Alcohol Claims Iranian Lives Despite Ban
Official figures acknowledge at least 93 alcohol-related deaths in the past year.
Ninety-three Iranians died of alcohol-related causes in the past year, according to official statistics—despite a strict nationwide ban on the distribution and sale of alcohol. While the death rate is slightly down on the year before, health officials are concerned about a rise in alcohol consumption in Tehran; 18 of the 86 men and seven women who died were in and around the capital. “We sometimes get reports from hospitals and doctors on the consumption of alcohol from neighborhoods in the south of Tehran which are worrying,” says Deputy Health Minister Baqer Larijani. In addition, the official stats are likely to be an underestimate in a country with such strict laws, so the real number of deaths may be significantly higher. The report doesn't specify the extent to which poisoning from homemade brews like Arak—a drink made from raisins—was to blame. But police chief Esmaeel Ahmadi Moghadam claims there are 200,000 alcoholics in Iran, with 60-80 million liters of alcohol smuggled into the country each year, mainly from Iraqi Kurdistan. “The extent of alcohol use in the Islamic Republic of Iran is considerable," said the World Health Organization in a report back in 2003. Alcohol smuggling into Iran is now said to be a $730 million-a-year business, despite the risks of clashes with border guards, prison or the death penalty.