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Valley of the Wolves Iraq ( ) is a popular Turkish film from 2006 based on a television series of the same name that has been a hit in Turkeymarker for several seasons. The movie is set in northern Iraqmarker during the Occupation of Iraq. There are some references to other real events such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the container shipping incident where prisoners were suffocated and shot was based on true events that occurred in Afghanistan.

The film has been widely criticized as anti-American, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic, and was banned in some theaters. Filmed with a budget of $14 million, Valley of the Wolves is the most expensive Turkish film ever made. The film grossed $27.9 million at the box office - $25.1 million in Turkey and $2.8 million in Europe.

Opinions of the film greatly varied. While the Wall Street Journal characterized it as "a cross between 'American Psycho' in uniform and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion", Turkey's parliamentary speaker Bulent Arinc described it as "absolutely magnificent".


Actor Character
Necati Şaşmaz Polat Alemdar
Billy Zane Sam William Marshall
Tito Ortiz American Major Commander
Ghassan Massoud Sheikh Abdurrahman Halis Kerkuki
Bergüzar Korel Leyla
Gürkan Uygun Memati Baş
Diego Serrano Dante
Kenan Çoban Abdulhey Çoban
Erhan Ufak Erhan Ufak
Gary Busey Doctor
Spencer Garrett Journalist George Baltimore


The movie opens with a fictionalized depiction of a real-life incident: the arrest on July 4, 2003 of 11 allied Turkish special forces soldiers and 13 civilians by the U.S.marker commander of the 173rd Airborne, Colonel William C. Mayville [244684] (Sam William Marshall in the movie, played by American actor Billy Zane) in the northern Iraqi Kurdistanmarker town of Sulaymaniyahmarker. The Turkish soldiers suppose that this is an ordinary visit from their NATO allies. But this time is different.

This arrest is infamous in Turkey as the so-called "Hood event". The soldiers were led out of their headquarters at gunpoint, with hoods over their heads and subsequently detained for sixty hours before being released. This was the first time such an incident had ever taken place between the two NATO allies. Donald Rumsfeld later issued a statement of regret for the detention, but many Turks took great offense at the incident.

One of the Turkish officers, unable to bear the shame of the hooding, committed suicide. In the film, one of the special forces troops, Suleyman Aslan is so humiliated by the shame of the hooding that he commits suicide after writing a letter to his friend, Polat Alemdar (played by Necati Şaşmaz, shown in large profile on the poster).

Alemdar is a former Turkish intelligence agent who has recently severed links to the government agency for which he worked. Determined to avenge his friend's humiliation, Alemdar travels to Iraq along with several of his colleagues to seek vengeance on the American commander whose actions led to Aslan's suicide.

At a checkpoint, Alemdar and his team murder three Iraqi Kurdish paramilitary troops called "Peshmerge".

They attach explosives to the foundation of a hotel. They demand commander Sam William Marshall, who was responsible for the hood incident, to come to the hotel. He complies. When Marshall arrives, Polat wants him to put a sack above his head and to publicly leave the hotel with it, allowing journalists to take photos, taking the same insult he committed to Polat's dead friend. The group threatens to blow up the hotel unless Marshall and some of his men let themselves be led out of the hotel while hooded. Marshall refuses and brings in a group of Iraqi children as human shields. Alemdar gives in and leaves.

Marshall raids an Arab wedding on the pretext of hunting terrorists. When the usual celebratory gunfire starts, one soldier says: "Now they are shooting, now they are terrorists." They attack a wedding party. A small child named Ali sticks a branch up the barrel of one of their guns. The soldier fires back, shooting the child Ali dead in front of his parents. The movie fails to convey whether it was intentional or a reflex action. Though the soldier is well aware that there is child in front of his gun as the little boy sticks the branch twice. On first time, the soldier just hushes the boy away. On second time, he just opens fire and then afterward looks astonished as he sees the little child dead. The rest of the soldiers get panic and begin firing on the wedding guests, beat up the bride, shoot the groom in the head in front of the bride, shoot the guests and children (see controversy, below). The survivors are captured and forced into an airtight container truck and sent to Abu Ghraibmarker prison (the infamous prisoner mistreatment is then depicted later). Enroute an American soldier complains that the prisoners might be suffocating in the truck. One of Marshall's men then fires on the truck, spraying the detainees with bullets. "See, now they won't suffocate to death" he says. When the soldier threatens to report the incident, he is promptly shot.

Meanwhile, in Abu Ghraib, Lynndie England is supposedly making naked human pyramids from those arrested in the wedding. The prisoners are washed with high pressure nozzles.

In a later scene, an execution of a Western journalist by Iraqi rebels is about to take place, but an esteemed-by-the-rebels sheikh prevents it and offers the journalist the opportunity to kill the rebel who was about to kill him—the rebel does not resist, but the journalist declines the offer.

The bride Leyla wants revenge by becoming a suicide bomber, but is talked out of it by the Sheikh. Leyla hurries to a market to stop her friend, father of a child killed at the wedding, from blowing himself up where Marshall is having a meeting but is too late. Alemdar and his men, who also happen to be there to assassinate Marshall are led to safety by Leyla.

Alemdar and his team then attempt to kill Marshall again by rigging a bomb in a piano (which once belonged to Saddam Hussein) that's being delivered to Marshall as a gift. The bomb explodes prematurely, and Marshall survives.

Alemdar and Leyla then go to a mosque, to meet the Sheikh. Marshall tracks them down, however, and a big firefight ensues. The entire village and mosque is destroyed by heavy gunfire. Together they manage to kill Marshall, but Leyla is also killed by Marshall.


The film has been controversial due to its portrayal of U.S. Military personnel as well as a character engaging in the harvesting of organs from civilian prisoners.

  • In one sequence, American soldiers raid an Iraqi wedding and massacre a number of civilians, which might allude to allegations of a wedding party massacre in Mukaradeeb on May 19, 2004.

  • While captives are transported on a long journey in a container on a truck, one guard says to the other: "They might suffocate in the container because there is no fresh air supply". The truck stops, the (American) guard gets off the truck and fires hundreds of bullet-holes into the container with an automatic weapon "in order to make holes for the air to get in", and as a result many detainees are injured or get killed. A similar event is reported to have occurred in Afghanistanmarker after the battle for Mazari Sharifmarker on November 9, 2001, with Taliban soldiers in the container and soldiers of the Afghan Northern Alliance as their guardians, as described in the documentary film Massacre at Mazar by Irishmarker filmmaker Jamie Doran. This event is also reenacted in the film The Road to Guantanamo.

Film messages

The film's scriptwriter Bahadir Ozdener has defined the film by saying:

The movie's director, Serdar Akar, went further and said the film was supposed to promote a dialogue between religions.

International reception


  • The film has pulled in record audiences on its release in Turkey, capitalizing on widespread opposition to the Iraq War.
  • When asked about the factual nature of the scenario, Bülent Arınç, the Chairman of the Turkish Parliamentmarker replied "yes, this was exactly as it happened". He called the movie "an extraordinary film that will go into history".
  • Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul states that "the film is no worse than some of the productions of Hollywoodmarker studios".
  • Istanbulmarker Mayor, Kadir Topbaş told the Associated Press that the movie "was very successful — a soldier's honor must never be damaged."
  • The reception in the Turkish media was split. Some called it a milestone for the Turkish film industry — others warned the movie might lead to a strengthening of religious extremism.
  • Mehmet Ali Birand, a prominent Turkish columnist and anchorman, said he admired the filmmakers. "They have played with the inner feelings, unsatisfied feelings of Turkish public opinion, and they are making money."


  • In Germanymarker, the home of European Union's largest Turkish community, the film was heavily criticized for its alleged racism and antisemitism by several politicians from both the right and left ends of the spectrum of mainstream German politics and in several leading newspapers. As a reviewer in the mainstream Spiegel put it, referring to the film's reliance on a revenge motif, "This wouldn't be so bad if the film didn't portray the opponents of Turks and Muslims so brutally — the bad guys in this black and white world are the Americans, the Kurds, the Christians and the Jews.

  • In an interview with Bild am Sonntag on February 19, 2006, Bavarianmarker premier Edmund Stoiber called upon Germanmarker theatre owners to stop showing Valley of the Wolves. Shortly afterward, Germany's largest cinema chain, CinemaxX, pulled the film, which had been popular among Germany's large Turkish community, from its theatres in response to the criticism from politicians.

Jewish Communities

  • "The Central council of Jews", a Jewish-German organization, have expressed their opinion that ‘Valley of the Wolves - Iraq’ (Kurtlar Vadisi - Irak) holds antisemitic views, and is racist. They requested German cinemas to stop showing the film.

United States

  • The film has received only minor exposure in the United States and is not widely known.

  • The U.S. Army recommended that Army personnel overseas not approach cinemas in which the movie is played.

  • Vicki Roberts, Busey's attorney for the past six years, said "If Gary played a rapist in a movie, would anyone believe him to be an actual rapist? He is an actor, not a politician." When asked about the moral and ethical implications of portraying what could be construed as an anti-Semitic stereotype in a foreign movie, Roberts declined to comment.


  • Taken as an indicator of general interest, Google trends show that the search term "Valley of the Wolves Iraq" (or "...Irak") has been keyed in the most frequently in Turkeymarker followed by countries with large Turkish minorities such as The Netherlandsmarker, Germanymarker and the U.S.A.marker. On country basis once again, the film's Turkish title, "Kurtlar Vadisi Irak", has been searched most extensively in Azerbaijanmarker, coming before even Turkeymarker, and the leading search languages were Turkish, German and Dutch.

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