New Turkish soaps delve into politics

Turkish television fans this season have been enraptured by a slew of serials dealing with matters of politics and national identity in their usual fare of soapy love tales and shoot-'em-ups.

    The Kurdish issue remains a hot political topic in Turkey

    From Greek-Turkish relations to sectarian tensions, from the

    rise of Islam to the Kurdish question by way of the right-left wars

    of the 1970s, the shows deal with serious national issues once

    deemed too delicate for prime-time viewing.

    The eastern city of Gaziantep, the location for several

    scenes of The Foreign Groom, has a crush on blond and beefy Niko,

    the child of Greeks who fled Turkey in 1964 and who must now face

    prejudices on both sides of the Aegean to win his true love.

    With a Turkish father-in-law who refuses a transfusion of Greek

    blood to Greek parents who insist on a church wedding with his

    Muslim Turkish bride-to-be, Niko's adventures top the ratings every

    Friday night.

    Everyday life

    The aim is not to preach reconciliation between the two

    nations, according to Tunca Kunter, an executive with the production

    company that made the series.

    "A screenwriter proposes his script and if the producer thinks

    it'll sell, he buys it," Kunter said. "What sells is things that

    can happen in everyday life - after all, my sister could fall in

    love with a Greek."

    "No series so far has dealt openly with the question of ethnic

    Kurdish identity because it is still too serious a problem for the


    Nilufer Timisi, 
    Professor of communications, Ankara University

    Unsal Ozkay, a popular culture specialist at

    Beykent University in Istanbul, said:

    "The aim of television is to allow society to take a look at


    To sell ads, the networks must now address

    the problems of the metropolitan suburbs, where all kinds of

    minorities abound."

    A professor of communications at Ankara University said the country's moves towards Europe have brought changes. 

    "Turkey's bid to join the European Union from the year 2000

    required a number of legal reforms" that changed the national mood

    and led people to confront issues once considered taboo, Nilufer Timisi said


    "Without really making a conscious political choice, producers

    simply reflected this new mood ... and produced dramas dealing with

    identity simply because they were profitable," she said.

    The series Lacework Roses on My

    Headscarf deals with the years of near-civil war in the 1970s when

    clashes between right- and left-wing fighters left dozens dead

    daily in the cities of Turkey, while February Cold looks at the

    rise of Islam that continues to shock Turkey's

    dyed-in-the wool



    Is Turkey ready to deal with such vital issues in such a


    Gul Dirican, who scripted Time of the Dawn, a Romeo-and-Juliet

    saga set against a backdrop of sectarian tension between majority

    Sunni Muslims and minority Alevis - a long persecuted Turkish

    version of Shia - recalls some trepidation during the shoot.

    "The Alevis were worried when we filmed an Alevi funeral," she

    recalled in an interview with the daily Aksam. "They said, 'This is

    the first time Sunni society sees us like this - is this a good


    Despite these times of openness, the Kurdish question

    remains a hot potato.

    The Exiled Woman tells the tale of a family from the

    southeastern province of Urfa, with mysterious "bandits" (read

    Kurdish tribesmen) lurking in the mountains; the lovers in June

    Night bear the Kurdish names of Barran and Havin but never mention

    that they are Kurds.

    "No series so far has dealt openly with the question of ethnic

    Kurdish identity because it is still too serious a problem for the

    state," Timisi said. "The shows speak of (Turkish) easterners only

    in generalities, in terms of feudalism, land conflicts and




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