In Turkey, Arrest of Popular Singer Sparks Debate on Justice System and More Global Voices Français

Image by Dusan Jovic. Free to use under Unsplash license.

Turkish police have arrested pop singer Gülşen (full name Gülşen Colakoglu), 46, pending trial, for a comment she made about religious schools months ago during one of her concerts.

Last April, Gülşen joked about the past of one of his fellow Imam Hatip during a concert in Istanbul. Imam Hatip High Schools are Islamic religious educational institutions originally established to train imams, but became more popular under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The singer’s August 25 arrest has prompted fans and rights activists to accuse the state of having a disproportionate justice system that often lets perpetrators of violence against women go free while swiftly arresting Gülşen for comment. which was not meant to hurt anyone. Others hinted at Turkey becoming more conservative.

The Istanbul Prosecutor General’s Office opened an investigation into Gülşen’s remarks for “incitement to hatred and hostility” and “humiliation” based on the singer’s words on stage, which led to her arrest.

In a tweet that Gülşen shared hours before she was sent to a women’s prison, the singer said:

A joke I made about a friend I have worked with for many years was posted by those whose aim is to further polarize society. I’m sorry to let these people use my words for bad intentions. As I strive to protect the freedoms I believe in, I have been swept away by the radicals I criticize. I apologize to anyone who took offense while watching the video. I should have found another language; I will find it.

Another singer, Hadise, wrote in favor of Gülşen:

I’m really upset. We are all human, we make mistakes, because we are human. To apologize, to be able to apologize is a virtue. And there were apologies. I ask you this, if these men, who savagely kill women, and say they will be released from prison in a month, or men who beat their wives in front of their children, have been arrested like Gülşen was arrested today, how many women are still alive?

Tarkan, a popular Turkish singer and songwriter, has also sentenced the arrest in a tweet and called for Gülşen’s immediate release:

Those prosecuting perpetrators for sexually abusing children, killing and raping women, failing to arrest and in some cases setting them free, act quickly when it comes to Gülşen. The justice system that ignores those who engage in corruption, theft, the slaughter of nature, break laws, kill animals, use religion for their own sectarian ideas and polarize society, arrest Gülşen on the spot .

Twitter user Louis Fishman commented:

Gülşen’s lawyer, Emek Emre, said they would appeal the court’s decision on the grounds that no actual crime had been committed and that the court’s decision was disproportionate.

It is feared that Gülşen’s arrest is part of a larger picture. A Turkish physician, Alp Sirman, wrote that this was just a glimpse of what awaits Turkey in the upcoming parliamentary elections next June: “Festivals banned, pressure on Bogazici University, Sedef Kabas and Gulsen’s arrests. The AKP shows the type of Turkey it plans to have after the elections. If that’s what you like, you’ll vote.

In the past four months alone, city or district governors have banned some 16 events across Turkey, including music festivals and concerts, the most recent being Milyon Fest in Turkey’s Fethiye province.

Yektan Turkyilmaz, an anthropologist at the Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies at the Central European University in Vienna, told Al-Monitor in an interview in May: “This ban in Turkey is not really about music; it is rather a ban on assembly. There are public spaces that worry the Erdogan regime, for example bars.

This is the cultural antithesis of what Erdogan represents; the places where he knows people are mostly critical of him. Then there is a social class aspect. These prohibitions apply to the middle and upper middle groups; they are the ones who most often go to bars or concerts after midnight. The music could generate potentially dangerous messages. Finally, Erdogan must now think that the time has come to change Turkey’s cultural codes.

After Gülşen’s arrest, the Turkish Bar Association (TBB) issued a statement questioning the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, describing the court’s decision as “a means of punishment” and calling for the immediate cessation of these illegal practices.

Emphasizing that the measure of arbitrary and disproportionate detention, without respecting the conditions written in the law, means a violation of the right to personal security and freedom, this illegal practice must be stopped immediately.

Gülşen is no stranger to criticism from conservatives. Her choice of costume at her concerts and outspoken support for LGBTQ+ rights have occasionally made local headlines. More recently, last January, the singer was criticized for her revealing style of dress. In his response, Gülşen tweeted, “I am no one’s slave. I don’t belong to anyone. I am me. I belong to myself.

Yes, I am the daughter of a mother and a father, yes, I am the wife of a man and the mother of a baby. But more than a father’s daughter, a man’s wife and a mother, I am a human of reason and thought. And I am more than these attributions.

In many ways, the popular singer is breaking taboos and stereotypes with such statements, which conservatives supporting the ruling Justice and Development Party may use as an opportunity to promote their own agenda. As Kenan Behzat Sharpe, journalist and academic, recently pointed out in an interview with The Independent, “The more the opposition rallies around Gulsen, the more conservative segments of society will say this is what Turkey will be if the opposition wins”. : half-naked women and LGBT flags.

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