“Turkish soap operas influencing Arab culture and politics” – The Peninsula

“Culture within a community varies from place to place. In the Arab world, and the GCC in particular, culture has a distinctly private and isolated nature consisting of habits, traditions and historical legacies that control the intellect and mind. These traditions command respect and demand sanctity – even those that violate norms, laws and perhaps even some religious teachings relating to justice, equality, acceptance, coexistence, citizenship, and partnership. Evolution of societies’ structure is often a long and complicated process with unidentifiable consequences. Thus, good governance of implications of cultural changes is unachievable until after the evolution has seceded to other generations. In recent years, a different culture has emerged, sweeping down from the north. More specifically, it began in Turkey and gained acceptance and spread widely in the structure of Arab society in an unprecedented manner compared to other cultural influences across the world. Turkish soap operas, movies, and songs dubbed in Arabic are storming GCC homes uninvited. Such media content is dominating public viewership as it is gaining popularity and is watched by millions from across the Atlantic to the Gulf and across continents by Arab expatriates living in Europe and the USA. It is sweeping across online forums and blogs, recording the highest rates of viewership and commentary. So popular is Turkish pop culture amongst Arabs that Turkish productions have surpassed those from Arab and Western countries.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet recently published a report on Turkish dramas and soap operas over the past few years. The report indicates that 22 countries are currently importing Turkish dramatic television series. Since Turkey started to export such productions in 2006, they have achieved record sales in the Arab world, Greece and Brazil. Further, the proceeds of Turkish TV production sales exceed $3m annually. Eighteen Turkish series are now airing in North Africa, Greece and Iran, and are among the most widely circulated productions in Egypt, the UAE, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. The Turkish soap opera titled “Noor” has attracted over 85 million Arab viewers over the age of 15 years, consisting of nearly 50 million women, the equivalent of more than half of the adult Arab female viewers of any TV drama in the Arab world in recent years. As for the second most popular Turkish dramatic series in the Arab world, the show “Years Gone Past” has totalled 67 million viewers, including nearly 39 million women.

It would not be an exaggeration to state that there is a significant cultural impact wrought by these TV programmes on the cultural structure of Arab societies. The shared historical and religious circumstances between Turks and Arabs may have played a large role in endearing Turkish culture to Arabs more than to others, and made the impact of its media much stronger. There are several media reports on incidences of jealousy spurred by the stars of Turkish soap operas dubbed into Arabic. Among these incidences are divorce cases in the Arab world where women request that their husbands treat them more romantically, along the lines of what they see on the TV series “Noor”, or show them greater emotion, such as displayed by the star Yahya in the series “Years Gone Past”. One of the most amusing news stories in this regard is that of a Bahraini family that arranged a marriage between a Bahraini young woman named Noor and their son, Mohammed. To the family’s surprise, the reason for a delay in the response to their arrangement was the prospective bride’s desire for Mohammed to change his name to “Mohannad” (similar to the hero’s name on the Turkish series “Noor”). […]”

Source : The Peninsula


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