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Erdogan Condemns Beer, Lauds Yogurt as Turkish National Drink

Pinar Tremblay says the spat about alcohol consumption in Turkey may mask a more serious debate about fundamental rights in Turkey.
Bartender Samet Kardas smokes as he serves beer at a bar in Istanbul July 14, 2009. Smokers in Turkey tempted to flout an imminent ban in cafes, restaurants and bars will be spared execution as allegedly meted out in 17th-Century Istanbul -- but their Prime Minister has likened cigarettes to terrorism. That's a measure of how strongly Tayyip Erdogan feels about tobacco. Sultan Murad IV is said to have roamed the streets ordering the execution of those who defied a smoking ban aimed at curbing coffee house s

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, speaking at a Global Alcohol Policies Symposium on April 26, said beer was forced upon the masses as a means of “modernization’’ in the early years of the republic. Actually, the first beer factory in Turkey was state-owned and produced what was known as Tekel Birasi, (Monopoly Beer). “But beer is not our drink” he added. “Indeed, our national drink is ayran (yogurt drink).’’ This created uproar in social media, mostly among white Turks (traditional elite, well-educated and Kemalist upper class). Erdogan has mastered the game of touching the nerves of angry white Turks and alcohol presents a delightfully contested zone.

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