Secular Turkey is angered by spectre of alcohol-free zones

Elizabeth Davies
Thursday 15 December 2005 01:00

Proposals by the Turkish government to ban alcohol in city centres and create "drinking zones" in remote suburbs have enraged secularists and rekindled fears that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is returning his ruling party to its Islamic roots.

A group of lawyers representing the Ankara Bar Association filed a lawsuit earlier this week to try to prevent some municipalities from forcing restaurants and bars serving alcohol to move out of the city centre. They said the move was unconstitutional and an affront to freedoms.

"Municipal law allows the local authority to allocate specific areas," the association's complaint said, "but doesn't make any reference to alcohol drinking zones."

Secularists have come into frequent conflict with the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), which they accuse of trying to stamp a Muslim way of life on the country even as it implements Western-style reforms designed to woo the European Union.

Authorities in Istanbul and the tourist town of Antalya, recently given the power by the AKP to ban alcohol at state-run restaurants and cafés, exacerbated the issue by suggesting ridding the cities of alcohol altogether and creating special drinking zones out of town.

The proposals have enraged the secular and business communities of both cities, who fear that such prohibitions would do irrevocable harm to the thriving tourist industry and to Turkey's status as a secular state. The resort of Antalya, run by the AKP, has given into pressure from businesses and designated the city a "wet area" in reaction to the plans.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments