Amid rising deaths from bootleg alcohol across Iran, heated discussions have erupted on Persian social media about who is to blame for the deaths.
Homayoun Sameyah Najafabadi, a member of the parliament’s health committee, claimed Wednesday that Iran’s consumption of alcohol is higher than the countries where drinking alcohol is legal, likely driven by poor social and economic conditions which lead people to find escapism through substance abuse.
According to a survey by Iran Open Data, half of all adults regularly consume alcohol despite the Islamic regime’s ban, homemade alcohol a common way to skirt the bans. In 2018, a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Iran ninth among 189 countries for alcohol consumption per capita in spite of its being banned since 1979.
“Unfortunately, we see that the consumption of home-made alcoholic beverages in the country is increasing day by day, despite the many advertisements about its health issues, and this is undeniable,” said Najafabadi, a physician representing the Jewish minority at the parliament.
During the past several weeks, about 30 people have been killed and 250 people have been hospitalized for alcohol poisoning in different cities in provinces of Tehran, Alborz, Mazandaran and Hormozgan due to the consumption of methanol, the toxic variant of alcohol in contrast to ethanol.
Earlier on Wednesday, Amir Ahmadi, a prosecutor at one of the cities in Tehran province, said that two more people died and two lost their sight due to methanol poisoning.
Najafabadi says authorities need a better strategy to counter the consumption of alcohol beyond simply the threat of legal action, not least, the dangerous home brews which if made badly, can be fatal.
While the bans only feed people's hunger for what's prohibited, he said there are other reasons behind the rising consumption. “We must think about why alcohol consumption in Iran is even more than in countries where consumption is legal," he said.
There have always been reports of such poisonings across Iran, but the recent wave is significantly more widespread and deadlier, leading to rumors and speculations that the poisonings have been orchestrated by hardliners, like the wave of poisoning of schoolgirls which has affected hundreds of students throughout Iran since last year.
According to Deputy Health Minister Saeed Karimi, since the poisonings began on November 30, at least 13,000 female students were taken to medical centers due to suspected gas poisoning, while the regime has not done anything to find the perpetrators and instead cracked down on students, parents and teachers who protested the acts and journalists who reported them.
Now the current wave of alcohol poisonings has prompted different scenarios among Iranians. While hardliners believe those who drink alcohol to be sinners and criminals who deserve to suffer the consequences, ordinary people blame the regime for the deaths, underlining that most of the people who have died could be treated if they were taken to hospitals in time, but they hesitate because they are afraid of the consequences.
According to Abbas Masjedi Arani, the head of the Forensic Medicine Organization, 644 people died across Iran due to alcohol poisoning in the previous Iranian year (ended March 20), indicating a 30-percent rise compared with a year earlier.