Turkish Stores Defy Government Attempt to Suspend Alcohol Sale
Turkish retailers continued to sell alcohol on Friday in defiance of a lockdown ban, demanding a clear official explanation of the move’s legality.
Sales continued at many chain stores and liquor shops across Istanbul and Ankara on the first day of a new set of Covid-19 restrictions that are planned to last until May 17.
On Tuesday, senior Turkish officials said sales at groceries and chain stores would be banned from April 29 until May 17. The move angered the political opposition, which accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of trying to force his religious values on the nation of 83 million people during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan.
Authorities said curbs were in line with existing weekend restrictions and were meant to prevent unfair competition against small liquor shops, which as retailers of non-essential goods would be barred from opening during the lockdown.
“Nowhere in the government decree is there an article on alcohol sales. And we do not live in a banana republic,” said Ayhan Aydin, deputy head of an association of liquor shops.
Members of Turkey’s main opposition party, the CHP, said the intended ban reflected the desires of Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party for a more religious way of life in Turkey, and would have little practical impact on curbing the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
The ban was a top trending item on Twitter in Turkey after Tuesday’s announcement, with thousands of Turks using the hashtag #alkolumedokunma, or “don’t touch my alcohol.”
Other countries, including India and South Africa, have limited or stopped sales of alcohol at times during the global health emergency, saying the curbs were needed either to lower demands on overstretched health-care systems or ensure social distancing.
Erdogan announced a new set of restrictions on people’s movement on Monday, saying that the daily new case numbers should be immediately lowered to below 5,000 so that Turkey can reopen in tandem with the rest of Europe and attract tourists.
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