Valley of the Wolves – Iraq

“Valley of the Wolves: Iraq” (Kurtlar Vadisi: Irak), which opened in Turkey on February 3, 2006, has grabbed headlines in Turkey and the USA.

I haven’t seen the movie yet but the first thing that came to mind was: is this revenge for “Midnight Express“?

The story of “Valley of the Wolves,” as I’ve read in news reports, starts by recapping an actual incident that took place on July 4, 2003 in Sulaymaniyah, in (Kurdish) northern Iraq. Soldiers from the US Army’s 173rd Airborneraided the offices of a Turkish Army special forces unit there and arrested 11 Turkish special forces officers, giving them the now-familiar treatment of tying their hands and covering their heads with bags or hoods. The officers were held for several days, but released when the raid was found to be a mistake.

The damage was done, however. Turks saw the incident as an insult to national honor—the Turkish military is the most respected institution in the country, and has been since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

The Turkish Grand National Assembly(parliament) had wisely voted to stay out of the Iraq War. There would be little benefit for Turkey, and great cost in lives and treasure. Perhaps Assembly members recalled that during the Gulf War of 1991, President George H W Bush had promised Turkey several billions of dollars in support for Turkey’s whole-hearted cooperation, but after the war only a fraction of the money was ever paid(according to a public admission by a high US government officer).

As “Valley of the Wolves” continues, the American troops raid an Iraqi wedding, murder innocent members of the wedding party (including children), and arrest the survivors and take them to the infamous Abu Ghraibprison, where their internal organs are “harvested” for sale and transplant to wealthy but ailing rich people in London, New York and Tel Aviv.

This is presumably fiction, but of course it will be seen as documented fact by many movie-goers, just as the Hollywood hyperbole of “Midnight Express” was seen as unvarnished truth by millions of unquestioning movie-goers. The image and reputation of Turkey and Turks was badly tarnished for decades, and Turkey lost millions of dollars in tourism revenues.

Such is the power of the cinema.


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