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."'