Sunday, December 11, 2005

Moves to Limit Alcohol Use Intensify Debate in Turkey

Turkish Prohibition:

"Efforts by this nation's Islam-rooted government to broaden restrictions on the sale of alcohol have sparked accusations among secular lawmakers that it is seeking to strengthen the role of religion in daily life.

The debate began this year when municipalities run by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, set in motion plans to move businesses that serve alcohol to "red" zones outside city centers."

"A pious Muslim who does not drink, Erdogan recently blamed drunk driving for 80% of Turkey's traffic accidents. Police statistics quoted in the Turkish media set the figure at less than 1%.

Since taking office three years ago, the Erdogan regime has steadily raised taxes on alcohol. Industry sources say taxes on beer have risen a whopping 450%, more than three times the average of the countries in the European Union, the steadfastly secular alliance that Turkey hopes to join. EU officials have been concerned about Turkey's suitability for membership because of the ruling party's religious background.

Suspicions that the increases were meant to discourage drinking deepened this year, when Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan told a Turkish newspaper: "We can hardly tell them not to drink, so we discourage citizens by raising taxes."

""Their claims that that is a health and safety issue are completely false," he added during a telephone interview. "If they were serious, they would start with a campaign against smoking, which is a far greater health hazard in Turkey."

Under the secular system introduced by the country's founder, Kemal Ataturk, in 1923, Turkey has evolved into one of the most Westernized nations in the Islamic world. In keeping with the legacy of Ataturk, who downed liberal amounts of raki, the aniseed-flavored national drink, freedom to drink alcohol is embedded in the Turkish vision of a modern society.

Although alcohol is shunned in the conservative rural heartland, Erdogan has said the state has no plans for an outright ban. He has accused the opposition of deliberately misrepresenting the government's aims."
Moves to Limit Alcohol Use Intensify Debate in Turkey - Los Angeles Times

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