Turkish pop star Gülsen Çolakoğlu was recently arrested on charges of “inciting hatred and enmity” after a video of her joking about religious schools in Turkey went viral on the internet.
The singer joked during a concert in Istanbul, talking about the education of one of her band members. She said at the time:
“He attended the schools of Imam Hatip. Hence the perversion.”
The school of Imam Hatip has reportedly served as the alma mater for many famous people in the country, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
When Çolakoğlu’s joke appeared on social media, some people started a hashtag calling for her arrest. She was formally detained on Thursday and taken to jail pending trial.
Gulsen’s arrest also sparked widespread outrage on social media, with several people demanding her release. Reports say the singer asked to be released from prison pending the outcome of her trial, but the request was denied by the authorities.
Twitter demands freedom for Gulsen after her arrest
Gulsen Çolakoğlu, one of Turkey’s most popular musicians, has long been targeted by her country’s conservative circles for her outspoken views, bold clothing choices, and strong support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Most recently, the singer faced prosecution and was arrested for making a joke about Turkish religious schools. Following her detention, several fans and admirers took to Twitter to request her release and launched the #FreeGulsen hashtag in support of Colakoğlu:
After her arrest, Çolakoğlu apologized for her joke and said she never intended to cause any controversy or harm. She also mentioned that her comments were “picked up” by a certain group of people who wanted to polarize Turkey.
Meanwhile, Ömer Celik, a spokesman for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), defended the singer’s arrest and said “hate speech is not an art.”
“Accusing a segment of society of ‘perversion’ and trying to polarize Turkey is a hate crime and a disgrace to humanity.”
However, Çolakoğlu denied the allegations during interrogation by the judicial authorities and said she had “endless respect for the values and feelings” of her country.
Everything you need to know about Gulsen
Gulsen aka Gulsen Bayraktar Çolakoğlu is a famous Turkish singer and songwriter. She was born on May 29, 1976 and grew up in Istanbul. She graduated from Seremini High School and then entered Istanbul Technical University.
The 46-year-old also began performing in bars and eventually dropped out of university to pursue a career in music. She was reportedly a student at her university’s classical music department before being discovered by the composer during a performance in a bar in 1995.
Çolakoğlu gained significant notoriety after the release of her debut album. Be Adam in 1996 and released a total of nine studio albums. Her fourth album From from… (2004) was a big hit in Turkey followed by a fifth album. Yurt Ask Chikhanda Ask (2006), certified by Mu-Yap.
The musician gained recognition for his combination of pop music and traditional Ottoman music and was nicknamed the “Turkish Madonna”. Her 2013 album Beni Durdursan Mi? became Turkey’s best-selling album that year, and her 2015 album Bangir Bangir became the second best-selling album of the year.
Çolakoğlu also had the most views on YouTube among Turkish singers. Bangir Bangir music video in 2015. She even became the first Turkish singer whose music video was viewed over 200 million times on YouTube in 2016.
Çolakoğlu is also the recipient of several awards and prizes, including nine Kral Turkey Music Awards and six Golden Butterfly Awards. On the personal front, the singer was married to Murat Varol from 1997 to 2000. After their split in 2016, she married the composer Ozan Çolakoğlu.