'Rakı' controversy triggered over street festival in Turkey’s south

'Rakı' controversy triggered over street festival in Turkey’s south

ADANA – Doğan News Agency
Rakı controversy triggered over street festival in Turkey’s south

AA photo

The name of an upcoming annual street festival in the southern province of Adana has been changed amid controversy over its use of the word “rakı,” a Turkish anise-based alcoholic drink consumed at the festival along with local foods and beverages. 

Although Adana Governor Mustafa Büyük has no authority to officially ban the festival, he had urged its organizers not to hold it as planned on Dec. 12, which will be the sixth edition of the festival. 

After Büyük’s urgings, the name of the festival was changed from “World Rakı Festival” to “Adana Kebab and Turnip Festival.”

The festival has had thousands of visitors in previous years, with bottles of rakı and large amounts of Turkish kebab consumed at the festival area inside Adana’s central Kazancılar Bazaar.

Büyük’s criticism has sparked anger among festivalgoers, but in a bid to mollify his concerns the organizers opted to remove “rakı” from the festival’s official title. 

In 2013, parliament passed legislation curbing alcohol sales and advertising, as well as increasing taxes on beer, wine and spirits, in some of the toughest measures in the nine-decade history of the Turkish Republic.

The controversy over the festival in Adana follows the deaths of 28 people in recent weeks after drinking bootleg rakı, in what appears to be Turkey’s worst ever bout of alcohol poisoning.

The bootleg alcohol crisis erupted in late October with news that dozens had died from drinking counterfeit rakı, prompting police to launch operations in four Istanbul districts.

The side effects of the tainted alcohol included delirium, severe stomachache, vomiting and sight impairment.

Police have detained more than 20 people in relation to the case, including suspected producers, suppliers, and sellers, while seizing thousands of bottles in several operations across Turkey. The suspects have been charged with homicide with possible intent.