The Turkish parliament — dominated by a supermajority of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) — early this morning passed a law severely restricting and, in some cases, banning alcoholic beverages altogether. According to Hürriyet Daily News:
Parliament’s General Assembly has adopted a highly controversial alcohol bill proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), tightening restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcoholic beverages, despite strong objections against the bill on the grounds of personal freedom and respect for lifestyle choices. The proposal was swiftly put on the agenda, despite the protests from the opposition, and was eventually adopted early in the morning of May 24… According to the bill, retailers will no longer be allowed to sell alcoholic beverages between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The opposition parties strongly criticized the amendments, arguing that such a ban should not include touristic regions… “No one can be forced to drink or not to drink. This is a religious and ideological imposition,” Musa Çam, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said. “This is not a struggle against the ills of alcohol but an attempt to re-design the society according to their beliefs and lifestyle,” he added….
The interesting thing to watch now will be the reactions of progressives and Turkish liberals who have seen in Erdoğan and his AKP a party bent on reforms and who have argued that criticism regarding Erdoğan’s larger religious agenda was unwarranted at best and paranoid at worst. Çam is correct that laws like this are a direct attack on individual liberty and freedom of choice. The evidence that Erdoğan has sought fundamental social change along religious lines has been overwhelming. Let’s hope analysts — especially those Ankara-based diplomats or Istanbul-based students and bloggers who have let their hopes and desires for Turkey outweigh analytical rigor — will question why they were so willing to ignore the social and religious aspects of Erdoğan’s agenda or accept uncritically the notion that Erdoğan had dispensed with this aspect of his past.