Turkey's ban on alcohol sales 'clearly an attempt to police people's lifestyles disguised as COVID-19 measures'

Turkey's complete ban on alcohol sales during weekend lockdowns is a clear attempt to police people's lifestyles, disguised as measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say. The Interior Ministry recently banned the sale of alcoholic beverages from all stores during the nationwide weekend lockdowns, citing 'unfair competition.'

Müzeyyen Yüce / DUVAR

Turkey's new ban on alcohol sales during weekend lockdowns is a clear attempt to police people's lifestyles, disguised under the context of COVID-19 precautions, experts say. 

Turkish law enforcement reportedly mandated the shut down of tobacco and liquor stores previously over the nationwide curfew on Dec. 5 and 6, but the Interior Ministry didn't include such instructions in the lockdown guidelines.

To implement this new complete ban on alcohol sales from all stores over weekend curfews, the Interior Ministry used the pretext that any store selling alcohol would be engaging in unfair competition with shut down tobacco and liquor stores, raising eyebrows about the legality of the embargo. 

"This sales ban is entirely illegal. This practice doesn't aim to protect public health, it doesn't combat COVID-19. This is clearly an attempt to police people's lifestyles under the guise of coronavirus measures," administrative law expert Prof. Metin Günday said. 

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Ankara deputy Murat Emir noted the restrictive nature of Ankara's solution to said "unfair competition," saying that they could have easily allowed tobacco and liquor stores to open back up in order to remedy grievances.

"This is a reflection of the government's subconscious, not even an attempt to create political conflict. This is something [Ottoman Sultan] Murat IV would have done," Emir said. 

Meanwhile, tobacco and liquor store owners complained that the notice sent out banning all alcohol sales hindered their operations in an unfair manner, as their products often extend far beyond alcohol.

"Small businesses have really been suffering. Not only did the state withhold any aid, but now they're preventing us from selling our goods," said Liquor Stores Solidarity Association representative Erol Dündar.

The Interior Ministry would have shut down larger businesses like supermarkets and shopping malls if their true motive behind this alcohol ban was, as they said, to prevent crowding and social interaction, Dündar added.