The Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) sent a bill on Friday which includes a series of measures to restrict how alcohol is advertised and displayed.
The bill includes a ban on event sponsorship for alcohol producers, restrictions on where drinks are sold and consumed, as well as a requirement for all alcoholic products to carry health warnings.
It is believed the bill could become a law before parliament recesses in July.
Although the bill has a stated aim of protecting young people, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is renowned for his dislike of drinking, and has systematically raised taxes on alcohol he came to power 10 years ago.
Speaking in April at the global alcohol policy symposium in Istanbul, Erdogan angered secular Turks by claiming the country’s national drink was Ayran a non-alcoholic yoghurt-based drink and not the anise-flavoured spirit Raki.
“Our national drink is ayran…Alcohol offers no benefits to a society,” he is reputed to have said at the symposium.
Furthermore, in February this year, Turkey’s national carrier THY announced that it would cease serving alcoholic drinks on all domestic flights for both economy and business class passengers, except for certain routes, such as journeys to Istanbul.
The ban was justified on non-religious grounds, but it is widely felt that such a move is part of a campaign by Erdogan, a devout MusliM, to severely restrict alcohol consumption in public.
Critics say the move is the latest in a campaign led by the AKP to Islamize Turkish society by stealth and constitutes an intrusion into private life.
It follows a ban on drinks service on several routes flown by state-run Turkish Airlines. Official statements cited lack of demand, but media accused the airline of following Ankara’s conservative footsteps.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Muslim who does not drink or smoke, said recently that ayran, a non-alcoholic refresher made from yoghurt, was the “national drink” of the Turks.
According to figures provided by national statistics institute TurkStat, 85 percent of Turks do not consume alcohol.
Erdogan’s populist government, in power for over a decade, is often accused of creeping efforts to coerce the country to be more conservative and pious.
Turkey is a fiercely secular state, despite being a majority Muslim country. Under Erdogan’s rule, headscarves (that were banned in public institutions)have become more visible in public places and alcohol bans are more widespread
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