Turkish government proposes alcohol curbs

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The Turkish government has prepared a draft law that would restrict where alcoholic drinks are sold and consumed in what officials say is an effort to protect children.

The draft, which was sent to parliament on Friday, would also ban companies that produce alcohol from sponsoring events, ban advertising alcoholic drinks, and require Turkish producers to place health warnings on packaging.

The bill, expected to become a law before parliament recesses in July, would also bar venues that allow the sale and consumption of alcohol from openly displaying the products to people outside.

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.

Islamizing Turkey?

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

It follows a ban on drinks service on several routes flown by state-run Turkish Airlines. Official statements cited lack of demand, but media accused the airline of following Ankara’s conservative footsteps.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a 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.

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.