Freedom Research Association (FRA), an Atlas Network partner, has been at the forefront of challenging restrictive alcohol mandates in Turkey. When the World Health Organization instituted incredibly restrictive new alcohol policies, FRA teamed up with other liberal European NGOs to write a report on the negative impacts of these repressive policies. The WHO not only recognized the report but also published it, seeking to acknowledge the views of those opposed to the new policies.
Freedom Research Association did not stop there. The group used momentum from the WHO report as a jumping-off point for further action. FRA established Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch—a platform that tracks the government’s alcohol policy. Through this initiative, they also conducted original research on illegal alcohol consumption in Turkey and its negative societal impact—including the government’s destructive responses. The findings of Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch had a widespread impact, and the platform reached an audience of thousands, received extensive media coverage, and was even televised a dozen times.
On April 29, 2021, Turkey went into its second full lockdown to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. As a part of this lockdown, the government also attempted to ban the sale of alcohol despite providing no legal justification for its actions. Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch once again spearheaded a movement against the government, creating a digital campaign in affiliation with a variety of other actors such as the media, private sector stakeholders, and other public policy organizations. The reaction to this campaign was remarkable. It received attention from TV shows, over 30 news outlets, and millions of people on social media. FRA also saw a huge spike in its social media following, company connections, and internship applications. Nonetheless, FRA Executive Director İsrafil Özkan felt that the greatest outcome of this campaign was his organization’s ability to get the government to pull back on its restrictive policies with no budget and only two team members. Özkan credits Atlas Network and their Leadership Academy with giving him the tools to carry out this massive effort.
Even with the many accomplishments of Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch, the Turkish government instituted a new mandate on May 7 that banned the sale of all non-essential goods. By categorizing alcohol as “non-essential” the government was provided another opportunity to ban this commodity. Despite this new assault, Freedom Research Association and Turkish Public Alcohol Policy Watch remain confident that the end of the full-scale lockdown will reopen the sale of non-essential goods—including alcohol.