« The Perception of Turkey in the Middle East: Soap Opera Diplomacy? » – CIPE

« Given the Ottoman Empire’s history in the Middle East, Turkey’s secularism upon the founding of the republic has left many with a less than favorable perception of the country among Arab states. However, the tide seems to be changing. Anyone who has lived in the Middle East or at least visited an Arab household has witnessed the predominance of a soap opera culture that engrosses men, women, and children alike. One of the most popular soap operas in the Middle East currently is in fact a Turkish series entitled Gumus (or Noor in Arabic), and it’s safe to say that it has helped “conquer hearts and minds in the Arab world.”

It’s not just the striking good looks of the lead characters that appeals to the Arab viewers; the series also tackles contentious norms that a male-dominated region would otherwise sweep under the rug. The show’s courage in taking on these issues has struck a chord with audiences beyond Turkey, providing a fine touch of cultural diplomacy to complement the Turkish government’s broader initiatives.

The German Marshall Fund held a roundtable discussion April 21 on a recent survey released by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV, a former CIPE partner) that measured the perception of Turkey among seven Arab nations: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iraq. Indeed, this “newfound positive image” is also demonstrative of Turkey’s shift in its foreign policy priorities since the 1990s and its ongoing efforts to be an influential player in the region (as seen in the globe-trotting Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s numerous trips to the region). Turkey’s growing role as a mediator in the region and Prime Minister’s Erdogan’s heated exchange with Israeli president Shimon Peres at Davos in support of Palestinians following the 2008 Gaza war have slowly led to a warming of opinion for the nation of 72 million. […] »

Complete TESEV report (p.15 for cultural analysis)

Source : CIPE