Turkish government under fire over COVID-19 alcohol ban | Voice of America

ISTANBUL – Turkish government decision to ban alcohol sales in nearly three-week lockdown to contain COVID-19 sparks political storm, with opponents accusing the Islamic-born government of using pandemic to pursue a religious agenda.

The alcohol ban is part of a nationwide lockdown that took effect Thursday and will end on May 17.

The ban stirs tensions and suspicions over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist roots, whom critics accuse of seeking to undermine the 90-year-old secular state, said columnist Mehves Evin of the news portal Duvar.

“Erdogan’s diet is like trying every little ways to change the way people live, he thinks that’s the right way to live. It means, for example, the way they build the Imam Hatip religious schools. The way they encourage more and more students to go to these schools is actually social engineering. So with the alcohol ban it’s also the same, ”Evin said.

A customer buys alcoholic drinks at a supermarket ahead of a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Istanbul, April 29, 2021.

The government denies such accusations. But with the ban coinciding with the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, these denials have done little to quell the controversy.

The head of the Turkish traders association, Bendeki Palandoken, called for the ban to be overturned, asking if it was possible to demand an alcohol ban in a country of developed and democratic law, which is embedded in the Europe and which also has many foreign customers.

The ban is also being challenged before Turkish high courts. But the government is vigorously defending the controls, noting that other countries, such as South Africa, have imposed similar restrictions.

Home Secretary Suleyman Soylu said on Thursday that there would be no exemptions or rollbacks. Liquor stores will suffer this sacrifice, as everyone else will, he added.

But many stores are starting to challenge the ban by selling alcohol, and many people are posting photos of their purchases on social media. Hands off my booze is one of the most popular hashtags on Twitter this week.

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