Thursday, April 06, 2006

Booming Underground Liquor Business in Iran

Here are some interesting facts on the booming underground liquor business in Iran:

(1) The government has banned the sale and consumption of alcohol since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

(2) The small communities of Jews, Christians and Armenians are exempt from this law, a rare instance of religious tolerance from the government. In fact, the
Armenian quarters in major cities remain the leading suppliers of homemade wine and liquor.

(3) Before the revolution, about a dozen Iranian factories produced beer, vodka and wine. The Iranian grape is ideal for making spicy wine. This is where the Shiraz Wine comes from:
Shiraz is a city in Southern Iran which is well known for its wine and famed poets.

(4) The consumption of alcohol is forbidden in Islam. However, drinking wine is an integral part of the Persian culture. Mei, the word for "wine," and Saaqi, the word for "wine-pourer" have been the central themes of Persian poetry for more than a thousand years. The 11th century Persian poet,
Omar Khayyam, writes,
And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in the Nothing all Things end in--Yes-
Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what
Thou shalt be--Nothing--Thou shalt not be less.

(5) Wine in ancient Persia predates the birth of French wine. Earliest evidence of wine making in Iran: 5,400 B.C; earliest evidence of French wine: 500 B.C.

(6) Black market price for Absolut vodka: $21; Baileys: $43; Heiniken: $2/bottle; drinking alcohol in the Islamic Republic of Iran: priceless.

(7) Many believe that elements within the Islamic Republic government, particularly within the
Revolutionary Gaurds [Ahmadinejad's power-base], are behind the widespread smuggling of Alcoholic drinks into Iran. The government's own official figures show that out of 212 active ports in Iran only 61 have the necessary legal operational permits from the central government. So there are about 151 illegal but active ports in Iran that operate without any governmental supervision.

You can read the New York Times's report on the liquor blackmarket in Iran

- Assareh

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