Alcohol Prohibition Fails in Iran

Iran’s parliament has voted to increase dramatically the punishments for alcohol makers and traffickers. The new law makes producers and dealers of alcoholic beverages subject to 74 lashes, fines and imprisonment for three months to one year.

Traffickers will also face up to two years in prison and judges are prohibited from giving suspended jail terms for alcohol crimes. State employees who violate the law also face suspension.

The new legislation followed a dispute over the serving of alcohol at a diplomatic function in Belgium. The speaker of Iran’s parliament forced his Belgian counterpart to cancel a lunch in his honor by insisting that no alcohol be on the table, even for the Belgians.

Alcohol prohibitionists around the world tend to be very intolerant, especially when the success of prohibition is threatened. During Prohibition (1920-1933) in the US, some prohibitionists suggested that those who drank should be:

  • hung by the tongue beneath an airplane and flown over the country
  • exiled to concentration camps in the Aleutian Islands
  • excluded from any and all churches
  • forbidden to marry
  • tortured
  • branded
  • whipped
  • sterilized
  • tattooed
  • placed in bottle-shaped cages in public squares
  • forced to swallow two ounces of caster oil
  • executed, as well as their progeny to the fourth generation.

Considerable evidence indicates that prohibitionists tend to be authoritarian, dogmatic and closed-minded.

Alcohol consumption is still widespread in Iran despite the prohibition imposed after the 1979 Islamic revolution. There is a large black market for alcohol illegally imported from neighboring countries and many Iranians also make their own home brews.


  • Iran cracks whip on booze trade. Gulf Times (Qatar), July 6, 2005; Sinclair, Andrew. Prohibition: The Era of Excess. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1962, p. 26; for other suggestions see Tietsort, Francis J. (Ed.) Temperance - or Prohibition? New York: New York American, 1929, ch. 8.