Unicorn Sighting in Iran – Just Where Did Rory Stewart Find That Opium?

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Rory Stewart has apologized for smoking opium in Iran some 15 years ago. I do not usually dwell on these sorts of things and I am not going to spend much time about it here either but since the matter seems to come up quite frequently I thought I’d say a quick word about it.

Mr. Stewart says he smoked opium at a wedding. It is important to note that Iran is a vast country and despite common belief it is a melting pot of many different cultures and ethnicity. Fars, Turk, Kurd, Arab, Baluch, Gilak, etc. and they all have their own languages and accents and traditions and religions. Smoking opium is not acceptable in any of them these days. Yes, there is a history of opium use in certain parts of the country, including the royal court if you go back a hundred years ago but nowadays opium is frowned upon by the society and is not commonly used or celebrated anywhere.

I have been to many weddings of all kinds in Iran and I have never seen anyone smoking opium in any of them. I assure you, in a country as dry as Iran, even if someone decides to have a drink or two in a wedding, they would go to a designated room and get back with a smile. I’m not sure if the readers are old enough to remember “Yes Minister” but they had got it right; in an episode called “The Moral Dimension” Jim Hacker went to the imaginary country of Kumran, which easily could have been Iran. The Minister, not looking forward to “five hours of orange juice” suggests that a communications room be set up near the reception, which contains illicit liquor. He then receives calls from Mr. Haig, Mr. Walker and the likes during the party and visits the room and get top-ups. Yes, that is how it is done. If the wedding is big enough, that is usually the only way to avoid problems.

So, Iran is hated enough, one can get away saying anything about it these days but I assure you, we are not passing around pipes in our weddings, or community meetings for that matter. That is not what we do here in Iran, and for a foreign official to stumble upon a situation like that, in my estimation, is comparable to a unicorn sighting.

I would say, he is either very lucky or quite gullible to be caught like that. There is also a third possibility; he might be a politician. Attributing the mistake to a set of unlikely circumstances that had more to do with a less than developed environment than his free will as a grown man.

Thank God for his constitution and physical resilience, though, which even the Middle East could not shake, let alone affect. Yes, he might be a politician.

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Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

I have seen opium smoking in Iran, although admittedly not in public nor at a wedding. Behind middle class closed doors bank tellers, students and even their lecturers partake. A small, but presumably potent, ball of black gold can be exchanged for a few packets of American cigarettes. Not all opium consumption is combusted, in mountainous villages poppy heads are boiled with milk and honey, the resulting concoction is used to quieten a colicky infant, to sooth menstrual pain or ease a geriatric’s arthritis. Plunging cleavages, skimpy underwear and off the butt mini-skirts can be found under many a chador.… Read more »

Mohamad Machine-Chian
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Mohamad Machine-Chian

Fair enough.

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

I completely agree that Stewart’s claim/admission is politicking.

No doubt he calculates that by presenting himself as being a bit of a rebel he will gain more support and publicity than would have been the case had he kept quiet.

I’ve met his type before, international sector burocracts turned politicians, past experience suggests that he is unfit for high office.