A historical-comedy TV series featuring “vicious” Anatolian Greek(Rum) characters during the Turkish Independence War (1918-1923) has irked Turkey’s Greek community, prompting the group to formally complain to Turkey’s media watchdog.
“Ustura Kemal” (Razor Kemal), which was taken off the air due to poor ratings, featured Greek characters such as a prostitute, traitors and collaborators living with Turkish characters in the same neighborhood.
Greek minority representatives have taken action to try to prevent Turkish TV channels from airing such discriminative and insulting series.
“This series saddened us terribly. The Greek community has not been completely integrated into the Turkish community. We were seen as guardians carrying the burden of history. National or international, we do not have a policy as individuals but our existence annoyed some circles,” Laki Vingas, the former president of the Association to Support Greek Foundations and the person currently responsible for minority foundations at the Foundations Directorate General, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Jan. 4 in a phone interview.
In their written statement, Vingas said “Ustura Kemal” was the latest example of discrimination toward the community. “Certain characters depicted on the show have led to discomfort in members of the Greek community who live in Turkey as citizens of this country. All negative characters such as prostitutes, traitors and collaborators are portrayed as Greeks.”
The lead actor in the series, Oktay Kaynarca, who plays Ustura Kemal, immediately reacted to the Greek community’s statements, saying the scenario was not racially motivated and the criticisms were not fair.
“There were patriot [Anatolian Greeks] and Turks [fighting together against the common enemies], and there were betraying Greeks and Turks in the series, but you ignored them. I suppose, nowadays ethnic outbursts are trendy and becoming the center of attraction due to the political structure of our country,” Kaynarca was quoted as saying by daily Akşam Jan. 4.
The complaint further said anthropologists and sociologists agreed that instances of theft, prostitution and homicide existed in all societies throughout history and people should not believe such flaws are the preserve of any particular ethnicity or society.
Vingas, however, acknowledged that the current situation was far better than the 1960s or even 1990s, given that Anatolian Greeks now have the opportunity to publicly voice their concerns.
“The scriptwriter unintentionally harmed us and our efforts are to raise awareness and prevent such cases from repeating. We tried to hide ourselves [our identities], but now, in a time in which conditions have begun to change, we want to raise our voice. Ten or 15 years ago, we would not have been able to take such an action. We used to think nobody would care to lend an ear to us. Now, we are in an integration process. We have managed to have a process of empathy. All segments of the society must refrain from such odious and discriminatory expressions,” he said.
Andreas Rombopulos, an Istanbul Greek journalist, also told the Daily News that there was no systematic discrimination against the Greek minority in Turkey but that the serial had created a harmful atmosphere.