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Iran Escalates Crackdown on Cafes Serving Alcohol Secretly

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Iranian law enforcement agencies have recently widened their crackdown on cafes secretly serving alcohol to customers, with two cafes in Tehran province sealed by authorities in the last week.

State-affiliated media quoted Amir Ahmadi, the Public Prosecutor of Baharestan County, in Tehran province, announcing that two cafes were sealed after being identified for serving alcoholic beverages.

Selling, possession and drinking alcohol by Muslims was prohibited in Iran after the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. During the monarchy alcoholic beverages were unrestricted, subject to certain regulations.

IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency on Sunday quoted Ahmadi as saying, “A cafe in the city of Salehieh that served alcoholic beverages at the premises was sealed. The cafe owner and two of the customers of the cafe were arrested.”

Ahmadi further stated that arrests were made in addition to the cafe being sealed.

“The operator of the cafe and two of the customers were arrested,” he added.

He also warned that all cafes in Baharestan County are being closely “monitored” and “must comply with Sharia law.”

“We will not allow alcohol to be served in public places and cafes in the city under any circumstances,” Ahmadi stated. “If we find any violations, decisive action will be taken against the operators, as demonstrated by the recent closures of cafes for serving alcohol.”

The increased crackdown on alcohol consumption coincides with government efforts to enforce hijab rules

Additionally, on May 15, Asghar Jahangir, Iran’s judiciary spokesperson announced the arrest of a garden owner accused of producing homemade alcohol that poisoned some people. The garden was subsequently sealed, according to Entekhab News.

He added that 24 people were present at this gathering of which 6 were poisoned and 1 died as a result of consuming counterfeit alcohol.

Moreover, last year in July, Mohammad Yousefvand the Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Robat Karim County, Tehran Province, announced that five cafes had been sealed and four individuals were arrested. Yousefvand further stated that 6 individuals were killed as a result of consuming bootleg alcohol, and 22 people were poisoned in Robat Karim.

Individuals who breach the ban on alcohol are punished with lashings and monetary penalties. For those who distribute alcohol, the penalties are even higher with the possibility of capital punishment. In September last year, four men were sentenced to death for their involvement in counterfeit alcohol distribution which allegedly led to the death of 17 individuals.

Despite the ban and the recent heightened crackdown by authorities on cafes, shops, parties, and gatherings where alcohol is served or sold, Iranians continue to consume alcohol.

A survey by Iran Open Data in 2021 found that half of all adults in Iran regularly drink alcohol with homemade alcohol being the preferred choice.

Furthermore, a survey by World Health Organization in 2018, placed Iran in the 9th ranked among 189 countries for alcohol consumption per capita.

With bootleg alcohol consumption on the rise in Iran, some critics believe that hardliners are involved in widespread alcohol poisoning as they believe those who consume alcohol must be punished.

Nevertheless, with alcohol consumption unregulated and prohibited, Iranians lack safety measures for responsible drinking, leaving them vulnerable to the dangers of counterfeit alcohol which include poisoning, blindness, and death.