04/12/2007, 00.00
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Ahmadinejad attacks the Tehran book fair

by Dariush Mirzai
Forces linked to the President of the Republic aim to limit the country’s most important cultural festival, which was a traditional point of contact with the international community. The grip of state censorship tightens.

Teheran (AsiaNews) – The isolation strategy being imposed by forces al lied to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are targeting the Tehran International Book Fair.   It is Iran’s most important cultural event and traditionally offers opportunities for contact among young people and the wider international community.  It is also the most important festival in its field in the entire Middle East and Asia.  


The twentieth edition, due to take place from May 2nd through to 11th, is under attack from Ahmadinejad’s government: to maintain the “Islamic” purity of Iranian culture, censorship is no longer sufficient now international ties must also be limited!  This is why the Ministry for culture and Islamic orientation has decided to split the fair in two, one site for the Iranian publishers, (the construction site of the mega-Mosque, in the process of being built) a separate site for foreign publishers (on the original site).  The official reason for the decisions ecological: the need to limit the flow of traffic linked to the exposition, which draws millions of visitors.  In reality, however the decision seems to be primarily aimed at controlling who visits the international fair and to make contacts between Iranian authors and foreign publishers more difficult.  


In attempts to further discourage foreign visitors, entry fees have been drastically increased for them (and only for them) coupled with this the organisation is more chaotic and unpredictable than in previous years. “Enough!” is the reaction of many foreigners – a logical and understandable reaction; the reaction Ahmadinejad’s team was aiming for.   


“Enough”, because Iran is already one of the worst countries in the world for breaking copyright laws, because it’s policy of censorship slows down translations, more often betraying the original text (with absurd modifications) if it doesn’t prohibit their publication entirely.  Everything perceived to go against “moral order”, “Islamic values”, the interests of the “Islamic Republic of Iran” (such as writing the Arab-Persian Gulf) and anything which encourages “animosity, racism, Zionism, superstition” is banned.  But the west is not the only target: just a few days ago, 16 books from Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon were forbidden by Iranian authorities: they will not be allowed to be presented in the International section of the Fair.  

The cultural isolation of Iran, a young and traditionally open to the wider world, is on the increase.  And not only due to UN sanctions.  Protests such as those of the international publishers and more prudent Iranian demonstrations do not make a great impression on the Islamic ideologies of those who are in power in the land of Avicenna, Saadi and Hafez.

Beside the Koran, the cult of the so called “martyrs” and the glorification of nuclear ambitions have become the “cultural” priorities in Iran.  Leaving many young people with few alternatives: video-clips and feuilleton, often debilitating, broadcast via satellite in Farsi from Los Angeles.


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