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Batman vs. Batman

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Still, Kalkan insisted that he's no joker – this lawsuit is serious. The idea came to him two years ago, when a visiting British journalist asked why nothing was being done to use the Batman movies' success to address the problems of the predominantly Kurdish city.

The city of Batman, a collection of mostly drab cement buildings located on a high, treeless plateau, would certainly never be confused with Gotham City.

But it does have a profoundly dark side. During the 1980s and '90s, the city was the scene of bitter fighting between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish forces, as well as between the PKK and Islamists. Even the mayor is facing several pending court cases for his public praise of the outlawed PKK.

In Turkey, the city is perhaps best known for having an unusually high rate of female suicides – mostly young women accused of staining their family's honor.

At the heart of Kalkan's phantom lawsuit is really a desire to find a new image for this beleaguered city, or at least to foster a sense of normalcy. In many ways, the mayor has tried to be Batman's mustachioed avenger, presiding over the construction of new roads and a mall with a Burger King and a five-screen Cineplex, the city's first movie theater.

"Batman's a tough place. We very much want Batman's image to change," says Gulistan Akel, a sociologist working with Selis, a women's center run by the municipality.

Ekrem Konac, a cleaning-supplies manufacturer, supports Kalkan's efforts to safeguard the city's famous name.

"The idea is comic, but good things are happening because of it," he says. "It's nice to see that people around the world now know our city. Don't people go to see Morocco because of the movie Casablanca?"

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