First Published: 2010-06-24

 
'Forbidden Love' takes Turkey by storm
 

Turkish soap opera attracts millions of viewers, triggers own fashion craze since launch.

 

Middle East Online

By Thomas Seibert - ISTANBUL

A big hit even by Turkish standards

Denise Yazili knows just what to do when a customer in the fashion boutique where she works is unsure which item to buy.

“Look, this is what happens,” the shop assistant in an Istanbul mall said this week as she took a black sequined shirt from a rack and spread it out on the table before her.

“If the customer says she is looking for something Bihter wore and I tell her this is similar to what she was wearing last time, she will just snap it up.”

Bihter Yoreoglu, played by the actress Beren Saat, is one of the main characters of Ask-I Memnu, or Forbidden Love, a hit soap opera on Turkish television that has attracted millions of viewers and triggered its own fashion craze since it started two years ago.

The final episode of the saga will be aired today, and Turkish media and fan websites are abuzz with speculation about what the dramatic conclusion may be.

Dresses worn by the main characters, and especially by Bihter, the heroine, have become sought-after items in boutiques all over Turkey.

“We did not expect this,” Deniz Marsan, one of the fashion advisors for Ask-I Memnu told the news channel CNN-Turk. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Turkey before.”

Turks are passionate followers of home-made television soaps, some of which have been sold to Arab channels and have started to attract tourists from Arab countries who want to have a look at the places where their favourite series was filmed. But Ask-I Memnu, produced for Kanal D, a private channel, is a big hit even by Turkish standards.

Ask-I Memnu has not yet been sold to Arab stations.

The plot, a family saga set in today’s Turkey but based on a novel by Halid Ziya Usakligil from 1899, revolves around Adnan Ziyagil, a rich widower in Istanbul who marries the much younger and beautiful Bihter. Drama and intrigue set in as Bihter begins a relationship with Behlul Haznedar, her husband’s fun-seeking nephew.

Fans – and sponsors – will be sad when the saga, which has lasted two seasons, ends. “People even buy the perfume [of the main characters], even though they do not know how it smells,” said Handan Beynal, a shop assistant in an Istanbul perfume shop. “They see the bottles of a certain perfume brand in Ask-I Memnu, and they run out and buy them,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief.

Mrs Beynal and others said various other successful Turkish soap operas also had loyal followers and sometimes even pushed up demand for specific dresses or other items. “But never like this,” Mrs Yazili, the shop assistant, said about Ask-I Memnu.

Being a fan of the show can be expensive. The main female characters in the series wear exquisite clothes that are much more refined and high-priced than anything a normal Turkish woman would wear in every day life. Prices vary between 150 lira (Dh356) for a simple outfit to 9,000 lira for an evening gown, a substantial sum in a country with an average yearly income of roughly 14,300 lira per person.

But the makers of the soap insist that beautiful clothes and accessories are part of the escapist quality of the drama.

“We know that people do not dress like that in normal life,” Mrs Marsan, the fashion consultant, told CNN-Turk, which is part of the same media conglomerate as Kanal D. “But this is television. Everything is exaggerated – the mansion where they live, the make-up they are wearing. You will not see any dirt on the streets.”

For die-hard Ask-I Memnu fans, the suspension of disbelief is not a problem. “I run home every time to watch it,” said Gamze Zunbay, 29, a woman who confessed to being an Ask-I Memnu addict. “I would love to buy the clothes of Bihter, but I have not been able to find something suitable yet.”

Even if there will be no new season after the end of Ask-I Memnu this week, many Turks are certain that the next craze is just around the corner. “In Turkey, the soaps never end,” said Ozden Erol, a colleague of Mrs Yazili, the shop assistant. “Only the Arabs and the Turks are so crazy for soap operas.”

Mrs Erol said she was not a regular Ask-I Memnu follower herself, but she would definitely catch the final episode this Thursday. “Of course I will watch it,” she said with a smile. “Is there anyone who will not?”

(The National)

 

Egypt declares three-month state of emergency in Sinai

Lebanon army attacks Islamists as violence spreads to Tripoli souks

Dozens dead in Huthi-Qaeda clashes in central Yemen

Punishment for sexual assault in Iran: Execution of victim!

European clubs step up campaign against winter World Cup in Qatar

Turkey keeps 24 people under observation after yellow powder scare

Russia denies Kerry claims: No agreement to train Iraq army

Germany offers to help Armenia forge peace with Turkey

Libya wakes up from ‘Dubai dream’ to face Somalia-like ‘failed state’

South Yemen separatists vow to intensify secession protests

Relatives of Iraq massacre victims: Blackwater guards should be killed

Ghannouchi makes it clear to Tunisia: It’s either political Islam or Daesh!

Deadly clashes erupt after army raid in northern Lebanon

200 Iraqi Kurd fighters to travel through Turkey to Kobane

Coalition strikes in Syria eliminate more than 500 jihadists in one month

Ahead of elections, new clashes remind Tunisia of need to fight terror

Saudi Arabia jails mothers for preparing sons to wage jihad

Jury finds Blackwater guards guilty of 2007 'massacre' in Iraq

Iraq Kurds approve reinforcements for Kobane

Israel classifies car crash as ‘hit and run terror attack’

Turkish woman arrested for stepping on Koran

Erdogan criticises US for airdrops on Kobane

Iraq schools provide shelter but late to open for classes

Syria air force shoots down two of three 'IS warplanes'

Egypt court rules on ‘Nasr City terror cell’

Fire from Egypt wounds two Israeli soldiers near border

By hook or by crook, settlers notch up property gains in East Jerusalem

Turkey envoy meets leader of parallel government in Libya

Israel arrests seven Palestinian fishermen off northern Gaza

Khamenei to Abadi: Iraq can beat 'Islamic State' without foreign troops

Saudi special court rules in cases of riots and terrorism

Libya army scores small victory in Benghazi

Only in Libya: Government calls for civil disobedience

Kasserine reaps bitter harvest from Tunisia revolution: Poverty and terrorism

Iraq Kurds set to vote on deployment of Peshmerga forces to Syria

Islamic State ‘share in US weapons’ embarrasses Pentagon

Alderton: Morocco unrivalled business gateway to sub-Saharan Africa

Protests over IS turn Istanbul University into war zone

Turkey eyes stricter punishment against lawbreakers at protests

For Sudan President: Promises are something and re-election is something else

Iran returns Abadi to ‘house of obedience’

From traditional military to counterinsurgency force: Syria army grows more capable

South Sudan rivals accept 'responsibility' for civil war

British drones in Iraq also used for Syria surveillance

Turkey launches new wave of wire-tapping arrests