Parliament debates alcohol bill with ayran jokes

Parliament debates alcohol bill with ayran jokes

Parliament debates alcohol bill with ayran jokes

Members of the Planning and Budget Commission were served ayran, in honor of the yogurt drink's new status as Turkey's 'national drink.' AA photo

As the debates on a draft bill restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol kicked off at a parliamentary commission, opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) members offered to serve ayran to their counterparts, mocking the prime minister's promotion of the salty yogurt-based refreshment as Turkey's original "national drink." 

The move to have ayran served to the commission members led to general witticisms being exchanged at the Planning and Budget Commission session. Some CHP deputies demanded "a pint" of ayran, while members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) reiterated that they considered the refreshment to be the genuine national drink.

During the ayran service, one CHP deputy asked for a glass of rakı, the aniseed-flavored alcoholic drink usually consumed with mezzes and a must in traditional meyhanes. "Our national drink is water. Mix it with yogurt, you have ayran. Mix it with rakı, it's a bayram [feast]," CHP Ankara deputy İzzet Çapa joked, before stating his opinion that the bill under consideration was an attempt to curb individual rights. "Personally, I don't drink alcohol or smoke, but this is not an alcohol bill; this bill decides what people can and can't do," he said.

Another CHP deputy, Mahmut Tanal, accused the AKP deputies of hypocrisy, saying levels of alcohol consumption were highest in the party's heartland of Central Anatolia. "This means that you also drink secretly," Tanal said.

AKP deputy Sadi Bilgiç refused the accusations, saying that the law aimed to protect children and youths from developing bad alcohol habits. He also noted that such restrictions were in place in many countries, such as in the United States, where it is forbidden to sell alcohol to those aged below 21.

Deputies brandish fists

However, tension soon rose during the session, despite the fact that it started with witty japes. The row between Tanal and Bilgiç grew following a break in the session, when the two had to be separated by other deputies after reportedly coming close to exchanging blows.

The initial proposal banned the sale of alcohol in any establishment near schools or mosques. Critics said it would make serving alcohol impossible in any of the cities' main entertainment locations, due to the vague definition of "educational institution" and the large number of mosques. The alterations, however, redefine "educational institutions" according to a narrower list, excluding owners who have previously gained alcohol licenses, as well as certified tourism establishments.