The TV series “Kızılcık Şerbeti,” which features a powerful feminist critique of gender roles while providing an objective account of the conservative-secular tensions within the Turkish society, was penalised with a five-week broadcast suspension via a last-minute email notice on Friday evening, resulting in the already on-air series being abruptly interrupted.
The penalty, which was requested to be imposed as of 7 April, includes a suspension for five broadcasts of the series by Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). This marks the first time in Turkey that a TV series has been given a suspension penalty of this length.
The series “Kızılcık Şerbeti” boldly addresses the conservative-secular conflict and features a conservative, headscarved female character named Nursema. In one of the previous episodes, Nursema is thrown out of the window on her wedding night by the man she was forced to marry because she resisted being with him. After surviving the incident, she escapes from the hospital and hides from her oppressive in-laws with the help of her secular female friends. She then gathers both her own family and the in-laws and holds them all accountable.
This scene, in which Nursema rebels against her two families and the patriarchy by saying “let your peace be disturbed!” quickly became famous and RTÜK fines followed immediately afterwards. Nursema soon became a political symbol among women in Turkey with this scene which is considered one of the most powerful feminist-critiques in the history of Turkish television.
The penalty imposed by RTÜK on Kızılcık Şerbeti for a scene of “violence against women” that resulted in a 1.5 million TL fine and a five-week suspension has caused surprise, as other TV series featuring male violence continues unchecked, leading many to believe that the penalty was due to the show’s exposure of repressive gender roles and portrayal of the conservative-secular conflict in an objective manner that allows for reconciliation.
Many viewers and artists reacted to RTÜK’s decision and launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag “RTÜKKızılcıkŞerbetineDokunma” (Do not touch Kızılcık Şerbeti) calling for the cancellation of the fine.
During the broadcast time allocated for the series, the channel was forced to broadcast a documentary on Islamophobia instead. Viewers waiting to watch the series were confronted first with a dark screen that began with the lines, “As dangerous as coronavirus is the virus of Islamophobia. This virus is spreading rapidly, especially in European countries. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkish Republic.”