The city of Maku, Iran, reels in the aftermath of a severe health crisis. Three individuals have lost their lives, succumbing to alcohol poisoning from consuming illicit bootleg alcohol, and twenty others lie hospitalized at Fajr Hospital, grappling with similar symptoms. In a significant crackdown, Iranian authorities have now apprehended four suspects, accused of selling the deadly counterfeit products, marking another dark chapter in Iran's battle against its burgeoning underground alcohol market.
A Ban, a Black Market, and a Bleak Reality
Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran has imposed a stringent ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol. Despite this prohibition, a massive clandestine trade in bootleg beverages flourishes. Many of these products are dangerously adulterated, often with toxic methanol, giving rise to a public health issue of alarming proportions.
The Human Cost of Counterfeit Alcohol
The recent fatalities in Maku are not isolated incidents. Iran's forensics institute reported a chilling statistic: In the year leading to March, 644 Iranians succumbed to counterfeit alcoholic beverages, a stark 30 percent increase from the previous 12-month period. At the height of the Covid pandemic in 2020, a false belief that bootleg alcohol could serve as a remedy for the virus led to the deaths of at least 210 Iranians.
An Uphill Battle and a Call for Action
While the authorities continue their relentless pursuit of these illegal operations, the severity of the problem is underscored by a recent case in September. Four individuals were sentenced to death for their role in peddling bootleg alcohol that resulted in 17 fatalities. As the wave of alcohol-related deaths sweeps across Iran, the nation is compelled to confront the underbelly of its prohibition policy and the devastating human cost it entails.