Turkish police have rescued nine women from an Istanbul villa where they were allegedly held captive after applying for a reality show, but instead found they were being told to wear bikinis and fight each other for the benefit of an internet audience.
A man has been arrested after footage of the women was allegedly sold on the internet.
“We thought our daughter could have the chance of becoming famous if she took part in the contest,” Remziye, the mother of one of the women, told the newspaper Haberturk. “But they have fooled us all.”
The military police, who conducted the raid, said that they had been held against their will for two months in a villa in Riva, on the outskirts of Istanbul.
They apparently believed they were to be on a television show similar to Big Brother, but were surprised to find that pictures of them by the pool and exercising in skimpy clothing were appearing on the internet, where users were allowed to vote for their favourite by mobile telephone and charged to see more.
Hilmi Tufan Cakir, the lawyer for the company behind the operation, said that eight of the nine women had decided to sue, but denied that they had been held captive.
“It is very sad for my client to have been the target of such accusations,” Mr Cakir said. The girls had known that this was a competition designed by the internet service Weareathome TV (bizevdeyiz.tv) and were taken to the house under the terms of the contract that they willingly signed, he added.
Mr Cakir denied newspaper accusations that naked pictures were sold to a website and that the girls were tricked and threatened by the production company.
Yesterday the homepage for bizevdeyiz.tv, which proclaims that it is Turkey’s first internet television, carried a statement denying the news reports.
It still carried a link to the competition. Leading the vote was brunette Gul, a 21-year-old who was shown belly dancing in a miniskirt by the poolside and later diving in with a white bikini. Elsewhere on the page are messages of encouragement from her family.
Turkey is as enamoured with reality shows as any Western country, with a number of spin-offs as well as Big Brother. One popular show was called Will You Be My Daughter-In-Law?.
In a country of low social mobility where many people do not believe they can improve their lot simply by hard work the lure of the get-rich-quick scam is strong.
The dream of becoming a celebrity is a constant theme in old Turkish films. There are even real-life examples, such as the Turkish folk musician Ibrahim Tatlises, who lived in a cave as a child.
Source: The Times and Associated Press