Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent remarks on alcohol use have triggered a debate on the identity of “two drunks” he identified as the originators of the present alcohol laws, with some speculating on possible figures, including Turkey’s founding father, Atatürk.
“Given that a law made by two drunken [people] is respected, why should a law that is commanded by religion be rejected by your side?” Erdoğan asked while addressing his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) group in Parliament on May 28.
Erdoğan referred to the “two drunken” people in defending new restrictions on alcohol use and promotions on sales.
‘Religion commands what is right’
“Whatever religion it is, a religion commands what is right, not what is wrong. If its commands are thus, will you stand against it just because it is ordered by religion?” he asked.
Linguistically, the phrase “two drunks” can refer to either an unknown number of people or can specifically refer to only two inebriated people in Turkish.
However, the open-ended statement received a rapid reaction from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), with deputy leader Umut Oran submitting a parliamentary question on the issue.
Oran asked how the prime minister determined that the people who made the current law were drunk, while questioning if it was appropriate to call any members of the Parliament “drunken.”
He also asked if the premier would consider correcting his remarks that had humiliated lawmakers.
Some news portals and posts on the social media said Erdoğan probably referred to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, and his closest ally, İsmet İnönü, his successor as president.
Atatürk was known to enjoy alcoholic drinks, particularly aniseed-based Turkish rakı, but there is no information about İnönü’s drinking habits.
”If he implied Atatürk and İnönü, then shame on him! A prime minister can only be reduced this far, can only be this unfaithful, can only be this illiterate. And can only be this shameless!” CHP deputy parliamentary group leader Muharrem İnce told the Daily News.
“If he implied other deputies, the ones who proposed the bill, then he was being disrespectful to legislation,” he said. “If a deputy’s bill has been accepted then calling him a drunkard is going beyond the limits of decency,” he added. “People would say that those who changed the law, made by two drunkards – or a couple of thieves – have changed a law made by two drunkards. Will he accept this?”
Alcohol use in Turkey was banned in 1920 before being allowed again in 1924. The code saw a major change in 1926, which also resulted in the state taking control of the distribution and sale of alcohol under the “Tekel” monopoly.