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Pro-gov’t journalist associates alcohol ban during lockdown with Gülen

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Mehmet Barlas, a columnist for the pro-government Sabah daily, has criticized the Turkish government’s recent move to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages in stores during a 17-day lockdown starting on Thursday, saying it was something US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen would do if he were ruling the country.

“If Fethullah Gülen had managed to come to power in a [2016] coup, similar to what [Ruhollah] Khomeini did in Iran, his first move probably would have been to impose a ban on alcoholic beverages,” Barlas wrote in a column on Thursday.

“For some people, it’s OK to orchestrate a coup and open fire on his own people, but alcoholic beverages must be banned,” the columnist added, referring to Gülen, who is accused by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of masterminding a failed putsch that killed over 200 civilians on July 15, 2016.

Although both the preacher and the members of his Gülen movement –- labeled as a terrorist organization by Ankara –- strongly deny any involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity, Erdoğan’s AKP has jailed some 96,000 people while investigating a total of 622,646 due to alleged links to the faith-based group as part of a massive purge launched under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

“The ban on alcohol sales during full lockdown has naturally sparked anxious comments. It’s because we have witnessed many people die from bootleg alcohol in Turkey. When the ban on alcoholic beverages starts, some of the addicts will probably turn to bootleg alcohol again,” Barlas, a staunch supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, also stated.

The columnist closed by expressing the wish that the lockdown expected to last until May 17 would be the last lockdown the government ever imposes. “Then we can go out of our houses and walk around freely, and those who want to can go and buy alcoholic beverages. And I hope nobody dies from drinking bootleg alcohol during the temporary lockdown.”

Following the announcement of the ban earlier this week, thousands of secular Turks accusing Erdoğan of trying to force his Islamic values on the nation by way of a ban that has nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic reacted under the hashtag # alkolümedokunma (Don’t touch my alcohol), which became the top trending item on Twitter.

The government of Erdoğan, a vocal opponent of alcohol and tobacco consumption, has regularly raised taxes on the products at far above the rate of inflation since it came to power in 2002.

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