Turkey eclipsing UAE, Saudi in TV-driven soft power - Middle East Monitor

Turkey’s soft power is growing by way of its film and television industry, despite efforts by regional rivals, including the Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, to pull the plug on and discredit Turkish programming, U.K.-based Middle East Monitor said.

Not even a $40 million, 14-episode series called Mamalik el-Nar (Kingdoms of Fire), co-produced Saudi Arabia and UAE, is likely to succeed in thwarting what Turkey’s rivals are labelling a plan to revive the  Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, it said.

Tensions have been soaring between Turkey and the UAE since Turkey supported Qatar throughout the Gulf States’ blockade of their neighbour in 2017 and ties between Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been strained since the killing of Saudi journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Meanwhile, Turkish-Egyptian relations have been at a low point since 2013, when the Egyptian military overthrew President Mohamed Morsi. 

All three countries have attempted to challenge growing Turkish soft power, but to no avail, the Middle East Monitor said.

Dubai-based, Saudi-owned, Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) moved to ban Turkish drama series in 2018 and Egypt’s fatwa - a religious ruling - accusing Turkey of trying to create an “area of influence for itself in the Middle East using its soft power.’’

“When Saudi Arabia and the UAE banned Turkish programmes, social media users across the region expressed their disappointment; even as Egypt’s highest Islamic authority issued a fatwa against Muslims consuming Turkish dramas and suchlike, Arab tourists flocked to Istanbul,’’ the article said.

Turkey’s success in the Muslim world stems from its ability to produce content that is  “reflective of the hopes and aspirations of the people for democracy and dignity,’’ the Middle East Monitor said.