Dracula goes dry as Turkey’s new drink rules bite

January 20, 2011

draculaGuests at the Istanbul premiere of a new vampire film were among the first victims of new curbs on alcohol that have raised secularist fears Islamic strictures may be encroaching on everyday life.

The rules, announced earlier this month by the tobacco and alcohol watchdog, tighten up licence requirements for serving alcohol, impose restrictions on alcohol marketing and limits sales to designated areas in stores.

(Photo: Dracula souvenirs at Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle, in Romania, May 19, 2006/Bogdan Cristel)

But the move has revived secularist accusations that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government is interfering in people’s lifestyles and imposing Islamic values. The Ankara Bar Association — part of a judiciary that has become a last bastion of Turkey’s secularist old guard — said it had lodged a challenge to the new regulations in the country’s top administrative court.

“The aim of these regulations is not the public good, but to impose a new lifestyle on society,” the Ankara Bar said in a court petition, obtained by Reuters.

The restrictions appeared to take hold at a comedy horror film loosely based around the Dracula story, “Sacred Demijohn Dracoola”, which held its premiere on Wednesday evening. The film’s producer Senol Cengiz told Reuters the cinema had asked them not to serve alcohol for fear that they would be fined, and saw such measures further polarising Turkish society.

“The government has promised more freedom and democracy but their actions have been signalling a contrary attitude,” Cengiz said. “It would be okay if we could believe these measures are really taken to protect kids, but it seems these are efforts to restrict lifestyles,” he said.

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