Game of [Turkish] Thrones

Ben Taub

2 July 2012

How better to teach your army English than to show them a racy American TV show?  Such was the apparent rationale behind screenings of Game of Thrones in an English language class for seniors at a Turkish military academy, according to a Turkish Newspaper.

But nine officers who showed the series are now facing charges for “insulting Turkishness,” a crime punishable under section 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.  At the end of the ten-week course, an anonymous letter to the academy administration asserted that the show was too sexual, and portrayed Turks as “a barbarian tribe with perverted religious rituals.”

Naturally, the administration decided to thoroughly investigate these claims, and established a viewing committee to rigorously assess all the “pornographic elements” and “perverted and violent ways of sexual intercourse.”

After close examination of the wildly popular series, the committee determined that Game of Thrones “may damage the evolving individual in ways extremely difficult to amend in the future.”

As for the charges of “insulting Turkishness,” the show is based on a fantasy world created by George R. R. Martin in his book series A Song of Ice and Fire.  Nonetheless, the committee reported that “even though it is not directly said, it is easily understood by the audience” to be insulting to Turkey.

The military prosecutor dismissed all charges against the nine, but was soon overruled by the government appointed Minister of , as the Erdogan administration continues to assert its dominance over the military.

Just two months ago, 30 army officers were detained for their roles in the 1997 military coup, which overturned the government and imprisoned the Mayor of Istanbul.  That mayor was Recep Tayyip Erdogan — and he’s now the Prime Minister.

Is the title of this TV show an uncomfortable mirror for Turkish power politics?


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