Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan AFP/File

The Turkish Parliament’s General Assembly adopted on Friday an alcohol bill proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), tightening restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcoholic beverages, the daily Hurriyet reported.

The approval came despite strong objections against the bill by the opposition on the grounds of personal freedom and respect for lifestyle choices. Secularist opponents accused the Islamic-rooted ruling party of gradually imposing an Islamic agenda on Turkey.

According to the bill, retailers will no longer be allowed to sell alcoholic beverages between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Advertising campaigns will be completely banned, such as promotions, sponsored activities, festivals and free giveaways. The only exception will be the international fairs aimed at international marketing of the alcoholic beverages, reported the Hurriyet.

Violators of the advertising ban will be punished with financial penalties ranging from 5000 to 200,000 Turkish liras, the report said.

Under the bill, alcohol companies would no longer be allowed to promote their brands and logos, and these can only be used as part of service inside the facility.

Additionally, all liquor bottles sold would have to display warning signs about the harms of alcohol, similar to those found on cigarette packages.

In TV series, films and music videos, images that glorify the consumption of alcohol will be prohibited. Images of alcohol would be blurred, the same way as cigarettes are being blurred at the moment.

Student dormitories, health institutions, sports clubs, all sorts of education institutions and gas stations will be banned from selling alcohol, reported the Hurriyet. Already acquired licenses to sell alcohol will remain intact, yet to get new ones, facilities are required to be located outside the perimeter of 100 meters from schools and mosques.

The opposition parties strongly criticized the amendments, arguing that such a ban should not include touristic regions.

The head of the Planning and Budget Commission, Lütfü Elvan of the AKP, said that such restrictions were in place in many Western countries.

“This approach of night prayers and morning prayers saddened me. In Sweden, [the retail sale of alcohol] is forbidden after 7 p.m. on weekdays, 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 24 hours on Sundays. There are similar restrictions in all Scandinavian countries,” he said, according to the Hurriyet.

“No one can be forced to drink or not to drink. This is a religious and ideological imposition,” Musa Çam, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) was quoted by the newspaper as having said.

“This is not a struggle against the ills of alcohol but an attempt to re-design the society according to their beliefs and lifestyle,” he added.

A deputy from the BDP opposition party, Murat Bozlak, said, “Nobody has the right to impose the monotype lifestyle on the society.”

Last year, a Turkish court formally charged internationally known pianist and composer Fazil Say with insulting Islamic religious values, in comments he made on Twitter.

Say faces charges of inciting hatred and public enmity, and insulting “religious values” after having allegedly mocked Islamic beliefs about paradise.

Previously, Turkey's Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for his comments about the mass killings of Armenians, under a law that made it a crime to insult the Turkish identity. The government eased that law in an amendment in 2008.

In another incident in 2007, ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who received death threats because of his comments about the killings of Armenians by Turks in 1915, was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul.

In November, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened the producers of a popular Turkish television series about the Ottoman Empire.

The series is set in the 16th century reign of Suleiman the Magnificent over the Ottoman Empire. Erdogan accused the program of historical inaccuracies, saying Suleiman was a proud conqueror and never the harem-lover portrayed in the show.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)