"Flirting" grocer causes riot

A judge in Iran, thinking a man is flirting with the judge's wife, arrests him and sets off a melee.

By Jack Boulware
Published August 4, 2000 7:30PM (EDT)

All of us flirt to some degree as we go about our lives. A lingering smile, a wink, a witty comment can make the day fly by much quicker. No need to take the encounter any further. We get to feel frisky without any unpleasant consequences; it's a game and if everybody knows it, nobody gets hurt.

Unfortunately, one flirtatious encounter did not go well this week for a grocer in Iran, in the provincial town of Qir. His alleged flirtation with a married woman escalated into pandemonium, when young people rioted in the streets, burning cars and setting fire to the police station.

According to Iranian newspapers, the chaos began last Sunday when a judge and his wife went shopping at the local bazaar. A grocery shopkeeper allegedly flirted with the wife, which irritated the judge enough to order the immediate arrest of the man. The grocer was taken away and detained for several hours, the daily Bahar newspaper reported, during which time he was beaten up.

Shopkeepers closed down the bazaar in Qir to protest the arrest of their fellow merchant. Angry youth took the objection further and hit the streets, setting various official buildings ablaze, including the courthouse, a police station and the district government's office. Despite the torchings, there were no injuries.

A local official explained that the riots were triggered because the government -- a traditional conservative body embracing family values -- ignored a complaint from the public about the arrest. The public obviously knew more than the arresting officials did in this instance. Judiciary chief Hossein-Ali Amiri later admitted to reporters the entire scenario had been a "misunderstanding" between the judge and the grocer. The grocer was actually cross-eyed, and the judge took his wandering eyes to mean he was flirting with his wife.

Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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