Turkish government proposes alcohol restriction measures

AFP , Wednesday 15 May 2013

Turkey's ruling Islamist AKP proposes a parliamentary bill on alcohol restriction measures

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (C) greets members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara May 14, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

A Turkish parliamentary committee is set to debate Wednesday a proposal by the Islamic-rooted government to introduce new curbs on the consumption and advertising of alcohol, a parliamentary source said.

The supporters of the measure say the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) bill seeks to protect society, particularly children, from the harmful effects of alcohol.

The text comes as part of a broad legislative package and will initially be discussed Wednesday by a committee before being voted on in the plenary, said a parliamentary source who did not want to be named.

Critics say the move is the latest in a campaign led by the AKP to Islamise Turkish society by stealth and constitutes an intrusion into private life.

The parliamentary source said the bill also seeks to prohibit alcoholic beverage companies from sponsoring events and to restrict the places where such drinks can be consumed. Labels warning of the dangers of alcohol will have to be placed on bottles if the proposal is approved.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a devout 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.

In recent months, Turkey's flagship Turkish Airlines has stopped serving alcohol on several domestic routes, citing lack of demand, but media accused the airline of following Ankara's conversative footsteps.

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 -- banned in public institutions -- have become more visible in public places and alcohol bans are more widespread.

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