News / Europe

Turkey's PM Attacks Popular TV Show

Poster for Turkish TV series Poster for Turkish TV series "Magnificent Century"
x
Poster for Turkish TV series
Poster for Turkish TV series "Magnificent Century"
Dorian Jones
Turkey is witnessing something of a battle royal. The country’s most popular soap television series, "Magnificent Century," is about Turkey’s most famous sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. The costume drama has been a hit not only inside Turkey, but also outside, from the Balkans to the Middle East. But Turkey’s prime minister sees the TV series as nothing short of historical heresy.

The legendary Roxelana, in an alluring dress, seduces Emperor Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire’s most famous sultan. It is a scene from "Muhtesem Yuzyil" -- or "Magnificent Century" -- Turkish television's historical soap opera. The steamy mix of intrigue in the harem between the rival concubines of the sultan and political rivalry at the court have made the program a smash hit. But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not a fan.
 
Erdogan says that is not the Sultan Suleiman Turkey knows. That is not the lawgiver who spent 30 years of his life on horseback, not in a palace like in the TV show. The prime minister said he publicly condemns the show's directors and the owners of the television station.

He also said that he had called on the authorities to investigate the program. It remains unclear what law the show has violated. But Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist and columnist for the Taraf newspaper, says history is not on the side of "the pious prime minister."

"As the strong man of Turkey, like all strong men around the world, daring to rewrite history of his land, according to his beliefs, and very ethical in sense that, there is no irregularities of these emperors. They just [pray] and run the empire and are good guys. These are totally ahistorical; no such things existed. Like almost all emperors, not only Ottoman, like all mighty men in this world, had several women and had very luxurious life," Aktar said.

The confrontation between Turkey's most powerful man and its most popular TV soap opera has made headline news and dominates the country’s discussion programs. But most actors and the producers of the show have kept a low profile.  They are aware that the future of the program could well hang in the balance.

Actress Nebahat Cehre did break the silence. She says one cannot have censorship in art. If they start doing that, where will it end, she asks. Muhtesem Yuzyil is just a story, she says. Children are curious about their country's history, and more and more history books are being published about the period.
 
Ironically, since the prime minister's attack on the show, Muhtesem Yuzyil has broken its own records, with viewer figures rocketing. But there is a sting in the tale -- one of the prime minister’s closest parliamentary deputies has promised that parliament will introduce regulations to protect the portrayal of historical figures.
 
That news is already on the streets of central Istanbul. As people head home, looking forward to spending a night watching "Muhtesem Yuzyil," there is a mixture of anger and resignation.

One man’s view is typical. 

"Well, nobody forces anyone to watch it," he said. "But it's no surprise for our prime minister to take into every business whatever he can. But making a law against a TV series, which is really ridiculous, what kind of stuff our parliament does. I don’t know which parliament passes against a TV program. Isn’t it absurd?"

"Muhtesem Yuzyil," the TV show, like Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, could soon well become history itself, with the government claiming Turkey's historical heritage is too important to be in the hands of television soaps. But critics claim the sound of a new sanitized history being written can already be heard in the corridors of power in Ankara.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
December 17, 2012 11:58 PM
This show was being broadcasted into Iran by banned satellite channels outside Iran. However, the people who were translating the show were inside Iran, and they have been arrested recently. That is what I read on a few news website. And as a result, the Persian version of the show is not currently on air for the Iranians.

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
December 14, 2012 12:51 AM
The glorification of a mass murderer, destroyer of the balkans, etc is not a good thing. To this day, all over the Balkans this Ottoman mass murderer, and his empire of evil deeds are not forgotten. The Ottomans are third to Hitler/Atila/Huns in terrible deeds/followed closely by Dracul. In places like Serbia, Montenegro/ Greece, Bulgaria and so on, the great evil is not forgoten. Much of the hatred against the Ottoman persists to this day. The desecration of the holiest site of the Orthodox Christians, in Constantinople, Ste Sophia does not seat well with any one in the Orthodox world. Glorifying, someone that persecuted/murdered/raped/looted millions upon millions, in this day and age can only awaken further hatreds. It is best that such characters like the Huns/Ottomans/Dracul/Nazis/ etc be burried and not glorified. I am sure that if people in the Balkans glorified Dracul, for the terrible deeds, including horrendous ways of killing Tuks, the Tuks would not be happy.

by: Fatih Uckun from: CA
December 13, 2012 1:06 AM
I am a Turkish-American physician scientist and a professor at the University of Southern California. I have always been interested in he European history with a special emphasis on Ottoman Empire and Roman Empire. In this particular case, I agree with the Turkish Prime minister. Indeed, several months ago, on 4th of July 2012, I tweeted about this problem and asked officials to look into this matter (see https://twitter.com/fatihmuckun). The problem stems of the specific use of the name of a historical figure as if the film series is a documentary but do so without any due attention to detail in terms of language, costumes, social settings, actual events etc.

Let me explain this: Just imagine you have a program running in CNN and it is called the Magnificent Century and the Life of J.F. Kennedy. Then, let's imagine you have J.F. Kennedy shown raping 14 year old girls, getting drunk while deliberating on the Cuban missile crisis, and his brother having an incestual relationship with daughter.....How do you think the American public would or should react.

Please note that He is known in the West as Suleiman the Magnificent[3] and in the East, as "The Lawgiver" (Turkish: Kanuni), for his complete reconstruction of the Ottoman legal system. Suleiman became a prominent monarch of 16th century Europe, presiding over the apex of the Ottoman Empire's military, political and economic power. Suleiman personally led Ottoman armies to conquer the Christian strongholds of Belgrade, Rhodes, and most of Hungary before his conquests were checked at the Siege of Vienna in 1529. He annexed most of the Middle East in his conflict with the Safavids and large swathes of North Africa as far west as Algeria. Under his rule, the Ottoman fleet dominated the seas from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

At the helm of an expanding empire, Suleiman personally instituted legislative changes relating to society, education, taxation, and criminal law. His canonical law (or the Kanuns) fixed the form of the empire for centuries after his death. Not only was Suleiman a distinguished poet and goldsmith in his own right; he also became a great patron of culture, overseeing the golden age of the Ottoman Empire's artistic, literary and architectural development

For those who are interested in historical truths, please go to the references listed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suleiman_the_Magnificent.

As long as it is clearly stated that what is being shown is a fiction with no relationship to historical truths, then I do not believe anyone would have an issue with it. But irresponsible dissemination of unsubstantiated false representations of a well studied and reported historical figure can not be accepted just because the misconduct is in the context of a movie.

At a time when the Turkish lawmakers have put a large emphasis on women's rights and have introduced stiff penalties for violence against women, it is understandable that the Turkish Prime minister would have an issue that the idol of many young Turks would be portrayed as someone who enjoys violence against women.

Another major problem with this movie series is its anti-semetic nature. Within the Otoman empire, the Jewish citizens lived as respected members of the society and made very substantial contributions to science, arts, and military technology. Many of the Jewish financiers were originally from Iberia and had fled during the period leading up to the expulsion of Jews from Spain. The most notable of the Jewish banking families in the sixteenth century Ottoman Empire was the Marrano banking house of Mendes which moved to and settled in Istanbul in 1552, under the protection of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. In this movie series, the Jewish citizens are being portrayed as they were in some of the Nazi propaganda movies !



by: Mike S. from: United States
December 12, 2012 8:19 PM
So I guess a television show in Turkey about the Armenian Genocide would be totally out of the question.
In Response

by: reşat from: konya
December 13, 2012 2:25 AM
historical leader (emperors) like suleiman the magnificient who assumed sacred symbol for conservative power and community in turkey so that prime minister must adopt this political line
In Response

by: J in LA from: Los Angeles
December 13, 2012 1:36 AM
No, actually they are totally OK with fabricated stuff.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs