For roughly 30 years Iran has been in the throes of a culture war, as leaders have attempted to beat back creeping Westernization, especially among the youth. The latest salvo occurred on Sunday when the Iranian judiciary sentenced two men to death for drinking alcohol—the first time the death penalty has been imposed for such a crime.
Drinking alcohol has long been illegal in Iran. But when perpetrators are caught, they typically face fines or flogging. The men in question had been arrested twice before for drinking.
"The regime … has lost its popular base,” said Shirin Ebadi, a human-rights lawyer and a 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
“It wants to … frighten people and force them to obey the unfair laws of the Islamic Republic."
Iran’s culture war has long been a delicate dance. Analysts say that authorities typically arrest a few people who listen to banned music or sport Western hairstyles. Then they turn around and tolerate similar tastes and behaviors among the general public, for fear of causing widespread unrest; more than half the country is under the age of 35, and young Iranians in particular are fond of Western culture.>>>