Streaming giant Netflix has shut down its new Turkey-set series If Only due to local outcry over the inclusion of a gay character.
Netflix had planned to shoot the eight-part series on location. The story would have revolved around an unhappily married woman flashing back to the moment her husband proposed. Star Özge Özpirinçci even posted an on-set photo over the weekend.
If Only would have marked the streaming studio’s second production in the nation of Turkey. Now, If Only’s creator Ece Yörenç tells website Altyazi Fasikul “Due to a gay character, permission to film the series was not granted and this is very frightening for the future.”
Industry publication Deadline reports that Netflix has yet to release a direct comment on the matter, though speculates that rather than cave to government demands to remove the gay character from the show, the studio decided to abandon the project altogether. “Netflix remains deeply committed to our Turkish members and the creative community in Turkey,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
Though Turkey is widely regarded as one of the most secular and liberal nations in the Middle East, and though homosexuality is not considered a crime, queer people still face a hostile environment. Same-sex marriage remains illegal, and the military does not allow LGBTQ service members to serve openly. The LGBTQ community also has no protections under employment, housing or adoption laws.