Turkey bans alcohol ads and curbs sales, secularists critical

May 24, 2013

(Members of a Mehter team, an Ottoman-style millitary band, join pro-Islamic demonstrators during a protest near  TV headquarters in Istanbul January 9, 2011. Turkish protesters were angry over the depiction of an Ottoman sultan drinking alcohol and wooing women in a new television series.  REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

Turkey banned alcohol advertising and tightened restrictions on its sale on Friday, drawing criticism from secular Turks as well as the country’s brewing industry.

The new law includes a ban on shops selling alcohol from 10pm to 6am, with fines of up to 500,000 lira ($270,000) for owners and operators of venues that violate the law, and a possible one-year jail sentence for selling to minors.

Turkey is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation with a secular constitution, but Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK party has come under fire from some quarters for undermining the separation of state and religion in the country.

Since coming to power in 2002, the government has taken various measures against alcohol, the consumption of which is forbidden by Islam. Tax on alcohol has soared and flag carrier Turkish Airlines has stopped serving alcohol on some domestic flights.

“Religion-linked restrictions are contrary to secularism,” political commentator Nazli Ilicak wrote on Twitter. “I am not defending alcohol but freedom.

“Not even beer will be sold after 10pm. We can’t consider this normal … I see it as an excessive intervention and an ideological stance.”

The government, meanwhile, says it is trying to bring Turkey up to European norms by controlling alcohol sales and protecting the younger generation as it negotiates to enter the EU.

“There are such regulations everywhere in the world. The youth of a nation should be protected from bad habits,” Erdogan said in a meeting with party members.

Read the full story by Ozge Ozbilgin here.

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In Montreal, Canada the government forbids the sale of alcohol in stores from 11 pm until 8 am … to limit excess consumption and drunkenness. This has nothing to do with religion. However alcohol is readily available on domestic flights, at airports, on intercity trains and in most sit-down restaurants. This is how a modern nation is run.

Posted by Anthonykovic | Report as abusive

Too bad they have to use religion to justify restrictions on alcohol purchase. People who become addicted have only a 50% chance of getting sober before it kills them. The U.S. needs to do the same, beginning with education in childhood about the hazards of slcohol use.

Posted by yooper | Report as abusive

Bad move on Erdogan’s part. Most young Turks are fed up with strict Islam. They would like to be more secular; they would like to occasionally imbibe a little ETOH.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive