The authoritarian rule of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has always been sobering for civil libertarians but this is ridiculous. After destroying civil liberties, the free speech and secularism, Erdogan remains unpopular with many inside Turkey and most people outside of Turkey. Facing an upcoming election, Erdogan has decided to play the Islamic card again and cracked down on liquor sales. It is the latest proof that he lied when he originally pledged to respect the secular traditions established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk that made Turkey unique in the Muslim world. Indeed, Ataturk was known as someone who was a heavy drinker in his time. Ataturk would drink a liter of raki (shown here), the Turkish national liquor, a day (which explains why he died at 57 years old from a chronic liver disease).
We have followed the rapid destruction of the secular government and civil liberties in Turkey under the authoritarian rule of Erdogan. Erdogan used a failed coup to push his effort to create a de facto Islamic regime and to complete his work in arresting his critics, including forcing the resignation of thousands of secular academics, prosecuting foreign journalists, and suspending all civil liberties in a proclaimed state of emergency.
The Turkish government imposed a nearly three-week nationwide lockdown and ban on alcohol sales through the end of Ramadan. The lockdown ended May 17, but the government decided to continue to impose weekend curfews and alcohol bans through the end of the month. It is the latest in a series measures designed to limit sales and increase taxes on alcohol — and pander to the Islamic voting bloc.
Turkey has some good local wines and a long history of enjoying alcohol drinks like Raki. I love Istanbul which is one of my favorite cities on Earth. One of my favorite memories is sitting on Turkish rugs along the Bosphorus River in Istanbul on hot summer nights drinking Turkish wine. The sun would go down as hundreds of mosques would call to the faithful. It remains indelible as one of my most cherished and beautiful memories.
Erdogan has used alcohol to rally his loyal base among Islamic parties. In 2013, Erdogan he took a shot at his opponent by declaring in a debate “Given that a law made by the two drunkards is respected, why should a law that is commanded by religion be rejected by your side?” It was an extraordinary statement that implicitly insulted Ataturk and showed not only Erdogan’s plan to dismantle secularism but his confidence in his Islamic political base.
Even though the Istanbul Economics Research poll shows 56% of Turks opposed to the ban, Erdogan’s base in shown in the 44% supporting it.