Interior Minister's retweet denies reports that alcohol ban is lifted

Turkish citizens were puzzled on April 30 as to whether the government's temporary ban on alcohol sales was lifted or not after a liquor store association suggested it was. The Interior Ministry has yet to release an official statement, but Minister Süleyman Soylu retweeted a local governor's announcement that the ban was still in effect.

Duvar English

The head of the Turkish Liquor Stores Platform claimed early on April 30 that the government's ban on alcohol sales during the COVID-19 full lockdown had been lifted. 

"The alcohol sale ban has been lifted. Everyone enjoy," tweeted Turkish Liquor Stores Platform Chair Özgür Aybaş.

Citizens took to Twitter regarding the issue and reported alcohol sales in grocery stores. 

Journalist Melis Alphan said on Twitter: "There is alcohol sales in [grocery chain] Migros. And I think now everywhere."  

The Turkish Interior Ministry released a rather cryptic message warning citizens against false information shortly after reports of the ban's lifting surfaced. 

"Restriction regulations are released by our ministry, provincial health boards, and governors. Any other statements should be disregarded," the ministry said.

The ministry also said that they would start legal proceedings about people who "conducted organized misinformation schemes."

Shortly after the ministry's mysterious statement, Aybaş said the police were forcing the liquor shops to close down and threatening them with fines.

Later in the day, the governor's office of the western province of Kütahya released an official statement, disputing reports of the lifting of the ban. 

It said that the ban was still in effect in 81 provinces of the country.

Although the Interior Ministry has not released an official statement, Minister Süleyman Soylu retweeted the governor's statement. 

The government's ban on alcohol sales was never officially included in the Interior Ministry decree detailing lockdown restrictions, but Soylu had confirmed the practice on April 28.

The president of the Confederation of Turkish Tradesmen and Craftsmen (TESK) said on April 29 that since the government decree has not included any article on alcohol sales, the police were not authorized to fine the liquor stores. 

Earlier in the week, the ban prompted nationwide outrage as social media users told the government "Don't touch my alcohol" and legal experts expressed unanimous agreement that the practice was unconstitutional.

On April 29, the Ankara Bar Association filed a lawsuit with the Council of State against the ban. Referring to the government's decision as “arbitrary, causeless and unlawful,” the bar association said: “The ban on alcohol sales during the full closure days is the abuse of authority of limiting basic rights.”