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Anger in Turkey Over Disney+ Cancellation of Ataturk Series

Turkey’s media regulator will reportedly investigate Disney+ for canceling an upcoming series on Ataturk’s life. Credit: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Turkey’s media regulatory body is reportedly launching an investigation into Disney+ regarding the decision to cancel the broadcasting of a domestic series focusing on the life of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

The cancellation has sparked controversy, with allegations of undue influence from “Armenian lobbies” in the United States.

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) announced on Thursday that it would launch a probe into the cancellation.

Turkey’s media watchdog launch probe into Disney+ Atatruk series cancellation

RTUK’s chair, Ebubekir Sahin, announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that they had initiated a “careful investigation” in response to reports stating that Disney+ had “decided not to broadcast…Ataturk on its platform.”

Sahin emphasized the significance of the series as the “most important” public value in the country. He also noted that certain claims circulating on social media platforms suggested that the decision of Disney might have been influenced by “Armenian lobbies” in the US.

The platform’s reported action faced strong criticism from Omer Celik, the spokesperson for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Celik condemned the move as “embarrassing” and “disrespectful to the values of the Republic of Türkiye and our nation.”

Following the cancellation of the series by the streaming platform, many people in Turkey expressed their outrage on social media. They called for a boycott of Disney+ and pledged to cancel their subscriptions in response to the decision.

Controversial series

In July, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) called on Disney to cancel its upcoming series on the life of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the modern Turkish state.

The ANCA accused Disney of glorifying a “dictator and genocide killer.” At the time, Turkish media called the response “reactionary.”

The series was scheduled for release on October 29th of this year, which coincides with the one hundredth anniversary of the Republic of Turkey.

The controversy surrounding the Disney Ataturk series highlights the intensity of longstanding grievances, which have never been fully addressed since the Armenian genocide, as well as the Pontian Greek, and Assyrian genocides.

The Armenian genocide was the systematic massacre and forced deportation of Armenians committed by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923 during and after the First World War.

As of 2023, the governments and parliaments of thirty-four countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Russia, and the United States, have formally recognized the Armenian genocide.

Turkey and its close ally, Azerbaijan, as well as Pakistan, deny that the genocide took place. According to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Infusing history with myth, Armenian Americans vilify the Republic of Türkiye, Turkish Americans, and ethnic Turks worldwide.”

“Armenians bent on this prosecution choose their evidence carefully, omitting all evidence that tends to exonerate those whom they presume guilty, ignoring important events and verifiable accounts, and sometimes relying on dubious or prejudiced sources and even falsified documents,” the Ministry continues.

Beyond a merely historical dispute, the Armenian genocide and the contention surrounding it remains an important factor in diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey, as well as a point of potential friction between Armenian and Turkish diasporas in various other countries.

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