Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch was founded in 2020 as a project of one of the most prominent classical-liberal think-tanks in Turkey, the Freedom Research Association. When it first started to act, the world and, of course, Turkey was trying to deal with the severe outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic. The public policies that have been enacted in this certain time period in order to cope with the pandemic were highly debated in the pro-liberty public opinion in Turkey. Indeed, many policies were considered controversial, since the conflict between rights & liberties and government interventions was arousing. In November 2020, nearly two months before the Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch was founded, the Turkish Minister of Interior published a regulation that became one of the most contentious public policies in the pandemic era. With this regulation, the Turkish government made it illegal to buy or sell alcoholic beverages in times of curfew. Public opinion, therefore, has begun to ask questions, whether this regulation was to protect us from the virus, or would it be possible for it to serve any other purpose? Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch, therefore, has been founded in order to raise further awareness to the public opinion, for what that other purpose might be.
Let us roll it back for a few years. This ban on alcohol sales was not the first time that the Islam-biased Justice and Development Party (AKP) government interfered with the rights and liberties of citizens. For many years, the AKP government has been gradually trying to alienate alcohol drinking as a part of their political agenda. This alienation means that they have been trying to culturally wipe alcohol from the public spaces, by claiming that it is mostly “haram”, and “not a part of our culture”. This motivation has become a clear political agenda for the AKP. With some key legislations, they have managed to isolate alcohol into a certain social sphere in which only few people that are socially and financially available to access alcoholic beverages can do so. Especially with the increasing Special Consumption Tax rates, it has become a challenge to buy alcoholic beverages for many of the citizens. AKP, therefore, has gradually eradicated alcohol from the public space, by making it physically impossible to access.
The main issue with this ongoing situation is the fact that the main target of the AKP government is not the alcohol itself, but individual rights and liberties. Indeed, it can’t be disputed that Islam-biased AKP government is anti-alcohol by its nature, however in this case, being anti-alcohol does not mean anything by itself. It is rather true that every political entity can campaign for or against a cause. When it comes to the limitations of certain practices, however, it crosses the line of being political, and becomes rather dictatorial.
In the case of Turkey, alcohol drinking is significantly more delicate than in many other countries. The reason for this is that the majority of citizens believe in Islam, yet for a prolonged period, the secular lifestyle practices made it possible that alcohol drinking was considered an individual issue, rather than a social one. With the claims of the moral high-ground of the AKP government, this delicate practice of seeing alcohol as an individual practice has gone away. The mindset of the AKP government could be summarized as the following: “We are Muslim, therefore we don’t drink; those who drink are either not Muslim or heretic.”.
The Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch, therefore, opposed this biased restriction of a basic right, that is enjoyed by many citizens of the growth economies. We believe that alcohol drinking is a socially accepted practice, and want Turkish citizens to enjoy their right to practice this. Hence, we are campaigning for the abstaining of restrictions, and better public policies.
: “Erdogan: Religious Youth Must Know That Alcohol is Haram” https://m.bianet.org/bianet/siyaset/215441-erdogan-dindar-genclik-bilecek-ki-alkol-haramdir
: “Minister of Interior Soylu: Raki Festival Is Not Compatible With Our Customs” https://www.evrensel.net/haber/393143/bakan-soylu-raki-festivali-geleneklerimize-uygun-degil