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July 7, 2012 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Iran confronts its alcohol problem. 'After years of denying the prevalence of illegal alcohol in Iran, officials are addressing the issue, while continuing to treat drinking as a sin and a crime.' 'Recently, two men in a northeastern province were given rare death sentences for drinking, as part of the country's three-strikes law. Each man had been convicted of drinking twice before.'

'More than 200,000 people in Iran are estimated to be involved in bootlegging, and about $800 million is spent annually on smuggling. The country's leading economic newspaper this year quoted border police as saying that the amount of confiscated alcohol had risen 69% in the last year.'

'In Iran, drinking has long been a deeply rooted part of Persian society, from the upper-class elite who hold discreet parties in their Tehran apartments to the blue-collar workers who drink the sometimes toxic homemade brews. The Islamic Revolution in 1979 attempted to squelch the custom, as part of a greater effort to erase the Persian culture in favor of an Islamic one.'

'Today, young people are increasingly turning to alcohol as an escape from their lives, which they feel are boxed in politically, socially and economically.'

'Alcohol's health toll in Iran is worsened because many people can't afford to buy what's smuggled in. A bottle of French wine can go for about $40, whereas a bottle of Iran-made alcohol sells for less than $6.

Many rely on what's made in people's basements or gardens in unsanitary conditions. While drinking or making the alcohol, people have suffered from alcohol poisoning, blindness or death. The alcohol content of the homemade liquor is often higher than normal, supplemented with drugs or contaminated.'

'"In the absence of other forms of leisure and amusement'", says Shahin, a sociologist, '"drinking alcoholic beverages is a way to vent your disappointment at the country's injustice, lack of jobs and decent life and future, and political disappointment."'
posted by VikingSword (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Iran also has a major heroin problem.
posted by Brian B. at 11:26 AM on July 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the post. The Persian/Islam tension in Iran is a fascinating thing.

Meanwhile, here in my part of town it is dismaying to see the local various shops displaced by an alcohol-based economy, where every other store front is some kind of whiskey bar, tavern or other theme-park based restaurant. I enjoy them as much as the next person but it seems like a teetering foundation for a local economy.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:37 AM on July 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Another example of the utter failure of the "War on ___" approach.

Genuine education and addiction counselling are the tools society needs to use. We have to help people, not harm them.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:03 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm genuinely surprised by this. Of course people drink in Iran - pretty much everyone knows where and how to get alcohol - but I never thought that alcoholism was a social problem let alone a major one. But of course it makes sense that when you live in a pressure cooker of a theocracy you turn to booze to escape your problems.

Drugs, HIV and prostitution are other phenomena that have spiraled out of control mainly because the state has denied that it happens or is a social problem. Sadly, I don't see how the Iranian government can manage these problems when most of them are a reaction or caused by the state itself.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:07 PM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Shit, now I'm damn glad that the war on drugs in the US isn't motivated by religion (just racism).
posted by supercres at 12:11 PM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was surprised to read that Islam culture actively worked to eliminate Persian culture. I guess I'm just not very good at putting the peices together, but seeing it worded that way sort of startled me with the truth. I guess because I'm accustomed to thinking of that sort of thing as history; over and done with, all settled. Weird.
posted by windykites at 12:13 PM on July 7, 2012


I'm damn glad that the war on drugs in the US isn't motivated by religion

I'm sure they're working on that as we speak.
posted by elizardbits at 12:20 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shit, now I'm damn glad that the war on drugs in the US isn't motivated by religion

Actually, historically, a lot of it was motivated by religion, or at least religious justifications were given. That is also true of a lot of the temperance movement, all over the world, and wrt. religion, it's not just the usual suspects. For example, in Sri Lanka, the temperance movement was spearheaded by buddhism.

So yeah, as ever, when control over people's bodies is at stake, religion is never far away.
posted by VikingSword at 12:33 PM on July 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


Saudi Arabia has a similar policy, but it's public lashings and prison sentences instead of capital punishment.
posted by deanklear at 1:05 PM on July 7, 2012


As I've commented before, it seems like most bastions of movement conservative thought online, like Free Republic, think the war on drugs is federzilla encroachment on liberties, wasteful spending, and excessive even for them. And in the modern U.S., drug use isn't a big hot button topic for sermons in religious right churches. My hypothesis is that the War on Drugs is as much a product of legislative and bureaucratic inertia, more than anything else.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:19 PM on July 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well at least they don't have a bath salts problem, so they have that going for them.
posted by humanfont at 1:53 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Persian/Islam tension in Iran is a fascinating thing.

And long-lived... the anecdote I always remember was the trial of a Persian general Afshīn of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 800s a couple of hundred years after the Arab conquest of the region, who besides owning copies of various Zoroastrian scriptures was accused of flagrantly violating halal^ laws by deliberately having the livestock he was going to eat strangled to death and encouraging others to do the same.
posted by XMLicious at 2:27 PM on July 7, 2012


Foci for Analysis: Of course people drink in Iran - pretty much everyone knows where and how to get alcohol - but I never thought that alcoholism was a social problem let alone a major one.

It's worth keeping in mind that "social problems" are defined as much by politics, religious beliefs, and social mores as they are by any actual physical or psychological harm intrinsic to the problem behavior – often moreso. In a society as authoritarian as Iran's, social problems are pretty much whatever the theocracy says they are.
posted by Scientist at 2:59 PM on July 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was surprised to read that Islam culture actively worked to eliminate Persian culture.

Yeah. I kept mentally replacing "Islam" with "Baptist" and "Persian" with "American" to imagine what it would feel like here.
posted by sourwookie at 3:44 PM on July 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Man, drinking would be so much fun if it was totally illegal.
posted by telstar at 4:28 PM on July 7, 2012


I heard about this on the BBC World Service during the week, and it was fascinating. I'd never thought much about this, despite being in a Persian restaurant last week and wondering if they were BYO by pragmatic choice or inclination.

One link here if you would like to know more (seems to cover much the same ground at a scan). There may even be streaming audio but I am too drunk hungover asleep.
posted by Mezentian at 5:53 PM on July 7, 2012


Having drunk with Persians in both Tehran and Tehrangeles, I'd like to confirm that Patron Silver is a popular choice in both.

Honestly, I was flabbergasted at the variety of liquor I saw in Iran. For those who are unable to get the bootleg stuff, home-distilled isn't the only option: you can get a 'prescription' for moonshine, which is made under sanitary conditions, which you can then water down into a drinkable beverage.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 6:30 PM on July 7, 2012



I'm genuinely surprised by this. Of course people drink in Iran - pretty much everyone knows where and how to get alcohol - but I never thought that alcoholism was a social problem let alone a major one. But of course it makes sense that when you live in a pressure cooker of a theocracy you turn to booze to escape your problems.
Would it make sense to conjecture that something like the opiate abuse issues in the United States may be at work with alcohol abuse in Iran? Does banning some substance have the effect of making it more readily abused, since users are apt to acquire and consume it through some underground distribution network outside the watchful eyes of the state?
posted by deathpanels at 9:58 PM on July 7, 2012


I say we toast to the crackdown with a nice Shiraz!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:22 AM on July 9, 2012


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