Netflix has canceled an international series after authorities in Turkey took issue with a gay character.
As Deadline reports, plans for If Only, a new Turkish original series, were announced in March. Popular Turkish television and film actress Özge Özpirinçci was slated to star. But local authorities denied producers a filming license because the show includes a gay character. Instead of rewriting the show, Netflix elected to scrap the project entirely.
“Due to a gay character, permission to film the series was not granted and this is very frightening for the future,” If Only creator Ece Yörenç told Turkish film site Altyazi Fasikul, according to a translation from the Financial Times.
Asked for comment by Deadline, a spokesperson for the streaming service said the company “remains deeply committed to our Turkish members and the creative community in Turkey. We are proud of the incredible talent we work with. 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.”
This tweet – retweeted by If Only showrunner Ece Yörenç – is a quote from Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings about Turkish censorship: “We’re in Saudi Arabia. We’re in Pakistan. If there are no problems there, will we have problems in Turkey? I can’t imagine that"
— Jacob Oller (@JacobOller) July 21, 2020
Love 101—another Turkish original series from the same production company—also angered the county’s media authorities when it was rumored to have a coming-out storyline, Variety reports.
Although Turkey has a vibrant queer community and does not penalize homosexuality, being openly LGBTQ is still a major cultural taboo. In 2017, officials in Ankara, the nation’s capital, canceled all public Pride events indefinitely, citing concerns of “public sensitivity.” As Human Rights Watch reported in 2019, meaning LGBTQ Turkish people could not safely gather for Pride festivities in the streets of their capital city.
Queer public figures aren’t protected by their fame, either: As NewNowNext reported in 2017, a previous Mr. Gay Syria feared for his life after winning the competition.