Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare is an intimate, feature-length documentary that explores the clash of Islam and the West through the lives of three modern Turkish women – a dancer, an artist, and an activist – who struggle to find their own voices in a traditional world.


Press Kit

“Your film has impacted me in a way that won’t go away. I’ve lost any vestiges of thinking that there is anything more important than discovering and finding avenues to express my unique voice.”
– Julia Dederer, Leader at Global Women’s Leadership Network

“Binnur’s movie presents the face of Turkish women, despite any current political party leanings. It is so important that individuals, especially women, be able to express themselves [by] pursuing a career or personal course that allows them to be self-expressive. Should Turkey abandon this path of personal expression, promoted since Ataturk, they will do [so] at the peril of the entire Middle East..”
-Linda Alepin, Founding Director of the Global Women’s Leadership Network and Dean’s Professor of Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University

“As a woman, and of Turkish descent, I was very proud to view the film. It represents not only the many progressive women in Turkey, but speaks a universal theme of validating human equality, empowerment and living your dreams. Congratulations to Binnur, for her vision and creativity [and bringing the] “truth” to [the] surface! Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare is film that must be viewed globally, by all!”
– Leman Ethem, Associate Director of Corporate Relations, Santa Clara University

“At my table, we had women from all walks of life, ages and from different countries including from Turkey (both covered and uncovered women) and Yemen. We all shared the universal theme of what it means to be a woman, regardless of one’s background or politics.”
– Sema Basol, Founder, Turkish Women’s Initiative


Short Synopsis

Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare is an intimate, feature-length documentary that explores the clash of Islam and the West through the lives of three modern Turkish women – a dancer, an artist, and an activist – who struggle to find their own voices in a traditional world.



Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare is an intimate, feature-length documentary that explores the clash of the East and the West through the lives of three modern Turkish women – a dancer, an artist, and an activist – who struggle to find their own voices in a traditional world.

Situated between Europe and Asia and bordering Iraq, Turkey is the only functioning democracy in the region. But even Turkey has a long way to go before its women are completely emancipated. Can Islamic values co-exist with gender equality among others? And would mainstream Turkish society welcome this change? Voices Unveiled examines these timely issues through the challenges the three women face.

Belkis, Nur and Banu contradict the familiar stereotypes of “Muslim Middle Eastern Women”. Courageous, sharp-witted, and often provocative, they are not afraid to weigh in with opinions on religion, politics, men, and gender roles. All three women continually push the envelope to live authentic lives in a culture where many women are restricted by the demands of tradition.

Nur received her MBA from University of Illinois and now works as a feminist activist. Belkis, a textile artist, was a museum curator for years and Banu is studying for her Master’s degree in Psychology. Belkis and Nur have built illustrious careers and overcame the conflict between their Western education, their family traditions and societal demands. In private, Belkis and Nur air their frustrations with the patriarchal traditions and encourage the younger generations of which Banu is a member, to be less burdened by dictates of tradition.

Even though the characters are Turkish and Muslim, their struggle for personal empowerment is a theme to which everyone can relate. Voices Unveiled journeys with these women as they continually push the envelope to create change in their own lives and their communities.



Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare illuminates the complex historical, political, religious, economic and cultural forces that shape Turkey, the only democratic and secular country with a 99% Muslim population.

Since the last century of the Ottoman Empire (19th century), the Turkish intellectuals, politicians and theologians have been bridging the great divide between the Western style of democracy and Islamic way of governing. These democratic reformations that were put into motion during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan, Mahmud II (1830s), which gained tremendous momentum when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk formed the Turkish Republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in 1923.

Turkey is the first Muslim nation to grant equal rights to women in the early 20th century. However, before the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, women still lived in the harems. The word harem, derived from the Arabic haram, means “unlawful”, “protected,” or “forbidden.” Harem refers to the separate, protected part of a household where women, children, and servants live in maximum seclusion and privacy. For hundreds of years the Ottoman women, just like their sisters in other Islamic societies, lived secluded lives and were forbidden to enter the public sector or socialize with any men except for their fathers, husbands and sons.

Ataturk made a clear decision to turn the country towards the West. He banned the clothing, scripture and religious orders that reminded people of their Eastern heritage. Instead, he introduced the Latin Alphabet, the European dress code and granted equal rights to women. He accomplished all these changes within a short period of time before his death in 1938. During this time, women were given the right the vote and all the basic rights that their Western sisters worked extremely hard to attain. However, in the 1980’s, partially fueled by Khomeini’s ascendancy in Iran and the American policies of supporting Islamic fundamentalism against the Cold War’s communist threat, Turkey saw a resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism. Therefore, the issue of women’s dress code became a conflict between the seculars and traditionalists. Women’s lives have become the arena where the attempts at modernizing Islam or politicizing Islam are played out.

Today, Turkey is a fascinating study for the peaceful co-existence of secularism, democracy and Islamic values. Turkey is an Islamic nation, but one which is secular. The country straddles two continents, with pressures pulling it in each direction. Turkey is literally – geographically, culturally, and economically – caught between East and West. Recently, the European Commission started the EU membership talks with Turkey. But there are still many hurdles to clear before Turkey is admitted into the European Union. Current events are forcing Turks to make serious decisions about who they are and who they want to be.


Director’s Statement

As I began researching Voices Unveiled years ago, I had no intention of making a film about Turkish women. I was more interested in making a film that followed up on the themes of my previous documentary, Searching for Paradise which was all about coming to terms with Western education and Eastern heritage, as it were.

In fact when I started out, the title of my new film was, Where East Meets West. However, the last time I was in Istanbul, I spent a lot of time walking down the narrow cobblestone streets and talking to all kinds of people. And as I sat sipping Turkish coffee by the beautiful Bosphorus, my ideas for my new film started to shift.

The people that intrigued me the most were the women of Istanbul and, in turn, Turkish women as a whole. I met so many interesting women ranging from doctors, professors, and businesswomen to street vendors, maids, and religious conservatives. The colorful tapestry of women who made up Turkish society drew me in and offered me a chance to tell a story about courage and perseverance through the lives of these women. The contrasts between the women were even more interesting. While some of these women enjoyed the basic freedoms we take for granted in the West, others still needed their husband's permission to go to the store. Some women in the Southeastern part of Turkey did not even know that they had rights as individuals while a substantial number of Turkish corporations were run by powerful women.

Turkey is a secular democracy with a predominantly Muslim population. Turkish women are much better off than the other women of the Middle East. When the Turkish Republic was formed in 1923, the founder of the republic, Ataturk made clear choices by secularizing the country and giving equal rights and the right to vote to Turkish women. Chadors, turbans and religious clothing were banned from government institutions and women were liberated from the confines of the dark veils. As a result of these freedoms, within 80 years, Turkish women became an integral part of society. Many Turkish women are educated and professional. However, the patriarchal and Islamic roots of the Ottoman Empire that ruled Turkey for 600 years still persist. Many women, though seemingly free, still limit themselves by the demands of tradition, religion and family.

Growing up as a young girl in Istanbul, I was always intrigued by the unspoken societal rules for young girls and women. It seemed to me that the biggest concern of my mother was always “what would the neighbors think?” My mother was not the only one to have this ominous concern about the neighbors’ perceptions, but it felt like the entire society behaved according to the same worries. The other preoccupation was a woman's honor, and as a child, I never understood why a woman's honor was regarded in the sexual context and a man’s was regarded differently.

I believe that there is a direct correlation between women’s rights and the lack of democracy in the Muslim Middle East. It is no coincidence that Turkey is the only progressive and democratic country in the region and the only country with a constitution that grants equal rights to women.

However, I was intent on making a film about interesting women who were involved in the arts and politics and who contributed something to their communities. When I met Belkis, Nur and Banu, I knew that the film would be about women of all ages who try to live authentic lives. I've identified with the stories of these women, perhaps because I have been trying to live a life not governed by society, tradition or other people's wishes but by my own truth. Therefore, I decided that my film would be about women who fight the system, and dare to make a difference and boldly embark upon journeys to fulfill their destinies.


Character Biographies

“To have to lie is a horrible thing. It is against my character. But when I was younger I had to lie to my mother about my boyfriend. My family forced me to lie.”
Belkis Balpinar
Artist, Kilim Expert, Curator

Belkis is a warrior, a visionary and the perfect example of the struggle one has to undertake for “self-expression”. Her tapestry art is inspired by science and yet the form of it is deeply traditional.

Confident and outspoken, Belkis has helped several of her female weavers escape their abusive husbands. During the rare quiet moments of her life, she reflects back on her choices and realizes that she never had the right to choose her own mate. She married a much older artist to escape from the confines of her traditional family then she stayed married because divorce was looked down upon. Finally she had the courage to divorce and pursue her dream of becoming an artist. Therefore, Belkis is committed to helping other women less fortunate than she is by employing them as weavers and by donating her exhibition incomes to organizations such as Mother Child Education Foundation – HYPERLINK "http://www.acev.org/"http://www.acev.org/.

Belkis’ art is heavily influenced by quantum physics, her environment in Turkey and by nature. Besides being a world-renowned kilim expert, a curator and artist, Belkis is a passionate environmentalist as well. She was a founding member of the Turkish chapter of the World Wildlife Fund (www.wwf.org.tr).

“I want to be known as a global artist...I want to be accepted as a global artist...Istanbul is where I live but my art is global....”

“I feel like the West views me through a filter. They first see me as a woman from the East, from an Islamic country...”

“I want to know more about the mystery of life. As we get older and closer to death, we wonder about the meaning of life. Think about it, if I was born in a village and if I was not educated, could I be the warrior I am today?”

“Democracy is impossible without women being empowered.”
Nur Bekata Mardin
Teacher, Women’s Rights Activist, Wife and Mother

Nur is a retired university instructor and a very busy women’s rights activist. Charming, soft-spoken and maternal in a youthful way, Nur spends most of her time working on different projects that benefit the underprivileged and uneducated girls and women of Turkey. Through Nur’s activism, we meet a variety of different women and explore their struggles to have a better life.

Nur comes from a family of strong women scholars. To protest the wearing of the veil, Nur’s own great aunt tried to commit suicide by throwing herself into the treacherous waters of Bosphorus. She was saved by fishermen and went on to become one of the first female professors in Turkey.
Besides shepherding projects to empower young women and men of Mardin by forming a cooperative and teaching them the traditional arts and crafts of their regions, Nur is also a founding member of the Peace Education center at the Bosphorus University in Istanbul, an active member of WINPEACE (Women’s Initiative for Peace) and Ka-Der (association to help and promote women in politics in Turkey) HYPERLINK "http://www.ka-der.org.tr/"www.ka-der.org.tr/

“Honor killings are still committed, especially in the Southeastern region bordering Syria and Iraq. The situation is much worse in the Arabic countries. Honor killing is the act of murdering a woman to clean a family’s honor. If a woman is raped or if a woman runs away with a man she loves, her family decides that she has brought dishonor to the family and the only way to clear that is to kill her. Usually the family gives this task to the youngest male member because a juvenile will not be in prison for long.”

“In Turkey, if you are a young woman, you have to fight for your dreams and your personal freedom. But once you do, people respect you and then you can live your life according to your own choices. That’s what I strive for everyday.”
Banu Yuceler Hantal
PhD Student in Psychology and Dancer

Banu recently got married and is working towards a PhD degree in Pastoral Psychology. She is a champion ballroom dancer in Latin dance and has represented Turkey in international competitions. She is also a dance instructor and a novice Sufi who is learning the ancient ritual of “sema” which means praying by whirling practiced by the followers of Rumi (www.rumi.net).

Banu represents the younger generation of emancipated Turkish women. She is soft-spoken but confident and direct. She is passionate about her personal interests: psychology, dance and spirituality.

Banu has been in conflict with her family because of her dancing since being a dancer is still a taboo in some circles in Turkey. The main concern of her mother is, “what would the neighbors think?” Banu had to constantly reassure her that she was doing nothing wrong and that her dancing was legitimate. Her brother looked down upon her dancing even though she and her partner had won titles in several European competitions. However, Banu is a fighter and she is determined to live her life the way she chooses.

Filmmaker Biographies




Binnur Karaevli is an award-winning director and producer with an expansive background in film and theatre. She was born and raised in Turkey. She attended Robert College High School in Istanbul. She received her BFA with honors from Carnegie-Mellon University in Drama and was awarded the Bud Yorkin Directing award upon graduation. She worked at the Arena Stage and San Diego Reportory Theatres as an Assistant Director and a Dramaturg. During her tenure at the San Diego Repertory Company, she co-founded and co-produced “WordWorks”, a laboratory for new plays. She was the Literary Manager at the Los Angeles Theatre Center where, in 1991, she founded the "Platform", an acclaimed political cabaret. She attended University of Southern California’s Graduate Film School and earned her MFA in Film in 1996.

Her short narrative films, "Dance of the Whirling Dervish" and "Evelyn of the Desert" received prizes from several festivals including, Nürnberg Film Festival, Germany; New Orleans International Film Festival; and Cine-5 Film Competition, Istanbul. She has worked for various TV Channels and production companies in the US and Turkey including, PBS, BBC, and Ridley Scott and Associates. She has also produced and directed documentaries and promotional films for various non-profit organizations including the Global Friendship Through Space Education and Space Camp Turkey. Binnur produced and directed "Searching for Paradise", a documentary about cultural identity, which won the Best Documentary Awards at the Moondance International Film Festival and WinFemme Film Festival in 2002. Binnur splits her time between Istanbul and Los Angeles and is currently producing an adaptation of the acclaimed novel, “Palace of Tears” as a motion picture.


Jill Rytie Lutz is a producer passionate about storytelling through documentary film. In 2009, she produced Day After Disaster and Sniper: Inside the Crosshairs for the History Channel with docu/reality company Karga Seven Pictures in Los Angeles. Before K7, Lutz worked for Randall Wallace's Wheelhouse Entertainment for seven years, starting out as Wallace's executive assistant and on-set assistant for the Mel Gibson Vietnam movie We Were Soldiers. After her promotion to Manager, Production and Development at Wheelhouse, she helped start and ran the company's documentary division for which she produced the Discovery Channel docudrama Fight or Die in 2008. She originally came to Los Angeles in 1997 as a participant in the prestigious Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Internship Program. Lutz is a magna cum laude honors graduate of the University of Georgia where she was a two-time student judge for the Peabody Awards Documentary Category. Currently she is an active member of the International Documentary Association and is married to actor Mike Lutz.



Duncan McLean is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker. After graduating with honors from Duke University, he attended the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television and earned his MFA in 1995. Duncan worked as a chief lighting technician and cinematographer on a wide variety of projects, ranging from low-budget independents to multi-million dollar studio productions. In 1997, he traveled to Turkey to photograph Binnur Karaevli's award-winning documentary Searching for Paradise. Shifting his focus to post-production in 2000, he edited television series for networks including MTV, TLC, Spike, ABC Family and Bravo. In 2004, Duncan directed his first show, the Country Music Television (CMT) special World's Greatest Tour Buses, and has since directed, produced, and edited several documentaries for the network. Currently, Duncan is working as a producer/editor on the documentary short See Me, about a photography project for AIDS orphans in South Africa, and as a producer/director/editor on Block 57, a feature-length documentary about energy development in the Amazon and its impact on local indigenous cultures. Using footage from the Block 57 shoots, Duncan has edited three segments for the PBS foreign affairs show Foreign Exchange and is currently completing the documentary for a 2010 release.



Eric Grush is Los Angeles based, award-winning editor/storyteller with a penchant for documentaries, independent film and performance-based productions. He received his MFA from UCLA in Directing and Cinematography in 2000 and has since received several awards for his filmmaking and editing. Voices Unveiled is Grush’s first project collaborating with Karaevli. He may be reached at his website, halomediaarts.com.


Supervising Sound Editor and Re-Recording Mixer

Paul Hackner is an award-winning sound editor with over 17 years in the film business. His credits in the sound department include the "Matrix" films, "Hustle and Flow," and many highly acclaimed films and documentaries.



Joe Romano started out as a trumpet player at the age of 7. He studied with the renowned brass teacher Dr. Donald S. Reinhardt in Philadelphia. Joe began working as a studio musician while attending The Combs Conservatory Of Music in Philadelphia. In 1969 he was hired by the popular recording group The Checkmates Ltd. to be their musical director. In 1974 he moved to California and began his careeras a studio musician, arranger, composer and producer. Joe has recorded with some of the topnames in the Jazz and popular music world including Ray Charles, The Beach Boys, Christina Aguilara, The Jazz Crusaders and Tom Waits. His film and television composing credits include CHASING THE WIND for PBS, SEVEN FROM HEAVEN for Warner Bros., VAN NUYS BLVD for Columbia Pictures, RAY'S MALE HETEROSEXUAL DANCE HALL for Chanticleer Films, which won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, STRAPPED for HBO among others. Joe has collaborated before with Binnur Karaevli on two projects, award-winning documentary SEARCHING FOR PARADISE and award-winning narrative short, DANCE OF THE WHIRLING DERVISH. Joe now lives in Ashland Oregon with his wife, playwright and screenwriter Lisa Loomer, and their 12-year-old son Marcello. Joe continues to compose for the theater and movies.



Cihan Sanli is a cinematographer based in Istanbul, Turkey. He has worked for many television channels in Turkey shooting documentaries and series.

For more information, please contact Binnur Karaevli at (310) 849-1531 or binnur@voicesunveiled.com