ANKARA, May 24 – Turkey’s parliament on Friday passed a controversial law restricting the consumption and advertising of alcohol in the predominantly Muslim country.
The law prohibits alcoholic beverage companies from sponsoring events and restricts the places where such drinks can be consumed. It also bans the sale of alcoholic drinks between 10pm and 6am.
Supporters of the measure – introduced by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) party, which has its roots in Islam – say the law is seeking to protect society, particularly children, from the harmful effects of alcohol.
But critics see it as a sign of creeping conservatism in predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular Turkey and argue the legislation intrudes into private life.
TV series, films or music videos are not allowed to contain images encouraging the consumption of alcohol under the new legislation.
It also brings stricter penalties on drunken driving.
Drivers with a blood alcohol content of more than 0.05 percent will be slapped with a 700-Turkish lira (nearly 300-euro) fine and their driving licenses will be confiscated for a six-month period.
Drunken drivers with a blood alcohol level over 0.1 percent will face up to two years’ imprisonment.
The law must be approved by President Abdullah Gul to take effect. He is expected to sign it soon.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s populist government, in power for over a decade, is often accused of creeping efforts to make the country more conservative and pious.
Erdogan, a devout 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.
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 more widespread.