Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Banning Books in Iran

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Iran's publishing industry has been subjected to strict new regulations that have prevented thousands of books from being published. As the article makes clear, these new restrictions are merely part of a broader assault on intellectual freedom by the Ahmadinejad/Khamenei regime:

Censors are reportedly blocking the publication of a book by a giant of Iranian literature, novelist Sadegh Hedayat.

Renowned Iranian novelist Mahmud Dolatabadi said in late October that publishers should respond to the pressure by asking to be excused from publishing. He said writers should withhold their works, rather than seek publication.

Fellow novelist Ali Ashraf Darvishian says that he and many others have decided not to submit their books to the Culture Ministry for review.

"I can name the titles of 4,000 books that are currently awaiting permits," Darvishian says. "Some of the writers and poets publish their books outside Iran or on websites. This has put a lot of pressure on the publishing industry; some [publishers] are facing bankruptcy or have gone bankrupt. Many booksellers have changed jobs."

Journalist Emadeddin Baghi recently complained in an open letter to Culture Minister Saffar Harandi that about six of his books have been banned. Most of them deal with human rights issues, such as the situation inside Iranian prisons or the death penalty.


Baghi tells Radio Farda that he thinks the ban is retaliation for his investigation into dissident killings in the 1990s, or his association with dissident Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri.

"They have prepared a list of writers whose books should not be published -- some because they are laical and [officials] believe their books could lead to the propagation of secularism, some because of their antiestablishment stances," Baghi says. "The truth is that I'm neither known as being laical nor have I taken antiestablishment stances. The main cause of sensitivity could be over the issue of chain killings of intellectuals, which was covered in the press; I wrote the first article about it. Another reason could be my old ties with Ayatollah Montazeri."

The publishing restrictions have coincided with what writers charge is a government crackdown on freedom of speech in Iran.

Iran's writers association said earlier this week that censorship has reached a new peak in Iran. The association warned that that Iran's cultural community will not remain silent.

(Emphasis added-DD)


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