“Cross-cultural dynamics of Turkey’s soft power ” – Sunday’s Zaman

A Saudi Arabian family watches the turkish soap opera “Noor” in Jeddah. The show has taken the Arab world by storm, provoking a flood of Arab tourists to Turkey. Source : Sunday's Zaman

“Turkey’s regional prowess has been on the increase for some years now. This is partly boosted by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy, focused on building essential economic, political and cultural ties with the neighboring Arab region. […]

Yet it is the cultural realm of influence that we see Turkey evolving into a regional point of inspiration. Turkey is building bridges but not just across the Bosporus. Turkish cultural products are going global. In the Arab world Turkish fever seems to be sizzling. From Damascus to Dubai, Turkey has become a hot topic. The success of Turkish soaps and television serials such as “Gümüş” and “Sarkhet Hajaar,” amongst others, are putting Turkey at the center of the hearth and home in the Arabic-speaking world. Turkey is producing the ingredients and the Arab world is hooked and falling in love. The phenomenon goes so far that the soap “Gümüş,” dubbed “Noor” for the Arabic-speaking audience, has become sacred TV time for its avid viewers.[…]

Rana, a 24-year-old office manager from the West Bank, is one of the many fans who are gripped by Turkish soap fever. When asked about the reasons as to why a show such as “Gümüş” or “Noor,” as it has been dubbed for the Arabic audience, is such a success, her response was that “the show deals with issues that we are dealing with.” Rana’s contemporaries share a similar notion. The soap’s appeal to Arab audiences is due to the fact that Turkey is a Muslim country. The issues portrayed in the folds of the glamorous drama have a familiar context that Arab viewers are able to interpret into their own social dynamics. Young people sitting in cafés in Ramallah attribute the soap’s success to the fact that Turkey’s culture and traditions are so similar to their own.

Yet don’t be mistaken in thinking that the issues being dealt with in “Noor” are toned down for a more conservative audience. Viewers suggest that the attraction behind the success of these soaps is the appeal on an aesthetic level of the sleek and professional production delivered by a glamorous and attractive cast which provides a sense of escape in addition to offering a source of social aspiration. The show manages to successfully navigate its way around contemporary taboos which Turkey has had the advantage of experiencing due to its own course of history; the struggle between and the successful symbiosis of modernity and tradition. This is welcomed by the audiences, who appear to be looking for inspirational ways to deal with taboo issues and evolving social dynamics becoming more prevalent in their societies such as gender roles, divorce, premarital sex and abortion. All of these issues have been addressed in episodes of “Noor.” This is creating the effect of placing Turkey as a destination of aspiration in terms of guidance along the map of societal development. This can be attributed to the reality that Turkey presents a successful Muslim country on a committed and increasingly developing democratic trajectory. Hence the image of Turkey is also evolving and becoming more pertinent in the eyes of its Arab neighbors.[…]

Source : Sunday’s Zaman


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