Vice Squad
Friday, October 29, 2004
You Know Things are Not So Great...

...if your country gets its smuggled goods from Iraq. But, well, that's the way things are in Iran, according to this AP story at Smuggled good of choice: alcohol:
For the past three years, Farshid Karimi has earned his living smuggling goods and dodging border guards.

The 23-year-old was drinking a cold beer at an Iraqi bar on a recent evening, taking a short break before carrying 60 bottles of whisky into Iran. With his baggy, Kurdish-style pants tucked inside his socks so he wouldn't trip while climbing the region's mountains, Karimi had already carried his load two hours.
The risks are considerable:
''I am afraid of encountering Iranian soldiers who would chase me and might shoot at me for carrying liquor,'' he said as he sipped his beer. ''Or I might wander on the road and end up stepping on a land mine'' left over from the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
Is the risk worth it? Adam Smith thought that smugglers were not exactly rational: "The most hazardous of all trades, that of a smuggler, though when the adventure succeeds it is likewise the most profitable, is the infallible road to bankruptcy. The presumptuous hope of success seems to act here as upon all other occasions, and to entice so many adventurers into those hazardous trades, that their competition reduces the profit below what is sufficient to compensate the risk." Karimi has had to deal with the risks in most unpleasant terms:
Alcohol is illegal and considered sinful under Iran's strict Islamic laws. Lashing is the usual punishment for drinking in Iran and traffickers can end up in prison.

Last year, Iranian soldiers caught Karimi in a border ambush. He was jailed for one year and given 80 lashes in public. His back was covered in blood and he could not sleep on it for a month, he said.
I understand that in barbaric Iran, alcohol is not the only illegal drug. But what other goods are so unavailable in Iranian towns near the border that the goods have to be smuggled from Iraq? The linked article mentions plates, cups, china, tea, sugar, and rice.

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