Skip to main content

Turkey hands pop star Gulsen jail sentence over religious schools joke

The sentence is widely seen as the epitome of the culture wars that the country has witnessed under Erdogan.
Turkish pop star Gulsen performs during a concert in Aydin, Turkey on March 27, 2022.

ANKARA — Turkey’s pop star Gulsen (Gulsen Colakoglu) was given a 10-month jail sentence by an Istanbul court on Wednesday over a joke about religious schools, in a trial that is being widely slammed as politically motivated.

The controversial trial, which has become the epitome of polarization between the country’s liberal segments and Islamists, began in August over a joke the pop star made during a live performance in April about graduates of Imam Hatips, Islamic clerical training schools aligned with the Sunni faith.

The pop star became the subject of scorn amongst Islamists after a brief video featuring the singer teasing one of her band members, jokingly calling him a “pervert” because he was a graduate of an Imam Hatip, conspicuously came into circulation on social media in August. Gulsen publicly apologized for her comments, saying she didn’t mean to offend anyone. 

Still, prosecutors sought the 46-year-old's arrest on charges of "inciting people to hatred and enmity," and the star was jailed for six days until she was released on house arrest, which was later lifted.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.