required by law. My hope and expectation is that this (arrest) decision will be overturned,” he said.
Thousands of people on social media spoke out in support of Gulsen, saying she was being targeted for her liberal views and support for LGBT+ rights.
“I think she is under arrest because she is a figure who represents secular Turkey and an artist who is sensitive to supporting the LGBTI movement,” said Veysel Ok, a lawyer and co-director of the Association for Legal and Media Studies.
“I think they were looking for an excuse to arrest her and they found her with the prank four months ago,” he told Reuters in an interview at his Istanbul office.
In an unusual move, several staunch pro-government columnists criticized Gulsen’s arrest.
“Are we going to jail anyone who talks nonsense to await trial? Let society dole out its punishment,” Mehmet Barlas said in his column in Sabah.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said the arrest was aimed at polarizing society to keep Erdogan’s AK Party in power.
Erdogan and the AK Party say that the Turkish courts are independent.
Lawyer Ok said that the case showed that, on the contrary, the country’s judiciary is not independent, referring to the imprisonment of the philanthropist. Osman Kavalapro-Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas and many other politicians and journalists in recent years.
“The Gulsen case has shown again that the Turkish judiciary is the government’s greatest weapon,” he said. “It makes you feel that if you live differently from those in power, your life and freedom are in danger.”
Leave a Comment