Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has advised members of the public upset at draconian new alcohol laws to enjoy their libations in the comfort of their own home, dismissing claims that intoxicating drinks have been banned.
“For days, there has been propaganda inside the country and abroad saying, ‘Alcohol is banned in Turkey.’ Before everything else, whoever says, writes and reports this, whoever spreads this inside the country and abroad is a liar, to say the least. We haven’t banned anything,” Erdoğan said in a speech delivered at a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group May 28.
Erdoğan devoted a majority of his speech to the criticism leveled at his government for the alcohol regulations, saying the harsh measures neither constituted a ban nor an intervention into people’s lifestyles.
“Nobody should turn alcohol into an identity issue. The regulation adopted [by the Parliament] is not an intervention into anybody’s identity, ideology and lifestyle. Those who perceive this as such are mistaken. Those who say this have ulterior motives,” Erdoğan said.
“If you are going to drink [alcohol], then drink your alcohol in your house,” he said, noting that the criteria for the consumption of alcohol in the public sphere were set. “If you will drink, drink. We are not against this. But we are not allowing this in certain places and at certain hours – and within 100 meters of mosques and schools,” he said.
The media also received its share of criticism from Erdoğan for its stance on the issue, as he argued that some of the opponents were merely against the regulation because Islam prohibited the consumption of alcohol, meaning that they were against the dictates of Islam.
Erdoğan also thanked the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) for its support on the alcohol regulations.
Bahçeli gives mixed signals on alcohol
But MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli gave mixed signals on his party’s stance on the alcohol ban, voicing somewhat ambiguous support for the ban May 28.
“As the Nationalist Movement Party [MHP], we naturally positively approach a regulation that will restrict the sale and use of alcohol. It should be known that our attitude never includes support for the AKP,” Bahçeli said, addressing his party’s parliamentary group meeting.
“In this respect, while respecting the area of personal freedom, we agree that strengthening the spiritual, bodily and mental health of our future generations is an essential mission,” Bahçeli said, while noting that Erdoğan’s remarks about not wanting a “drunk and wasted” youth were an exaggeration.
However, on his way back from a party rally in Adana over the weekend, Bahçeli said the clandestine sale and consumption of alcohol could rise with a ban.
“A ban would create 1930s America,” he said, arguing that illegal underground criminal organizations smuggling drugs and alcohol could emerge as a result of the law.
For his part, in response to questions from correspondents, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said: “I would actually expect the AKP to entirely ban alcohol production in Turkey; why didn’t they?”