Turkish Twitter erupts over alcohol sales ban during lockdown

Reports by Turkish media that the government was set to ban alcohol sales during a 17-day lockdown in the country to stem the spread of COVID-19 has been met with ire on Turkish social media.

Critics and social media users accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of pushing its Islamist ideology on citizens through the move, as they pointed to what they called a double standard in the restrictions.

Journalist Nevşin Mengü called the decision “a serious violation of rights”. 

“The entire country is being banned from alcohol consumption at home because the president does not like it. Absolutely ridiculous,” the journalist said on Twitter. 

Included in the new restrictions set to begin on Thursday evening are a ban on intercity travel, a shut-down of all businesses with the exception of those deemed essential by the Interior Ministry and closure of schools. But mosques will remain open for worship throughout the lockdown.

Opposition lawmaker Veli Ağbaba said the move was entirely ideological.

“This is the latest in the AKP’s intervention on people’s lifestyle and not the pandemic,” the Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker tweeted.

“Everywhere is already shut down. What do you care about what people are eating or drinking? The only place you have not entered is the bedroom as this point,” one Twitter user said, referring to the ruling AKP.

Many users remain in a state of confusion about whether the ban would also affect Tekel distributors.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, following the announcement, said that Tekel distributors would be closed during the lockdown, T24 news site reported. 

“So alcohol sales is banned everywhere because Tekel shops are closed, what logic,” one Twitter user quipped.  “So have supermarkets been banned from the sale of clothing items because clothing retailers are closed? How can every move you make be so ridiculous?”

Some users pointed to the larger problem of the effects of the shutdown on small business owners.

“If you want it so badly, then just stock up at home (ahead of the lockdown),” one user said. “What I care about is the state of small business owners.”

Some supported the move by the government.

The former head imam of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia mosque welcomed the outpouring of frustration over the decision.

“It seems the ban on alcohol sales during the lockdown has bothered some people,” Mehmet Boynukalın wrote on Twitter. “That’s a good thing.”

Journalist Özgür Mumcu said the government was merely trying to measure public reaction to such a move. 

“There has been no official ban announced as of yet. There is no legal basis for such a ban,” Mumcu tweeted. “What is taking place is a quick public opinion poll.”