Today’s Guardian reports that 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.
Newly banned books include Farsi translations of Tracy Chevalier's best-seller 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 had completed six print runs in Iran and earned hefty profits for its local publisher, Cheshme.
The crackdown also covers classics, such as William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, and scores of works by Iranian authors, including all works by Sadegh Hedayat, a pre-revolutionary novelist and commentator whose books are renowned in several European countries. His short novel, the Blind Owl is a masterpiece. Some Iranian writers have vowed to withhold future books for publication.
The clampdown has been headed by the hardline culture minister, Mohammed Hossein Saffar Harandi, a former revolutionary guard and close ally of Mr Ahmadinejad. Opening Iran's national book week festival this week, he 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 Mr 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-chairman of the parliamentary culture committeea said: "Due to cultural indulgence necessary supervision over artistic and cultural works did not take place."
The rise in book censorship mirrors repression in other spheres. In September the reformist newspaper Shargh was closed after publishing a cartoon depicting President George Bush, disguised as a horse, debating with a donkey under a halo, widely seen as representing Mr Ahmadinejad. The publishers launched a replacement newspaper, Rouzegar, but it was ordered to close after five days.