Newsbrief: Iran Wants to Ban Water Pipes 7/2/04

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Iranian authorities have targeted hookahs, or water pipes, as part of a crackdown on immorality, Reuters reported last week. While Iranian police said the ban was part of an effort to ban smoking in public, other officials suggested it was a move by religious police to prevent any slippage in the country's strictly enforced public morality.

The water pipes, which are used to smoke fruit-flavored tobacco (sometimes sprinkled with hashish by adventurous young people) in a convivial social setting, are ubiquitous, not only in Iran, but across the Middle East. Hookah cafes (not serving hash) have even opened in US cities ranging from Pittsburgh to San Diego in recent years.

"According to Health Ministry directives, the ban on water pipes will be implemented," said Health Ministry official Hassan Azaripour. Restaurant owners and patrons faced fines if caught puffing, he added.

International Anti-Drugs Day activity in Tehran, Iran, 2001
But apparently some hookahs are more equal than others. According to Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, his agents would not be targeting traditional eateries where hookahs are de rigeuer. Instead, he said, they are targeting mingling of the sexes in cafes and clubs and women who flout strict Islamic dress codes. "Of course we will be rigorous in dealing with the promoters of vice and fornication," he said.

According to Reuters, restaurateurs in a tourist zone north of Tehran were packing their pipes into boxes last week. But in an old-style restaurant in central Tehran, diners continued to suck on the hookahs despite the supposed ban. When asked by Reuters why authorities had banned the pipes, a waiter there tapped his finger against his temple. "They are mad," he said.

The waiter's boss, restaurant manager Iraj, agreed that the ban was misplaced. "It is not vice," he said. "People are scared of these men who quote the Koran to make law, but vice is not in external things like water pipes. Vice is in your own heart."

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Issue #344, 7/2/04 Editorial: Under Its Own Weight | Supreme Court Ruling Portends Massive Changes in Federal Sentencing -- Thousands Could Benefit from Reduced Sentences, Early Releases on Appeal | Federal Judge Declares Sentencing Guidelines Unconstitutional | Supreme Court to Hear Federal Government Appeal in California Medical Marijuana Case | International Anti-Drugs Day Marked by Executions in China, "Revolutionary Justice" in India, Silly Stuff Elsewhere | DRCNet Book Review: "Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000" by Martin Torgoff (Simon & Schuster, 2004, 474 Pages, Notes/Bibliography/Index, $27.95) | Newsbrief: Bill Introduced in Congress Would Mandate Ten Years to Life for Some Marijuana Sales | Newsbrief: New Jersey Needle Exchange Battle Continues | Newsbrief: Iran Wants to Ban Water Pipes | Newsbrief: European Drug Agency Punctures "Not Your Father's Marijuana" Myth | Newsbrief: North Carolina Supreme Court Settles Dispute, Declares Cocaine Possession Is a Felony | Media Scan: Ethan Nadelmann in National Review | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar
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