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Ottoman family members protest harem depiction in TV series

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 1/12/2011 12:00:00 AM | VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU

Ottoman dynasty members harshly criticize a new TV series, 'Muhteşem Yüzyıl' (The Magnificent Century), featuring the life of Süleyman the Magnificent. The show, aired on a private TV channel, has caused fierce debates. 'I don't understand why the harem brings sexuality to mind,' says Şehzade Abdulhamid Kayhan Osmanoğlu, a member of the family

Televised scenes of sexuality in the harem of Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent have raised the ire of members of the Ottoman dynasty who accuse producers of misrepresenting and degrading the life of the sultans.

“[Historians] get all kinds of information from us but remain silent when there is something about our family. It is as if we are not alive. Such mistakes would not be made if they asked us. But nobody asks us anything,” said Şehzade Abdulhamid Kayhan Osmanoğlu, the son of Harun Efendi, the fourth-generation grandson of Sultan Abdulhamid II, known as the “Red Sultan.”

Osmanoğlu and other members of the family have protested a new TV series about Süleyman the Magnificent, “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (The Magnificent Century), saying it presents an image of the sultan’s life as being only about sex. Dynasty members previously criticized Avni Özgürel’s 2010 film “Mahpeyker Kösem Sultan” on similar grounds.

“I don’t understand why the harem reminds people of women slaves and why the harem equals sexuality,” Osmanoğlu said. “The sultan’s mother and sister were in the harem, too.”

Meral Okay, the screenwriter for “The Magnificent Century,” said she did not understand the criticism. “This is fiction, not a documentary film,” she said. “The children of sultans did not evolve out of pollen; they have a sexual life like all of us. Also, it is said in the series that it is [only] inspired by historical events and characters.”

[HH] Historians ‘fear the truth’

Businessman Erkan Murat, who has close ties to the Ottoman dynasty and organized a meeting for the family last year, agreed with Osmanoğlu that the sexual scenes and depiction of the harem in the series were inappropriate. “The dynasty family becomes a victim of rating wars,” he said. “[The producers] try to refer to Süleyman the Magnificent in the title of the series, but at the same time, [incorrectly show] the sultan entering Topkapı Palace through the harem rather than the main gate. What is this contradiction?”

Condemning historians, Murat added: “The name of the dynasty family is never cited. Nobody even knows if they are alive or not because it serves [historians’] purposes. They fear the truth will be revealed by the real witnesses and they will lose their authority.”

The accusations made against the series’ producers are false and meaningless, said Associate Professor Erhan Afyoncu, a member of the Faculty of Science and Literature at Marmara University. “This is not a documentary film. When will we realize that it is a fiction?” Afyoncu said. “It is also criticized that there are bisexual relations in the series, but this is not real. There is a prejudice and people talk about it before watching the show themselves.”

[HH] Channel protested over show

When the first episode of “The Magnificent Century” was aired, a right-wing group demonstrated in front of the channel that broadcast it, demanding the show be canceled. “The protests are right; people are showing their reaction,” Osmanoğlu said. “The history of the Ottoman dynasty concerns the world. It should be depicted properly.”

He added that interest in the dynasty family had increased in recent years in Turkey. “They are curious about us as they learn that we are [still] alive,” he said. “We will make a documentary to satisfy their curiosity.”

[HH] RTÜK warns channel Meanwhile, Turkey’s Supreme Board of Radio and Television, or RTÜK, issued a warning to private channel Show TV on Wednesday over apparent disrespect on the new soap opera “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (The Magnificent Century).

RTÜK said in a statement that it decided to warn the channel because the production, which features the life of Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, did not exhibit sensitivity to a celebrated individual. The ruling came following the board’s consideration of an expert report on the matter during a weekly meeting.

The board could ban the series from being broadcast in the event that Show TV similarly displays a lack of sensitivity in the future, it said. The series has been the subject of a litany of complaints since Dec. 11, 2010.

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