Golnar Nikpour

Golnar Nikpour

Neubauer Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center.


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Drugs and Drug Policy in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Confiscated Drugs

Golnar Nikpour
Middle East Brief 119, June 2018


After the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, Iran, which lies on drug trafficking routes from Afghanistan to Europe, experienced a dramatic increase in the number of drug users. Over the years, the Islamic Republic's response to the crisis has moved away from draconian measures, including capital punishment. Most recently, the country amended strict drug trafficking laws, paving the way for several thousand prisoners to have their pending death sentences reviewed and possibly commuted. In this Brief, Golnar Nikpour examines this change in sentencing laws as part of a broader societal and governmental rethinking of Iran’s approach to the growing epidemic of drug use in the country. Influenced by domestic public health NGOs and grassroots organizations, Iran’s official anti-drug policies and strategies have shifted from a zero tolerance ethos on drug use to incorporate harm reduction and addiction treatment models favored by medical professionals. More broadly, this demonstrates the extent to which the Islamic Republic’s legal and penal codes remain flexible and responsive to both international and domestic pressures, rather than static and simply driven by ideology.

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