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IRAN: Book fair bars sex, of any sort

May 1, 2008 |  8:55 am


No sex allowed. Not even consensual sex between a wife and husband.

That was the message this year before today's start of the Tehran International Book Fair.

The fair first sounded like a book lover's dream: 200,000 titles  on an enticing variety of topics put on display for those with a voracious appetite for reading.

But fans of steamy romance novels were sorely disappointed.

Here's what Saffar Harandi, Iran's Mnister of Islamic Guidance and Culture, told reporters a few days ago:

If a book is describing the private life of a man and a woman in their domicile or their bedroom, or even worse, discussing their extramarital affairs, and is openly talking about sexual intercourse, then it is obvious that it will not be published.

He also reminded writers to self-censor their books about other topics if they want to be published in Iran, where literature undergoes rigid vetting before appearing on shelves.

He said no books will be allowed that challenge religion or the Islamic Republic's strict moral codes

The book fair includes 50,000 titles from Iran in addition to books from 74 countries. And foreign books must also respect Iran's "religious, moral and national" sensitivities.

Mohsen Parviz, an Iranian culture ministry official, acknowledged past mistakes in letting books through the vetting process. "Every year we have to remove some foreign or Persian books from the shelves because they were not compatible with our established Islamic and national values," he said.

But the heightened censorship imposed by authorities since conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 has angered publishers in Iran.

The Iranian Student News Agency, cited by Agence France-Presse, reported griping from publishers. "The publishers complained about the lack of a clear law to define the red lines, revoking of publication permits and books being lost when submitted for screening," the report said.

— Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: A scene from last year's book fair in Tehran. Credit: Official website

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