Monday, May 30, 2011

The Impact of Turkish Culture in Iraq

Much has been written in both the foreign and Turkish press about the impact of Turkish television serials, particularly soap operas (dizi) in the Arab world. However, in Iraq, the interest in Turkish television series has resulted in an interest in Turkish literature and language for a growing number of students. From Hurriyet Daily News:
“The ever-developing relations between [Iraq and Turkey] and Turkish soap operas on Iraq TV have triggered this new trend. Students are eager to learn Turkish, while families also want their children to learn Turkish,” Professor Talib al-Qurayshi, the head of the Iraq University Foreign Languages Department, recently told Anatolia news agency.

When Turkish Literature and Language Department head Ziyad Tariq Abduljabbar took over his new department’s management in 2008, there were only 60 students but there are now 730 undergraduate students, 17 post-graduate students and three PhD students in the program.

Speaking about the links between Turkish soap operas and the country’s literature, Nilüfer Narlı, a sociologist at Bahçeşehir University, said Turkey had increased its “soft power” in the Middle East and Balkan countries.

“As the circulation of soap operas in the international arena has increased, learning Turkish language and culture have become very important in the Arab and Balkan countries. This is what we call ‘soft power,’ within the context of the culture industry,” she said.

Of course, there are other reasons for the increased interest in Turkish in Iraq, especially economic ones, said al-Qurayshi. “Growing investment and business opportunities draw people to learn Turkish in Iraq. Students are concerned about their future and the current investments have triggered the education in Turkish.”
According to a TESEV survey conducted last year, 78% of respondents throughout the region had watched a Turkish television series. It is good to see that this interest in soap operas is feeding into other aspects of Turkish culture . . .

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