Feb 20 2018

Turkish soap operas take over Somalia

One of the biggest winners of Turkey’s bid to expand its soft power has been the popularity of its TV soap operas and dramas abroad, Qatar-based Al Jazeera said.

Even in Somalia, devastated by years of fighting, families regularly gather in front of their televisions to watch the latest instalments of their favourite soaps.

Anisa Ali, a 29-year-old Somali mother of two, explained the popularity of Turkish series:

"They are full of twists and emotions. When we are watching, it's like we are part of the story. We shout at the characters telling them 'do this, defend yourself, speak up' and so on. We participate from our sofas.”

Another reason Turkish series are popular in Somalia is likely because the characters are mostly Muslim and therefore easier for Somalis to relate to than those from Bollywood or Hollywood, the channel said on its website. Turkish series are also popular because they run for months, or even years, thus providing a regular source of entertainment.

Somali production companies have also taken advantage of the opportunities offered by downloading series from the internet, re-editing them and adding Somali voiceovers, before selling them to local TV stations.

Mohamed Abdulqadir, a voice actor and Somali translator, explained that the main focus of the company he works for is Turkish shows.

"Somalis love Turkish films and they are more interested when it's aired in Somali language. Our job is to translate for them." he said.

His manager, Mohamed Abukar, agreed the demand for Turkish series is huge.

"Every time we post films online, we receive lots of positive comments on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The biggest benefit is that Turkish films are informative. Before we decide which film to translate, we consider the storyline and the benefit for our audiences."

However, not everyone welcomes the Turkish invasion.

Somali religious figures argue the content is damaging Somali society. Sheikh Aadan Moallim said:

"Women learn how to lie, how to deceive and they meet bad people. That's against our religion. Their [the films'] only contribution is to misguide Somalis and cause family breakups. There are women who would stay up all night watching films and won't listen to their husband - that is haram."

 Ali, does not agree.

"We let them [men] watch their football, they should let us watch our films," she said.