With its latest round of regulations targeting the sale, promotion and consumption of alcohol, the Turkish government has run into a storm of accusations that it is working to impose a conservative agenda (i.e. a dry one) on the country. Newsweek takes a look at the developments in its latest issue:
The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was so fond of raki that he died of liver disease. But alcohol is becoming the latest battleground in Turkey’s culture wars. New regulations introduced this month by the conservative, Islamic-leaning AK Party government have caused a storm of protest from the imbibing elite.
On the face of it, the restrictions aren’t very draconian—banning alcohol advertising at sports or youth-oriented events, and outlawing the sale of alcohol on highways. Turkey’s alcohol-licensing laws remain far laxer than in the U.S. or most of Europe. Nonetheless, critics of the AK Party fear this is just the beginning of a “government-coordinated campaign to make alcohol socially unacceptable,” says Ilker Gul, an Istanbul bar worker.
The Islamic-rooted government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has defended the new restrictions, saying they are about "protecting young people" from the dangerous effects of alcohol. But critics point out that the latest restrictions come hot on the heels of yet another increase on the tax levied on alcohol, which has created the suspicion that the government's true intention is to keep booze out of the hands of Turks of all ages.
The Wall Street Journal has more on the story, taking a look at how the Turkish liquor industry is facing a paradox: while the growing taxes and other restrictions have made it harder for the average Turk to buy a drink (a bottle of raki, the anise-flavored spirit that is the Turkish national drink now averages $35/bottle), Turkey's booming economy has created a new class of people who are more willing and able to pass the Courvoisier.