A fast-growing number of people in Uzbekistan is reportedly appealing to officials with requests to have romantically charged Turkish soap operas pulled off the air.
Komil Allamjonov, the head of the state agency for information and mass communication, said this week that his office has received five times as many complaints about the shows in the past five months than it did over the whole of last year.
What is getting viewers hot under the collar is that the soap operas, which are hugely popular and typically air on privately owned television stations, do not “conform to the national customs” and “spiritual-moral values” of the Uzbek people, Allamjonov was cited as saying by UzReport in an article on June 18.
The sheer onslaught of complaints appears to suggest the morality brigade of Uzbekistan is successfully mobilizing supporters in their campaign against light entertainment perceived to promote loose morals.
Their most notable victim to date was a Turkish soap opera called Kara Sevda (Black Love), which was pulled from the air in early 2018 following a concerted grassroots initiative. It was at that time one of the best-performing shows for privately owned Zo'r TV.
Much of the agitating was done by Islamic-themed website Azon.uz. One writer for the website called the show, which featured the various romantic entanglements of a group of 20-somethings, sinful and contrary to Uzbek customs. The writer even reserved acid for Uzbek dubbing artists, whom he described as “traitors” to their own people.
The periodic bouts of moral indignation look like so much grandstanding.
Turkish soaps are certainly emotionally charged but they are generally very chaste compared to Western fare. Having them pulled off the air only goes so far anyway, since the same shows are usually easily viewed online.
Unease with morally ambiguous cultural content is nothing new for Uzbekistan, however. For most of the three decades since the country gained independence, the authorities have through often heavy-handed measures promoted a largely secular brand of prudishness.
With the government now allowing marginally more room for the pious Muslims who were once viewed with hostile suspicion, the effort to uphold what are dubbed traditional values has passed from officialdom to outrage entrepreneurs.