Turkish TV series attracts Somali cinema audiences as Ankara’s soft power spreads across the Horn of Africa country.
Mogadishu, Somalia – It used to be Hollywood. Then it became Bollywood. Now Yesilcam, as Turkey calls its film industry, has taken over silverscreens in Somalia.
Turkish soap operas have gained so much popularity that some people have set up makeshift cinemas while others have started businesses of translating the films.
Every evening, Somali families would gather in front of their tv screens to watch them.
Anisa Ali, a 29-year-old mother of two, and her friends are watching Kara Para Ask (Black Money Love), a detective-romance Turkish TV series featuring fictional characters Omer Demir and Elif Denizer.
Ali is glued to the screen, her hands buried inside the grey sofa she is sitting on. She inches forward, lifts her upper body suddenly, only to fall back into the sofa.
It’s as if her favourite football team just missed a crucial chance against an arch-rival. Ali is furious about what’s happening to Demir – her favourite character.
In the scene, as Demir is enjoying his engagament party, the mother of his ex-fiance, who died mysteriously, gate-crashes the event to sabotage it.
“They are full of twists and emotions,” Ali told Al Jazeera. “When we are watching, it’s like we are part of the story. We shout at the characters telling them ‘do this, defend yourself, speak up’ and so on. We participate from our sofas.”
This is the fifth series Ali and her friends have followed in the last five years.
Yesilcam gained traction in the country after Turkey and Somalia renewed relations in 2011. The improvement in ties began during a devastating famine that killed more than 250,000 Somalis.
Turkey showed compassion and provided emergency relief aid, built schools, hospitals and roads, and invested in Somalia where Turkish cinema is seen as an addition to Ankara’s soft power.
And due to a group of translators and voice actors, there is no language barrier for the Somali audience.Small production companies like Fanproj have spotted a gap in the market.
They download Turkish films from the internet, re-edit, add Somali voiceover and sell them to local TV stations as well as uploading them onto their social media accounts.
Somalis prefer Turkish drama series over Hollywood and Bollywood because they go on for months and provide daily entertainment. Actors are mostly Muslims and therefore the Somali audience can relate to many of their stories and they portray realistic characters that are full of twists and turns.
In contrast, Hollywood movies are seen by Somalis as full of violence and littered with nudity while Bollywood cinema is thought of as nothing more than well-groomed male and female actors dancing provocatively.
The team at Fanproj has been working on Kara Para Ask for about a year now. It has been one of their most successful projects and they are determined to build on that.
“Our main focus now is Turkish films,” Mohamed Abdulqadir, a voice actor and translator, said.
“Somalis love Turkish films and they are more interested when it’s aired in Somali language. Our job is to translate for them.”
His manager, Mohamed Abukar, agrees that the demand for Yesilcam is huge.
“Every time we post films online, we receive lots of positive comments on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
“The biggest benefit is that Turkish films are informative. Before we decide which film to translate, we consider the storyline and the benefit for our audiences.” Abukar added.But not everyone is happy with the takeover by Turkish films.
“As men, our family role is outside [the house], women do the housework and look after the children. They waste so much time watching these series and therefore neglect their husband who needs attention after coming home from work tired,” Abdi Qadir Sheikh, a 29-year-old father-of-two, told Al Jazeera.
“While busy watching the films, they also neglect children. They don’t have time to give them milk and dinner. A child could crawl into the kitchen and burn itself or pour water on itself,” he added.
The country’s religious figures argue that uncensored content is also damaging the fabric of Somali society.
Sheikh Aadan Moallim wants a total ban on Turkish films, arguing that its negative influence is destroying families.
“Women learn how to lie, how to deceive and they meet bad people. That’s against our religion,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Their [the films’] only contribution is to misguide Somalis and cause family breakups. There are women who would stay up all night watching films and won’t listen to their husband – that is haram.” Moallim added.
While Turkish films are becoming part of the daily life for many Somalis in and out of the country, Yesilcam is polarising the Somali society.
“We let them [men] watch their football, they should let us watch our films,” Ali said.
Kansas Trio Convicted in Plot to Bomb Somali Immigrants
WICHITA, Kan. — A federal jury on Wednesday convicted three men of plotting to bomb an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived and worshiped in Garden City, Kan., giving prosecutors a victory at a time when threats against religious and racial minorities are rising nationally.
“These defendants conspired to build a bomb, blow up a building and murder every single man, woman and child inside,” Tony Mattivi, a federal prosecutor, told jurors during closing statements.
The men, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, all of whom are white, appeared stoic as the verdicts were read. They face up to life in prison when they are sentenced in June.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated for about seven hours over two days.
Defense lawyers tried to convince jurors that their clients were manipulated by the F.B.I., and had been unfairly targeted for exercising their rights to own guns and speak freely.
“He was a member of a militia. He loved his guns. This was a lifestyle,” Melody Brannon, a lawyer for Mr. Allen, told the mostly white jury. “The government tried to criminalize that lifestyle.”
The trial, which played out over about a month in Wichita, focused on a period before the 2016 presidential election when a paid F.B.I. informant infiltrated a militia group that prosecutors said included the three men. Prosecutors, who built much of their case around secret recordings that the informant made of the men talking, said that they planned to carry out the bombing on Nov. 9 of that year, a day after voters selected a president.
“They wanted to send a message to the people living there that they’re not welcome in Garden City, they’re not welcome in southwest Kansas, they’re not welcome in the United States,” Mr. Mattivi said.
The men, who called themselves “the Crusaders,” were arrested about four weeks before Election Day and charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against rights, which the Justice Department considers a hate crime. Mr. Wright was also charged with lying to the F.B.I. The three men were found guilty on all counts against them.
The trial came amid a national escalation in threats against religious and racial minorities, especially Muslims, according to the F.B.I. and organizations that monitor hate crimes.
“It is now approaching the level of hate violence against the same communities that we saw in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks,” said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT: South Asian Americans Leading Together, a national advocacy organization.
Prosecutors portrayed the Kansas defendants as aspiring domestic terrorists who joined a militia and decided to bomb the Somali apartments after considering other attacks — on elected officials, churches that helped refugees and landlords who rented to immigrants.
Defense lawyers, who criticized the F.B.I.’s investigation throughout the trial as government overreach, suggested that their clients had merely engaged in idle talk inspired partly by the 2016 election. Expletive-filled recordings of the men played before the jury contained repugnant, bigoted language, the defense lawyers said, but not evidence of a federal crime.
“It is not morally right to hold such hate, but it is not legally wrong,” said James Pratt, a lawyer for Mr. Stein, who acknowledged that his client referred to Muslims as “cockroaches.” Mr. Stein referred to himself, the recordings showed, as an “Orkin man,” referencing the pest extermination company.
“We all have the right to hate,” Mr. Pratt added.
A bombing never took place, and no one was physically injured in Garden City, a point defense lawyers emphasized to jurors. They said the men lacked the ability or commitment to carry out such an attack, and that the F.B.I.’s paid informant helped steer the plot and suggested targeting the apartments.
Garden City is a racially diverse place about 200 miles west of Wichita with around 27,000 residents. Many Somalis and other immigrants have moved to the area in recent years to work at a nearby meatpacking plant.
The apartment complex that prosecutors say was targeted is a center of Somali life in Garden City. Many refugee families live in units of the complex; others come to pray in a makeshift mosque inside one unit.
Moussa Elbayoumy, who chairs the board of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the verdict affirmed his faith in the justice system.
Many Muslims he talked to in Garden City had not followed the trial closely, Mr. Elbayoumy said, but had hoped for convictions.
“The instance was troubling, was concerning. People were afraid,” Mr. Elbayoumy said in a phone interview. “But after that, they put this behind them and moved on with their lives.”
What’s triggering tension between Somalia and the UAE? | Inside Story
Somalia has been in conflict for much of the past 25 years. But the horn of Africa nation has been showing signs of recovery.
And that’s provoked interest from many regional countries including the United Arab Emirates.
The Gulf nation has been conducting a military training programme and running a hospital in the capital Mogadishu.
But, the UAE’s government has now abruptly ended its involvement on both those fronts after a series of recent diplomatic disagreements.
So, why are the UAE and other regional countries interested in Somalia?
AMISOM asks for more police officers in Somalia
DAILY MONITOR — KISMAYO- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has asked partners states to contribute more police officers to expand its operations in the war-torn country.
The call was made on Tuesday by Ms Christine Alalo, the acting AMISOM police commissioner while receiving 145 police officers from Sierra Leone.
The deployment of the force from Sierra Leone brings to 160 the number of police officers from Sierra Leone.
“We expect other police contributing countries to do the same because we are expanding our operations. We are moving away from Mogadishu,” Ms Alalo said.
Apart from Sierra Leone, other police contributing countries in Somalia are; Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Ghana.
Early this month, over 500 Ugandan Police Officers sat for interviews that would see successful ones join police operations in Somalia.
Ms Alalo said since police operations will be extended to other federal states and districts, it is inevitable to increase the number of police units.
Between 2015 and 2016, AMISOM trained 600 Somali officers in Jubbaland, but Ms Alalo said that number has to be reinforced.
Meanwhile, the AMISOM Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mustafa Solomon Kambeh, said the police officers would be deployed in Jubbaland and Kismayo.
Mr Kambeh doubles as the Contingent Commander of the Sierra Leonean FPU in Mogadishu urged the forces to stick to the AMISOM mandate of pacifying Somalia and its regional states.
The Formed Police Unit is charged with public order management, protection of facilities and support to police operations that require a concerted response.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution adopted in 2017 approved an increase to a maximum of 1,040 police officers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)
AMISOM is committed to redoubling its efforts to train and recruit more police officers during the transition period as it prepares to hand over security responsibilities to the Somali security forces as stipulated in the Security Council Resolution.