News / Europe

Istanbul Cracks Down on Outdoor Eating, Drinking

Turks shop at an open air market as part of the preparations for the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, in Istanbul, Turkey, September 29, 2008 (file photo)
Turks shop at an open air market as part of the preparations for the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, in Istanbul, Turkey, September 29, 2008 (file photo)
Dorian Jones

Local authorities in Istanbul have been seizing outdoor tables at local bars and cafes while customers are still eating and drinking in one city's most popular entertainment districts. Though officials claim the diners were removed because they were obstructing street traffic, some suspect a wave of conservatism has washed over the city days before the Muslim world begins celebrating Ramadan.

Hundreds of restaurant and bar workers and owners marched through the center of Istanbul to protest the crackdown on drinking and eating outside. One restaurant owner expressed his anger.

"We were 10 people working in this restaurant. Now seven or eight will be laid off," he said. "We don't know if we can even pay the rent or the utility bills. We may have to shut down completely."

The controversy erupted earlier this week when dozens of officials descended on the Asmalimescit area of the city and seized tables and chairs outside cafes and bars while customers were eating and drinking.

Even though the owners paid for the right to use the streets, authorities declared they were causing an obstruction to pedestrians and cars.

In the past, the Asmalimescit area was home to the city’s once large Greek and Armenian minorities, and for centuries has been a favorite place to eat and drink, while listening to traditional street music.  

In the past decade it has undergone a revival and is now a trendy place to party for both locals and tourists.

According to media reports earlier this week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan passed the neighborhood in a car and was shocked. He asked the city's mayor to act.

That suspicion is shared by some, who now have to drink indoors at the height of summer.

"It’s silly, it’s stupid. Everybody loves it here, to drink outside and they killed our culture to drink here," said one person interviewed. "Nobody comes here nowadays, the bars and cafes are closed. You know our government has some religious sensitivity and I think it’s because of this."

One woman supports the official reason given for the ban - but also suspects religious motives are involved.

"I thought I was against it the first time I heard about it. But now it's ok," she said. "I guess it's better that we can walk better. But there is a connection that it, is for the coming the Ramazan as well."

Ramadan -  or as it’s called in Turkey, Ramazan -  starts next week and is the Muslim month of fasting. It’s always a time of tension in Turkey between the pious and secular communities.

A recent survey conducted by The World Values Survey, shows a rise in conservative beliefs during the fasting season. Of those polled, 44 percent said restaurants should be closed during fasting periods in Ramadan, a belief held by 39 percent in the 2007 poll.

At Istanbul's Spice Market, just a short walk from the city's entertainment district, people are stocking up on traditional foods like dates and olives, traditionally eaten at Iftar meal that breaks the day of fasting during Ramadan.

Speaking to people, there is a mood of both pragmatism and fortitude with this year's fasting in traditionally the hottest month of the year.

One man said he is undecided. He said he will fast, but it depends on the weather. He said his working hours are very long, so he has to think accordingly.

"The days are longer now and the weather is hot. Till noon it is okay, but afternoon is difficult. Hunger is not problem, but thirst is the hard part," he said.

Another man said such hardship can only bring him only to God.

"May God give us our strength to help our fasting," he said. "Even though the days are longer and the weather is hot, fasting will be good for us."

Turkey is preparing itself for a long and difficult month, with the country in the grips of a heat wave. But for the thousands of restaurant and bar workers in Istanbul set to lose their jobs, there is a strong feeling that in this year's Ramadan, they are paying for the religious sensitivities of others.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs