By Patti Feuereisen Ph.D. and Vinita Templeton Esq.
Dizis, Turkish films, Turkish daily series, with their deep emotional stories bring people together and create international communities through social media. The following essay is a collaboration between two women who “met” through one such community of the Turkish daily series Kan Çiçekleri, otherwise known as Blood Flowers, produced by Sevda Kaygısız leading a team of at least 8 skilled writers, mostly women, on Kanal 7, a nationwide Islamic TV Channel.
Vinita, an established human rights lawyer living in the UK, is hooked on the story because of the blood feud and tribalism that she also encounters in her vast experience working in the field of human rights. Patti, an accomplished psychologist living in New York City, is hooked because of her decades of work with the intricate psychology of trauma, healing, and resiliency.
For Turkish translation of this post go here
For Spanish translation of this post go here
The Blood Flower
Daily series, as opposed to weekly dizis with larger budgets, have to depend more on symbolism without distractions of elaborate sets and locations, resulting with the prime focus on the story and the acting. Kan Çiçekleri feels unexpectedly intimate, taking us into the characters’ lives every day, captivating millions around the world as social media communities in a multitude of languages are following and endlessly commenting on the daily series. The pull is through two breakout performances by the leads Yağmur Yüksel and Barış Baktaş, whose acting and chemistry as Dilan Demir and Baran Karabey is sublime and transcendent. With some of the religious overtones, modesty and lack of gratuitous sexual content on Kanal 7, the slow burn between this couple is irresistible, compelling and tantalizing.
The poppy flower, also called the blood flower, has a wealth of history and fables connected with it. One is that it covers fields and grows from the spilled blood of soldiers; another is that it symbolizes endurance and can grow anywhere even out of concrete. Dilan eventually tells Baran “This is the flower that unites us”. This symbol reoccurs often as Dilan embroiders the blood flower on her dress and Baran designs a hair clip for Dilan of the blood flower.
Kan Çiçekleri is a story about endurance, redemption, resiliency and love all brought by one young woman to a family that was living in the past of pain, darkness, vengeance, and trauma. This young woman Dilan is able to bring light, joy and healing to the Karabey family through her open heart, tenacity and pure strength of character.
The Blood Feud
The story begins with a blood feud, involving the families of Dilan Demir and Baran Karabey. Dilan is a fresh faced beauty, a graceful bright young woman whose father Seyit is believed to have killed Baran’s mother, and shot and left paralyzed Baran’s father Kudret, the head of the Karabey tribe from Mardin in South Eastern Turkey.
Seventeen years later we are introduced to Baran, an elegant, successful young businessman, now head of the tribe as he tracks down the Demir family in Istanbul where he also lives. He is tasked with seeking revenge for the bloodshed and is expected to execute the primary tribal law of killing a son of the Demir family. He chooses an alternative option of his tribe instead; to ensure that no more blood is shed he will marry a daughter of the family who will suffer and pay penance for her father’s sins. This daughter is Dilan Demir.
Baran finds Dilan as her mother pleads with him to take her daughter instead of shooting her son. Baran and Dilan are stunned at this encounter because the day before they had randomly met at his horse farm where she frequented for her love of horses. Their eyes immediately lock and there seems to be a spark, yet while there, Baran is poised to shoot his injured horse when Dilan berates him whilst standing in front of the horse and yelling at him “look into his eyes, he does not want to die.” Baran is unsettled yet intrigued with this vibrant young woman; she is outraged and finds him arrogant. Come the next day he abducts her and tells her if she does not stop the bloodshed with this marriage, he will have to kill her brother. Dilan is not only shocked being forced to marry; she knows nothing of her father’s murdering anyone and she refuses to accept that her father is capable of hurting anyone, let alone killing someone.
At the time of her abduction Baran has an inordinate amount of responsibility as tribe leader. His grandmother Azade keeps offering up brides for him to marry and wants him to start a family which he is adamantly against as he has laser focus on building his father’s business left to him, and taking care of his younger brother, eighteen year old Cihan. Dilan has just graduated pharmacy school, head of her class, and is ready to effectuate her full scholarship to study for her master’s degree in Vienna. She is dragged to the Karabey mansion where she is stripped of all rights, given rags to wear, and ordered to cease any form of contact with her family.
Baran to Dilan “You have no family anymore. You have no school. You will learn to do whatever I say.”
Dilan to Baran “No one under any circumstance should ever be treated this way, no one.”
Although Kan Çiçekleri is not based on a true story, featuring excesses of abuse to a young woman within the cultural context of a tribal blood feud, the scriptwriters educate us of the existence of such practices and the abuse of the basic rights of innocent females trapped in situations beyond their control. Such as in the case of Dilan in Kan Çiçekleri where she is given up by her family as a pawn in settlement of a blood feud with the Karabey clan.
Albeit co-author of this post Vinita has not had a case with tribalism from Turkey, she has worked on cases with tribalism from Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Iraq as an immigration lawyer with over twenty years of practice. One which stands out from many years ago is a case where a seventeen year old Iraqi girl was forcibly married as a “minor” wife to a prominent member of a tribe because of a family dispute which resulted in blood shed involving an accidental death without legal prosecution. The victim’s tribal family agreed that the girl be given up by her family as the sacrificial lamb who ended up being raped by her husband and lived as a slave to her husband’s official wife. She finally escaped after five years, as Vinita’s legal team succeeded in getting her asylum protection and she started a new life with her children in the UK. Vinita has learned that tribes have their own intricate set of laws which vary from tribe to tribe and subtribe to subtribe.
Baran explains the basis of the blood feud marriage between himself and Dilan through his tribal laws: “My world has its own rules. One man cannot change all these rules, but he can do all he can. I did not want bloodshed. There is no other way…we made some sacrifices so no one else dies, so that no more blood is shed.”
Dilan: The Shero Of The Story
“Every insult I hear, every injustice I experience only makes me stronger, every time I fall I get up stronger, as long as I stand in spite of all these winds and hurricanes, no one can bring me down except Allah”
Very soon Dilan understands the enormity of her situation; that if she leaves, or rejects her marriage to Baran, her brother could be killed. Yet, she still refuses to believe her father killed Baran’s mother and shot Baran’s father, leaving him paralyzed. Seyit, Dilan’s father, was the adoring parent and is her hero. In an agonizing scene, Baran brings her to Seyit who does not deny what he was accused of. At that moment Dilan’s world came crashing down on her and she is resolved to atone for her father’s sins. She immediately goes to “Uncle Kudret”, puts her head on his lap, sobs and apologizes from deep in her heart.
Dilan becomes an emotional prisoner in the Karabey mansion where gloom echoes through the hallways with the reverberating sound of Azade’s voice – scratchy, rough, angry, deep. Azade, the Karabey matriarch, clicks her cane loudly, as she spews the most vile accusations at Dilan. Baran’s uncle, cousin and younger brother as well as Azade’s cohort Derya, her chosen bride for Baran, all despise Dilan as the extreme and reckless opposition to this marriage continues from Baran’s family, who want bloodshed for bloodshed.
In heart wrenching scene after scene we see Dilan fight for her life with the unforgivable verbal, physical and emotional abuse from Azade, with a level of abuse inflicted on Dilan often times too difficult to watch. Although Baran handles Dilan roughly at times, pushing and pulling her in his frustration and inability to deal with his feelings, when he can’t protect her in time from Azade’s onslaughts, he spends much time literally lifting Dilan up, carrying her when she falls from abuse. Dilan is like a wounded beautiful bird and he keeps trying to mend her broken wing but keeps allowing it to break. Dilan tells Baran “First you let them torment me and then you show me mercy.”
Baran is never immune to Dilan; in the face of her captivating fighting spirit, her goodness of heart and calming presence, he wants her near him always. He had married Dilan to make her suffer for her father’s sins, only to be undone every step of the way by Dilan who meets every onslaught upon her with unfailing, determination and resilience. At the heart of this story is the theme of protection, where Baran assumes the role from captor to protector against the harsh wrath of his family and external risks. But who really is the protector?
Baran puts out fires, yet Dilan prevents the fires from burning. Through her own tenacity and courage, she literally saves Kudret’s and Cihan’s lives. She endears herself to the household staff where “Sister Kader”, who is filled with compassion, becomes a loving mother figure to Dilan. Eventually Baran’s younger brother, Cihan, becomes adoring of Dilan, and she forms a deep bond with Baran’s paralyzed father. She consistently protects Baran’s relationship with his grandmother, never reporting to him the depth of the abuse she suffers from Azade. She is instrumental in bringing about a change of medical treatment for Kudret, and eventually changes his life too. Dilan is a phoenix rising from the ashes, as she emerges from the victim to protector of the Karabeys and her own family. Dilan is the shero of the story.
Dilan And Baran ~ Psychological Exploration
Our attachments are formed through the way that our parents and/or caregivers love us and meet our needs as children and adolescents forming our understanding and expectations of all our relationships. A fracture in this bond can break our ability to connect. Dilan and Baran both suffered childhood traumas, having disparate results in their traumatic experiences.
Dilan was separated from her biological parents and adopted by the Demirs at around age three; yet she seems to have no cognitive memory of this although one scene on a swing implies a somatic memory. She may be holding repressed memories in her subconscious of this emotional fracture where Dilan was with her parents and then they disappeared from her life, to be replaced by other parents.
Another childhood fracture for Dilan is her (adoptive) mother Hanife’s rejection as Dilan was always searching for signs of love from her while clearly she preferred her other two (birth) children to Dilan. Dilan tells Baran “I always wanted to put my head on my mother’s lap and have her stroke my hair the way she did for my sister, but she never did.” She accepted this and probably internalized it and to no avail thought if she was the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect helper that Hanife would love her. As horrible as Hanife was, Dilan felt consistent deep love and warmth from her father, brother and sister growing up. Those relationships planted a foundation for Dilan to trust and to connect with others and form deep attachments.
She somehow seems to survive Azade’s abuse and rejection as she pays penance for her father’s sins. Is this because she has a strong foundation of continuous love? Or is Dilan used to going into denial and not totally absorbing mother’s rejection as her coping mechanism to stay strong? In any event, Dilan is able to survive and get back up with grace and continue to bring the Karabey family out of darkness and trauma after each horrific onslaught of abuse from Azade. She tells her father “when a girl feels the love of her family she never bows her head, you told me I could conquer the world, whenever I fell I always thought of your love and I got right back up.” The irony is what Seyit does to Dilan is the worst cruelty of the entire story, as he never tells Dilan she is adopted, yet he forfeits her for the blood feud.
As open as Dilan is with her heart, Baran is guarded and trusts no-one as he carries the childhood trauma at age ten of holding his mother in his arms as she was violently murdered, and seeing his father shot to unconsciousness and paralysis. In a fleeting moment his security, love, and safety was violently ripped away, unconditionally loving parents were replaced by a controlling, angry, depressed, resentful, revengeful grandmother.
With the loss of parents at a young age, a child goes into deep trauma and may become frightened, depressed, and lonely, and needing the time and space to grieve and process in order to have healthy development. The time preceding the loss is crucial for the child to build inner security and confidence and the ability to trust and absorb love. The consistent nurturing from housekeeper Kader (though edited by Azade) probably saved him from being totally closed off. Yet Baran was immediately adultified and groomed by Azade to be in charge of the tribe which caused him arrested development. Deep inside he is still that ten year old boy who has internalized the guilt and blame for his mother’s death and carries this fracture throughout his life, causing an attachment disorder resulting in carefully built emotional walls around him.
His words, as constricted as his posture – unyielding and entitled. are replaced with small physical movements to communicate instead; an ever so slight gesture of his head, a twitch in his shoulder, a tightening of his lips. He has non verbal physical outbursts of anger. It is his eyes that show his despair, helplessness, fear, anger and eventually love. He feels that he is not entitled to deep love, only respect, he is not entitled to happiness, only responsibility. He is parent to his younger brother Cihan and it is through their relationship only do we see a window of deep warmth.
Baran’s attachment disorder has manifested in a physical and emotional armor that warns ‘don’t come too close’. Yet when Dilan, an ethereal, kind, thoughtful, loving woman who’s also beautiful, enters his life he is thoroughly undone. It is only through Dilan’s extraordinary spirit Baran begins to internally restore his emotional life to the time when his mother was alive and his heart opens again to unconditional love he received as a child.
Dilan to Baran: ‘We are cellmates serving our sentence together for nothing we have done…”
Very soon into the forced marriage Baran doesn’t feel like a cellmate and cannot bear for her to leave him. As he becomes progressively obsessed with Dilan he watches her constantly, he watches her sleep, he watches her in the kitchen with Sister Kadar, he watches her holding the kitten in the garden, he watches her gently take care of his father. He purchases an extensive wardrobe for her, including special ensembles for events, no more rags. He insists she sit next to him at the dinner table together with the family. He takes her for walks on the beach together, he talks to her about his childhood, he takes her to cafes on the waterfront, he asks her to attend all family events. He speaks to her like he speaks to no one else.
They are together most of the time, many scenes taking place in Baran’s bedroom, shared with Dilan who insists on sleeping on the sofa next to his bed. This becomes their refuge. They go to sleep looking at each other, wake up in the morning looking at each other, they share a washroom, go down to meals together. What started out as protection quickly becomes love, which triggers self-loathing in Baran as he yearns for Dilan to want to stay with him out of her free will and not just because she is paying penance. Dilan constantly tells him she is there to atone for her father’s sins, yet he constantly tells her she is his wife, Dilan Karabey. He is a deeply insecure and flawed husband as he employs double standards; he is possessive and jealous and does not believe he needs to be accountable to her, is non-verbal and unable to express his love, even to himself. He demands that she succumbs to his authority at all times, while she looks at him in the eye, challenges him and de-stabilizes him every step of the way.
Amidst Baran’s struggles within himself, not only does Dilan bear her suffering with equanimity, she is never afraid of him. She yells back, she breaks his shell, and she persistently sets out to make life better for him and his family. They bicker as a married couple, they watch out for each other as a married couple and through many upheavals, each catastrophe brings them closer together, creating a depth of mutual understanding. She becomes very fond of him, depends on him, trusts him, yet still Baran cannot articulate his feelings to her despite knowing that she cares for him.
In his vulnerability he believes she could never fall in love with him, and he is besotted with her, desperately in love for months upon months. In the beginning months Baran abides by his promise on their forced wedding night not to “touch” Dilan. But he really wants to. He wants to so much that he is constantly stopping himself, taking the hand that wants to reach out and touch her and tightly balling it into a fist and walking away from her. Dilan is the center of his world, his desire for her is palpable and begins to become transparent as he catches her falls and carries her, lingering just wanting to touch her, to hug her, to look into her eyes, inhale her scent and hold onto her.
The Love Story
The first night of their forced marriage :
Dilan: “No, no, please promise you won’t touch me, I am not here for that…”
Baran:“I don’t even want to breath the same air as you, let alone touch you!”
10 months later:
Baran: “I can’t even breathe without you Dilan. I want you to be with me always; I don’t exist if you don’t exist, I am in love with you.”
Dilan : “I saw your heart with every step you took to protect me. I saw what you hid from everyone. As time passed enmity turned into love! I want to spend my life with you.”
We have watched Baran’s growing love for Dilan almost from the very beginning. When his love and desire for Dilan becomes so overpowering, and he can no longer repress his feelings, he takes his looking into her eyes to the next level and begins to touch her. Dilan does not respond, yet she allows him to be near, we even see her close her eyes accepting his touch.
The level of intimacy, passion and sensuality sizzles through Baran combing her hair, wiping her tears, stroking her face, covering her with a blanket while lingering, dancing with her, handing her barrette, touching her hair, smelling her hair, caressing her hair, can we mention combing her hair … again. Finally, when Baran submits to this love and has it reciprocated, it is as if all his repressed feelings are overflowing and he becomes joyful, playful, expressive, warm, openhearted and he cannot keep his eyes, and hands, off Dilan. He literally cannot stop kissing her. He asks her to marry him, this time for real, and the result is breathtaking.
Blood Flower Blooms
Kan Çiçekleri engages us with its slow deliberate burn, stellar acting, smart writing and captivating leading couple. In Dilan they have created a strong female protagonist and, after the spectacular cliff hanger at the end of the season, the writers have an opportunity to develop an exquisite love story as the series continues and the international communities and millions watching are rooting for Dilan’s strong and determined character to solidify further and defeat all obstacles in the way of harmony and love. As Baran says “We are on a beautiful path now we turned a new leaf. We married to stop the blood shed but Dilan’s innocence, her effort, her conscience, changed everything.” Let this extraordinary couple blossom and bloom like the blood flower that miraculously blossomed in the graveyard when Baran asks his mother for a sign to pursue his love for Dilan.
These edits from a fan beautifully add visual texture to express the love and intimacy developed between Dilan and Baran. Credit: Seda Lilya @lilyaxzc, Instagram
Season 2 of this layered drama is scheduled to start on September 18th. Its regular viewers excitedly await the growth of this beautiful love story against the backdrop of the themes discussed above. We hope more of you will join us on this journey!
From an ardent fan of the show in Turkey, this following document is a translation of this review in Turkish!
From another loving fan, this following document is a translation of this review in Spanish!
Article copyright (c) North America TEN, Dr. Patti Feuereisen & Vinita Templeton
All video clips and photos belong to their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended. Please ask for permission before reprints. Please provide proper citations if referencing information in this article. Sources are linked in the article.
Dr Patti Feuereisen is a psychologist in Brooklyn N.Y. and the author of Invisible Girls: Speaking The Truth About Sexual Abuse and founder of the non-profit Girlthrive. She continues to be obsessed with dizis and uses the pandemic as an excuse.
Vinita Templeton Esq. is a UK-based human rights lawyer specializing in complex matters involving vulnerable individuals including victims of torture and human trafficking. Her guilty pleasure outside of work is indulging in international cinema and serials, and she has recently discovered the joy of dizis.