Turkish television shows are making serious inroads in Afghanistan, drawing viewers from every section of society, who are attracted to the characters’ successful balancing act between traditional and modern forms of life. Among them, ‘Kurtlar Vadisi’ (Valley of the Wolves) is the most popular one.
Move over Hollywood and Bollywood, your time has past. The era of Turkish TV and cinema is now dominating small and big screens everywhere – at least in Afghanistan.
“Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (A Magnificent Century), “Kurtlar Vadisi” (Valley of the Wolves) and “Öyle Bir Geçer Zaman ki” (As Time Goes By) are among the Turkish drama that have recently gained in popularity in the country while simultaneously drawing Afghans’ interest in life in Turkey.
More than 200 Turkish dramas are being broadcast on Afghan television, drawing attention from all classes of society.
The fact that Afghan people like to see figures that maintain a balance between tradition and modernity has been posited as a reason for the country’s interest in Turkish dramas. Moreover, products, apparel and furniture used in the dramas have also become à la mode in Afghanistan.
Officials of private televisions said Turkish dramas not only appealed to Turkish society but also to international society. The director of a private Afghan television, Hayat Yakubi, told Anadolu Agency that because of religious and cultural ties between Turkey and Afghanistan, Turkish dramas were greatly loved in the country. While often criticized for its hyper-nationalism, violence and intolerance, the action series “Kurtlar Vadisi” has become the biggest Turkish hit in Afghanistan, with its stars, Necati Şaşmaz and Gürkan Uygun, enjoying the adoration of the local public thanks to the show’s airing four times a week.
Women most dedicated viewers
Afghan women are the most dedicated viewers of Turkish dramas. “I am done with all my stuff before the drama begins. Especially the days with ‘Kurtlar Vadisi’ are special ones for us,” said an Afghan woman identified as Masuma. And for those that live in remote areas that do not receive the appropriate television signal, bazaars sell copies of Turkish series translated into Dari.
Although more conservative than other similar programs from elsewhere in the world, many Turkish dramas still remain too racy for the Afghan viewing public, leading to censorship of some series, such as the popular “Aşk-ı Memnu” (Forbidden Love), which was banned last year on the grounds that it violated Afghan cultural norms.
The plot of Turkish dramas is realistic, in contrast to the scenarios in Indian dramas, Yakubi said.
Yakubi also said the shooting quality of Turkish dramas was high. “Indian dramas were being broadcast on Afghan televisions a few years ago. Now almost all channels air Turkish dramas because people love them. We have a different section on our channel and translate them into [Dari]. The reactions by the public have been positive,” he said.
“We buy Turkish dramas for a cheap price. The same dramas are sold for higher prices to Arab countries,” Yakubi said.
Besides photos of Afghan leaders, it is also possible to see photos of Turkish actors on Afghan streets. The popularity of the Turkish series has also had a spin-off effect for textile producers, who have made big business on selling products bearing the likeness of “Kurtlar Vadisi” characters like Polat Alemdar (Şaşmaz) in bazaars.
The owner of a store in Republic Square in Kabul, Cemal, said such clothing products were bought by people who automatically began feeling heroic like the series character after donning the apparel.
The clothing comes from abroad, the shopkeeper said, adding that the merchandise was sold regardless of the price.
Ahmed Jevad Kadiri, who opened a restaurant called Polat Burger in Kabul’s Kal-i Fethullah area, said
he was impressed by Alemdar and gave his name to the restaurant, adding that the number of customers had increased thanks to the name.
More than 50 local and national channels broadcast in Afghanistan. Most of them broadcast Turkish dramas in Dari and Pashto.