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New Iranian Censorship Purge Effects Works Featuring Lyrics From Queen, Black Sabbath, Guns N' Roses

By Newsferatu, Writer
Friday, November 17, 2006 @ 12:28 AM


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From Mail & Guardian Online:

Dozens of literary masterpieces and international bestsellers have been banned in Iran in a dramatic rise in censorship that has plunged the country's publishing industry into crisis.

Companies that once specialised in popular fiction and other money-spinners are being restricted to academic texts under a cultural freeze instigated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Several thousand new and previously published works have been blacklisted by Iran's culture and Islamic guidance ministry, which vets all books.

Newly banned books include Farsi translations of Tracy Chevalier's bestseller Girl With A Pearl Earring and Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, the latter for upsetting clerics within Iran's tiny Christian community. Chevalier's novel has completed six print runs in Iran and earned hefty profits for its local publisher, Cheshme.

Another publishing house has been banned from selling a successful series of books featuring lyrics by THE BEATLES, ROLLING STONES, THE DOORS, BLACK SABBATH, QUEEN and GUNS N' ROSES. Stores were told to remove the books or face closure. Permission was subsequently denied for the publisher to reprint.

The crackdown also covers classics, such as William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, and scores of works by Iranian authors.

Publication rights have been withdrawn for The Cock, a novel by Ebrahim Golestan, an Iranian writer based in Britain, and for all works by Sadegh Hedayat, a pre-revolutionary novelist and commentator whose books are renowned in several European countries. Some Iranian writers have vowed to withhold future books for publication.

Some bans are being imposed under fresh rules requiring renewed permits for previously published works. Crisis talks between Iran's publishing union and the culture ministry have failed to ease the situation. "We have books on psychology, history, politics and folklore which have been sitting for nine months and still no answer," a senior executive with Cheshme told the Guardian.

The clampdown has been headed by the hardline Culture Minister, Mohammed Hossein Saffar Harandi, a former revolutionary guard and close ally of Ahmadinejad. It follows a relative thaw during the eight-year presidency of Ahmadinejad's reformist predecessor, Mohammed Khatami.

One publisher said on Thursday: "Culture ministry officials told us that during the reformist period the government went to excess and permitted books which ruined the atmosphere."

Opening Iran's national book week festival this week, Saffar Harandi said a tougher line was needed to stop publishers from serving a "poisoned dish to the young generation". He said some books deliberately gave Iranians a sense of inferiority and encouraged them to be lackeys of the West.

"We have complaints against those who see books as only a market and are acting as assistants for evil," he said. "Sometimes the humiliation of Iranian youth is implied or suggested in the books. Sometimes the media transmits the concept that we Muslims and easterners lack proper means and, therefore, we should stretch our hands towards others."

His comments followed the publication of a parliamentary report that attacked Khatami's presidency for creating what it said was a climate encouraging immoral behaviour, sex before marriage, mockery of religious traditions and secularism. One of the report's authors, Javad Aryianmanesh, vice-chairperson of the parliamentary culture committeea said: "Due to cultural indulgence necessary supervision over artistic and cultural works did not take place."

However, publishers say many books are being banned arbitrarily. "We had adapted to the previous policy but now that is annulled and they are imposing their own personal taste," said Mohammed Ali Jafarieh, head of the Sales publishing house. "Publishers are being hurt. We rely on multiple print runs to make a profit but if these are being denied we cannot make any money."

The rise in book censorship mirrors repression in other spheres. In September the reformist newspaper Shargh was closed after publishing a cartoon depicting United States President George Bush, disguised as a horse, debating with a donkey under a halo, widely seen as representing Ahmadinejad. The publishers launched a replacement newspaper, Rouzegar, but it was ordered to close after five days.


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