Netflix cancels Turkish show If Only in row over gay character

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Ece Yorenc is one of Turkey’s most successful screenwriters

Netflix has cancelled a Turkish drama on the eve of filming, with its writer saying the government blocked it because it included a gay character.

Screenwriter Ece Yorenc said Netflix scrapped If Only after the government refused to grant it a licence.

“Due to a gay character, permission to film the series was not granted and this is very frightening for the future,” she told Turkish film website Altyazi Fasikul, according to the FT.

Netflix confirmed the story’s details.

If Only was due to tell the story of Reyhan, an unhappily married mother of twins, who is suddenly transported back 30 years to the night her husband proposed.

Yorenc said there were no gay sex scenes or physical contact between the gay man and other characters.

The streaming service did not want to bow to Ankara’s demands, and instead decided to cancel the show after talks with Turkey’s audiovisual authority RTUK, she added.

The deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling party, Mahir Unal, tweeted on Monday that he believed Netflix would “show greater sensitivity to Turkish culture and art with deeper co-operation” in the future.

Netflix said it remained “deeply committed” to its Turkish subscribers and those in the country’s creative community.

LGBT opposition

If Only was due to be one of the first original television shows produced there. There was speculation that another Turkish series, Love 101, which was added to Netflix in April, would feature a gay character called Osman.

While Osman did appear, there were no references to his sexuality in the show, which was based on the lives of five high school students.

While homosexuality has been legal throughout modern Turkey’s history, official opposition to the LGBT community has grown in recent years. The Istanbul Pride march has been banned for five years in a row.

Netflix said in a statement: “We currently have several Turkish originals in production – with more to come – and look forward to sharing these stories with our members all around the world”.

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