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Turkey arrests pop singer over remarks regarding religious school graduates

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Famous Turkish pop singer and songwriter Gülşen Bayraktar Çolakoğlu has been arrested as part of an investigation launched due to her remarks that allegedly insulted the graduates of the religious imam-hatip schools in Turkey, local media reported on Thursday.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office initiated the investigation  against the singer on the grounds that she violated Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which stipulates prison sentences for people who “incite segments of the population to enmity or hatred towards another group on the basis of social class, race, religion or sectarian or regional difference” or who “publicly degrade a segment of the society.”

The prosecutors also sent a written notice to the İstanbul Police Department, instructing law enforcement that Gülşen be detained and taken to their office to testify.

The singer was detained at her home in İstanbul’s Beşiktaş district on Thursday afternoon and was subsequently arrested after appearing in a court on Thursday evening.

The investigation was launched after Gülşen said on stage during a concert in April, “He had attended an imam-hatip in the past, his perversion comes from there,” referring to an imam-hatip school graduate whose identity hasn’t been revealed.

Religious imam-hatip schools are known for providing the grassroots of the political Islamist movement in Turkey.

President Erdoğan, who is also an imam-hatip graduate, and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been trying to increase the number of imam-hatip schools.

According to official figures, the number of imam-hatip high schools rose to 1,610 in the 2018-2019 academic year from 854 in the 2013-2014 period.

Despite the gradual increase in the number of religious imam-hatip schools in the country, 47.5 percent of imam-hatip middle school graduates choose not to continue their education at imam-hatip high schools, the Independent Turkish service reported last month, citing the head of education union Eğitim-İş, Kadem Özbay.

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