Turkey, The crusade against alcohol
The risk of a drift towards authoritarianism
The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has managed in record time to approve a law in the Ankara parliament that severely restricts the sale of alcohol. In practice, it will now be forbidden to drink alcohol near mosques or schools, bottles will be hidden in films and soap operas, alcohol advertising will disappear, and its sale will be forbidden in shops from 10pm to 6am. Furthermore, products will come with explicit health warnings and shop owners will be forced to remove incriminating drinks from shop windows.
The consumption of alcohol, in sum, will become almost impossible, considering that in Turkey there are at least 93,000 mosques, of which 3,000 are in Istanbul alone. Erdogan, a devout Muslim, has defended this move, saying that the provision owed not to religious motivation but to the desire to set a good example to young people. "We don't want a generation that drinks all day and night", he said. And yet, the country isn't noted for its alcohol problem, and it consumes far less than the West.
For those that have always warned that AKP has sought Islamification of the secular Turkey as sought by Ataturk, this law on alcohol is the smoking gun. Yesterday, the opposition left the parliament room in protest. But there's more: in the face of this move towards authoritarianism, even secular liberal intellectuals, who had hailed the rise of Erdogan as a force for democracy in the face of the all-too-powerful military, are having a re-think. Yesterday, Mehves Evin, a well-known secularist in newspaper circles in the country and leader-writer for the newspaper Milliyet, called this law "despotic", comparable to the McCarthyism as seen in the United States in the 1940s. "I always thought Erdogan was a pragmatic man," he stated, "and that he never would have worked to implement such oppressive measures. But I was wrong". He's not the only one thinking that.
Monica Ricci Sargentini
Corriere della Sera, 25 March 2013
Translated by Patrick West 30 March 2013