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Hero or villain? Disney ignites fury with ill-fated series on Turkey’s revered Ataturk

Disney is thought to have caved to pressure from the US-based Armenian lobby to cancel the biopic on the founder of the Turkish Republic.
This photograph shows paintings by Ankara Metropolitan Municipality's artists bearing Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Turks continue to vent their rage and cancel subscriptions by the thousands to Disney’s digital streaming platform, Disney+, after the entertainment giant decided not to air a highly anticipated series on the life of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The hashtag #Disneyiptalet — Turkish for “cancel Disney” — was top trending Thursday for the third day in a row since news of the cancellation emerged. Disney is thought to have caved to pressure from the US-based Armenian lobby, which has been campaigning for the six-part show to be axed.

Armenians, Greeks and Kurds across the globe are furious that the period drama whitewashes as they see things the carnage Ataturk oversaw as he forged a new nation from the remains of the Ottoman Empire — and mainly at their expense. Turks are every bit as furious that their revered leader is being accused of such sins. A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) called Disney’s move “a disgrace.”  

Turkey's state broadcasting watchdog, RTUK, announced Wednesday that it had launched a probe “based on the public information” that Disney+ had decided to pull the biopic. "Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of our Republic of [Turkey], is our most important social value," RTUK head Ebubekir Sahin said. 

Last month, Disney+ Turkey announced it would be airing the series on Oct. 29 to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Republic.

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