Turkey's stage-struck grannies act to save the planet

By News from Elsewhere...
...as found by BBC Monitoring

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image captionThe amateur theatre group seeks to raise awareness about the lives of rural women

A 62-year-old grandmother from rural Turkey who rose to national fame with her all-women village theatre group is now set to stage a play raising awareness about climate change.

Ummiye Kocak from the village of Arslankoy in the Mediterranean province of Mersin recently began rehearsals for her new play "Mother, the Sky is Pierced!"

She told Anadolu news agency that she wanted "people to realise just how serious it is".

The climate crisis is "not only our problem, it is the world's problem", she says. "I am shouting as loud as I can - this world is ours, we need to take good care of it!"

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Ummiye Kocak has written plays for many years, always aiming to change perceptions. Her previous works have tackled issues from poverty and domestic violence to Alzheimer's Disease, which has been a frequent target for mockery in Turkish TV dramas.

And her portfolio isn't limited to village theatre productions. In 2013 she won an award at a New York festival with a film focusing on the difficulties of women's lives in a Turkish village.

Educated 'by chance'

Ummiye Kocak grew up in a conservative rural area, and only got primary education "by chance" - as each family was required to send one girl to school.

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image captionThe self-taught playwright has received nationwide acclaim

But she says her father was open-minded enough to take all his children to the cinema at a time when no other dad in the village would, sparking her love of drama.

She says that when she first arrived in the village of Arslankoy as a young bride, she noticed that women there had to do all the work - in the fields as well as in the house. She thought that wasn't right and told herself: "Ummiye, you have to make the voices of these women heard!"

Her village doesn't have a stage, so she gathers her performers under a walnut tree in her garden for rehearsals while they do their domestic chores.

Her love of theatre is apparently contagious. "When I see Ummiye calling me on my mobile, I come running," one of her actresses says.

And people in other parts of the country want a piece of the action, issuing invitations on social media for the group to perform locally.

One woman in Istanbul wrote: "I'm proud and honoured on behalf of all women every time I see you, Aunt Ummiye… I hope all women lead their lives knowing they have this power like you do."

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image captionThe village star directed football legend Ronaldo's Turkish commercial

Reporting by Dilay Yalcin and Krassi Twigg

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