President’s Office Demands State TV Apologize After Cleric Says Rouhani Smokes Opium
Alireza Moezi, a deputy to President Hassan Rouhani’s Chief of Staff, has criticized Iran's state television Thursday for airing a program in which a cleric accused Rouhani of using opium. Moezi said that the program was an “insult” and a “shameful fiasco,” and that Rouhani’s office expected a prompt and frank reply from the broadcaster, which is under the supervision of the Supreme Leader’s office.
Unlike alcohol, opium is not prohibited by Iran’s religious laws and many, including clerics, smoke it as an aphrodisiac or relaxant. But its use might be considered self-indulgent, especially in a president, and long-term users can become slothful.
The cleric, Ahmad Jahanbozorgi, had charged on the state television's Channel 4 that “an official…sits at his home possibly smoking opium and even his cabinet ministers cannot reach him.” Reminding viewers of a former culture minister who said he drank donkey’s milk, Jahanbozorgi quipped that many other officials did the same.
The video clip of the television program and Jahanbozorgi making his statement is widely circulating on social media.
Moezi, who administers Rouhani’s social media accounts, insisted that the president's office would follow up the case at the highest level. Tempers are rising in the run-up to June’s presidential election in which Rouhani will be ineligible to stand for a third consecutive term. But guilt by association might damage any Rouhani ally who does stand, while allegations of opium-smoking might also dampen speculation over Rouhani as a contestant in due course to replace Ali Khamenei, 81, as Iran’s Supreme Leader.
Opium use has a long history in Iran and is widely smuggled from neighboring Afghanistan. According to a 2015 report by the Tasnim news agency, which is linked to Revolutionary Guards, Iranians consume 460 tons of opium and methamphetamine every year. A 2020 report put the figure for opium consumption alone at 2 tons per day.