Turkey alcohol curbs raise secular fears

Efes Pilsen's Sinan Guler (L) and Alexey Shved of CSKA Moscow (18 Nov 2010) Turkey's top basketball team Efes Pilsen will now have to look for a new name

New rules on the sale of alcohol in Turkey have raised fears its food and entertainment industries may be harmed.

The curbs ban alcohol from sports advertising and events for young people, and sales are limited to licensed shops and restaurants.

Critics say it will become harder for catering companies to organise wedding parties and similar gatherings.

A ruling party official said the rules were put in place to protect young adults from alcoholism.

An opposition spokesman said that an "oppressive mentality" was seeking to control Turkey, suggesting that the ruling AKP party was targeting secular lifestyles.

But Mehmet Kucuk, whose Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Board implemented the changes, insisted there was "no ideological dimension to the issue".

One small wine-maker told the BBC that, under the new regulations, he could no longer promote his wines via the internet, could not recommend wines to go with certain food, nor hold wine-tasting events.

For Turkey's top basketball team - which bears the same title as the beer-maker Efes Pilsen - the changes mean finding a new name.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly voiced his disapproval of alcohol consumption. Last year he said he could not understand why people drank wine when they could just eat the grapes.

However, the BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul says a large part of Turkish society is secular, and considers the right to drink alcohol an important freedom.

Consumption of alcohol, although relatively low compared with most of Europe, has been steadily increasing.

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