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Friday, 30 November 2012

Sexy Turkish TV infuriates PM

Turkish drama Magnificent Century, which a New York Times blogger described as "a sort of Ottoman-era 'Sex and the City'", is hugely popular in Turkey and the Middle East.

The TV show is set during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and depicts the sultan cavorting in the altogether with various nubile ladies in his harem (one of which eventually became his wife) - as well as heralding in a new political and cultural era for his Turkish homeland, of course. 

The show's ratings are through the roof, with 150 million tuning in to watch each week. But there's one Turk who won't be tuning in each Friday for new installments: PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan is so annoyed at the way the sultan is depicted he has urged legal action against the series.

The Sultan takes time out from his busy harem schedule to pose for publicity shots for The Magnificent Century.

Last weekend Erdogan forcefully denounced the historical soap opera, bizarrely bringing up Turkey's recent contentious foreign policy, saying that people "ask why we are dealing with the affairs of Iraq, Syria and Gaza. They know our fathers and ancestors through ‘Magnificent Century,’ but we don’t know such a Suleiman. He spent 30 years on horseback, not in the palace, not what you see in that series.”

Erdogan said that the series director and the owner of the television channel that broadcasts the show had been warned, and that judicial authorities had been alerted. “Those who toy with these values should be taught a lesson within the premises of law,” the Hurriyet news reported him as saying.

Critics - including cultural spokespeople and political rivals - have struck back at Erdogan, accusing him of censorship and cultural authoritarianism. One rival, deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party Muharrem Ince, claimed that Erdogan was acting like a sultan - and determined to be the only sultan in the country.

 Turkey's culture and tourism ministry has also waded into the dispute, claiming that soap operas like The Magnificent Century generate millions of dollars for Turkey.

Erdogan's governing party, which has strong Islamic roots, has been championing the Ottoman Empire and bring its culture into national consciousness. 

 Even the sultan's descendants had something to say. Son of the last Ottoman prince Osman Selahddin said that while he didn't appreciate the way the sultan was depicted, he wasn't too fazed as he knew it was a work of fiction. “I am following the series,” he said. “But I don’t take it seriously since it is only a soap opera.”

No stranger to controversy, when the show first aired last January it received 70,000 complaints. The Supreme Board of Radio and Television said that the channel broadcasting the series had exposed "the privacy of a historical dead person" and should apologise to the public.

 At the time, Erdogan said the show was disrespectful, and “an effort to show our history in a negative light to the younger generations.”

Suleiman the Magnificient reigned from 1520 to 1566 is remembered as a brave warrior and astute statesman.

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