Grape juicing banned at Tehran fruit market to halt home winemakers


(LONDON) — An Iranian judiciary banned grape juicing at Tehran’s central fruit and vegetable market on Wednesday. Grape juicing refers to the process of making grape juice in Tehran. Residents buy large amounts of grapes ranging from 120-150 kilograms, which translates to almost 350 pounds, from the local fruit market.

The move is the latest attempt to prevent people from making wine at home during the grape season. Tehran’s fruit and vegetable contractors’ union, however, says the judiciary’s decision was meant to redirect the business owners back to their “authorized licenses.”

Banning alcoholic beverages was one of the first decisions made by the religious officials of the Islamic Republic after the Islamic Revolution took over Iran in 1979. As a result, liquor stores, pubs and bars were closed throughout the country, bottles were removed from the shelves and alcohol was removed from menus. Since then, alcohol consumers have been pushed to secretly make their own beverages and rely on illegal smugglers while risking harsh punishments.

“It is such a ridiculous and desperate move to ban grape juicing,” said Ramin, a 42-year-old Tehran-based writer, who used a pseudonym so he could freely express his ideas. Ramin makes his own alcoholic drinks, such as red and white wine, Roku gin, spiced rum and vodka. “It will be more hassle. But those who have been making their own drinks can’t be stopped by this,” he added.

An Iranian lawyer told ABC News that based on the Islamic Republic judicial regulations, the punishment for consuming alcohol when arrested for the first, second, and third offenses is 80 lashes. “The sentence for the fourth arrest is execution,” the lawyer said, who did not want their name to be disclosed for security reasons.

“Banning the fruit and vegetable market from juicing the grapes is yet another form of punishment the regime is inflicting on us for our participation in the past few months of revolution,” Ramin said, referring to the Mahsa Amini movement in which hundreds were killed and thousands were arrested amid protests ignited by the death of Amini in police custody.

Amini had been arrested for allegedly not fully obliging to wearing the mandatory hijab. “Just like the hijab law, the ridiculous ban on grape juicing is set to remind us who the boss is in public places,” Ramin said.

Explaining the importance of the public space for the regime, Ramin said consuming alcohol in public, or “seeing signs that prove alcohol is made and used in the country” is something the regime tries to prevent to prove its power by simply banning it.

Lack of access to standard products has led to several alcohol consumption crises in Iran. The most severe cases happened in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 600 people died after consuming poisonous products instead of normal alcoholic beverages, the judiciary spokesman said. The surge happened as the misinformation spread false claims on how alcohol could create immunity against the COVID-19 virus.

In one of the rare comments made by the Islamic Republic officials, the deputy minister of the interior minister said in a conference in January 2022 that at least “nine to 10% of 15- to 64-year-old people” drink alcohol, as ISNA reported. It means that “more than five million people” out of the 80 million population of the country consumed alcohol every year,” according to the ISNA report.

Reacting to the deputy minister’s comment on alcohol consumption, Mohammad Reza Ghadirzadeh, social worker and addiction treatment specialist, told Roozeno the real statistics might be different, as consuming alcohol is considered a “taboo” in the country.

“Because earning any money by making, distributing or smuggling alcohol is considered as black money, there is no transparency or data on it or even on crimes related to it,” the Iranian lawyer told ABC News.

“What do we do now? We’ll bring those grapes home and juice it ourselves in big buckets with a group of friends over a weekend,” Ramin said. “It is more hassle, but it is more fun and gives us a better-quality wine,” he added.

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