Author- Maria Santana
When Mustafa Kemal founded the Turkish Republic in 1924, he hoped for the state to be distinguishable from its Ottoman past. Ataturk, meaning ‘father of the Turks’, secularized Turkey. He wanted religious matters relating with Islam to be dealt with in mosques and madrasas and did away with the caliphate, forbade head coverings, latinized the alphabet all of which coincided with his desire of reformation.
Kemal, a former officer of the Young Turks, a nationalist and terrorist organization established during the late Ottoman period, led the fight against the occupiers of Anatolia after WWI. One of the results of World War I was the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire. However, Anatolia, the geographic location that was later known as Turkey, was under the control of Great Britain, France, Italy, Greece and Armenia. Atatürk and his officers invaded occupied Anatolia as fought a four front war part of a bloody conflict known as the Turkish Wars of Independence. Clearly, Atatürk was victorious and the Republic of Turkey was established. The Turks are proud of their founding father and first president of Turkey. There are images and statues of their beloved Atatürk plastered everywhere in the country. This information is not to patronize or put Atatürk on a pedestal but deemed necessary. Kemal believed in the secularization of the Turkish state and put his life on the line various times in order for it to be established.
Turkey is undergoing drastic changes that challenges and threatens what Atatürk put great effort in. This has been true since the election of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and threatens this. Erdoğan was elected prime minister of Turkey in 2003 and held that post until 2014, when he became elected president of the republic. He is a self described Islamist, and conservative democrat whose cabinet is socially conservative and with liberal economic policies. Research the role of Turkey in its domestic and international affairs. For instance, their inability of controlling their eastern borders that neighbors Syria, allegations of aiding ISIS fighters, Turkish elitists buying and investing in property and goods from former Ottoman territories, donating money to institutions just to name a few. Clearly some countries that were under Ottoman dominance are still open and easily influenced by them. Always notice how government officials, depending on the geographic location, praise and welcome Turkish officials.
With that being said, the Turkish media is very influential to say the least with the use of propaganda. There is a growing popularity of Turkish drama in territories that were once under Ottoman dominion such as North Africa, the Middle East, Central and Southeastern Europe. There has been such an influx of shows that countries in the Balkans have passed legislation to limit the amount of Turkish programs in the country. The reasons for this are unknown although I suspect many things. Turkish television dramas are very good take it from me.
This article is a sort of excerpt of a possible dissertation I may work on to earn my doctorate degree or a master’s theses in the far future. My argument is that the rising popularity of Turkish television dramas in the Balkans, specifically time pieces with specific figures and events in Ottoman history, are not being used for entertainment but to prepare for an emerging neo-Ottoman control. The two Turkish dramas I will focus on are Muhteşem Yuzyil, that translates to Magnificent Century, chronicles the lives of Sultan Suleyman and Kösem Sultana. The media is a powerful entity that can influence viewers to see goodness in something that is lightweight such as an entertaining drama.
Suleyman was the 10th sultan of the Ottoman empire and under his rule it experienced a robust growth that spanned the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. He was the first to break with Ottoman tradition of marrying his haseki, a favorite concubine named Hürrem, from Ruthenia. A slavic women who was born Alexandra or Roxelana, Hürrem became one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history. Known as the law giver or kanuni, he codified laws that were to be followed by the empire and was respected by contemporary rulers in the known world. It is often stated that Suleyman the Magnificent was the greatest sultan and that after his death, the empire began to decay. Kösem Sultana was a significant figure in the Ottoman Empire who came much later after Suleyman. Due to her serving as regent in six different occasions, Kösem is considered as being one of the most powerful and influential women in Ottoman history.
According to an article titled ‘Turks Bewitch the Balkan with their addictive soaps’ as published by Balkan Insight in spring of 2013, the Turkish drama has replaced those that came from Latin America. The article cites that Turkish dramas cause a nostalgia among viewers where family values lost in the Balkans is regretted. Although informative and thought provoking, the article does fail at elaborating exactly what caused the decline of family values in the Balkans. It does state that the old patriarchal family model is dead – but not in the Turkish dramas.
How has it died and when? Was it when the Serbs decided to revolt against Ottoman rule in 1804 leading to the modern period? Perhaps it was when the Balkans after World War II fell to communism. Yugoslavia with Tito, Albania with Hoxha, Romania with Ceacescu etc. Was it because of the wars of the 1990s that led to the violent break up of the former Yugoslavia and deaths of many males?
Whatever the reason, the places in the Balkans where the Turkish dramas are mostly watched are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosova and Serbia as stated in the Balkan Insight article. It makes sense that Turkish dramas tend to be most popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina because of the history. Bosniaks, before Ottoman invasion following the Battle of Kosova Field in 1389, were Bogomils. The Bogomils were a Christian heretic sect that willingly converted to Islam proceeding Ottoman invasion. The most watched show there is Muhteşem Century on Suleyman which was the golden era of the empire. Ottoman subjects who converted to Sunni Islam were granted privileges which included not holding dhimmi status and not being charged the jizya tax. Macedonia and Kosova have a huge population of Albanians. Can it be argued that Turkish dramas are mostly popular in Muslim majority regions? This is threatening because of a possible compliance between the Muslim population and Turkish nationalists. Kosova is interesting because it is inhabited by many ethnic groups specifically Albanians and Serbians.
Although Turkey is a distinct and separate entity from the Ottoman empire, the republic is still proud of its heritage. Even presently Turkish government officials continue to deny genocides of the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontic Greeks by the Young Turks in late Ottoman period. It has kept significant architectural structures that are popular with tourists such as the hagia sophia that was later converted to a mosque after the Siege of Constantinople in 1453 under Mehmet the Conqueror. Also how places such as Topkapi palace retain historical remnants and artifacts that are alleged to have belonged to Mohammed, the founder of Islam. The Oghuz, the Central Asian turkic tribe, was inspired by Islam to spread it by the sword. Also like the Ottoman empire, Turkey has had to deal with multiculturalism where Greeks, Syrians, Armenians, Georgians, Kurds, Afro-Turks, Circassians and other ethnic groups coexist. Christians and Jews are discriminated against just like when they were under Ottoman influence considering 97% are Muslim. Cyprus, island nation in the Mediterranean Sea, was invaded by Turkey after the Greek government declared a coup d’état in 1974. Northern Cyprus declared itself independent in 1983 although they depend on Turkey for economic, political and military support. Now although Turkey and the Ottoman empire are two totally separate entities, is my case for arguing that Turkey wants to retake historically Ottoman territories a mere conspiracy?
All TIMS, Turkish TV broadcasting company, has to do is sell television shows to former territories to arouse Ottoman nostalgia and to normalize Islamic culture, assuming that is not the dominant culture already. Turkish dramas, especially those highlighting Ottoman era and customs, can be considered particularly dangerous. Take a Turkish drama that was produced in the 1970s and then again in 2012 called Fatmagül Suçu Ne that translates to What fault does Fatmagül have? The story is about a young woman from the countryside of Turkey who is engaged to a local fisherman. Long story short she experiences a sexual assault at the hands of three men. The drama series depicts the challenges of holding traditional values in a fast changing world and the taboo topic of rape, honor and shame. If anyone follows the news of this in India, the Middle East and Europe gang rapes committed by Muslim migrants has and continues to be problematic. It has even occurred in the United States to a young and handicap 5 year old girl as reported by the Geller report. In Europe this acceptance of Syrian refugees due to ‘cultural enrichment’ has done harm. For instance, a woman in Germany cannot report a crime committed against her because she would be labeled an Islamophobe. Therefore Germans are more afraid of being labeled intolerant than actually protecting their citizens.
An article was published by the Gellar Report recently where Erdoğan had placed the churches in Turkey under state control. It is clear that the state of Turkey is undergoing Islamization just like it the Ottomans before it. Ataturk must be spinning in his grave. Why hasn’t Turkey been removed from NATO since it is evident that they support enemies of America? The Turkish straits are no longer threatened. At the pace that Erdogan is going, Turkey may never become a member of the European Union. All of the ‘westernization’ was a farce and it is clear that Islamization of the country will take it backward and help Erdoğan become the new Sultan.