There is much news coming out of Iran about the brave Iranian women resisting the restrictions imposed on their lives and work. Such news comes in the form of visual or artistic expression or public pronouncement. One of the latest expressions of such bravery is the interview of Farkhondeh Hajizadeh by Ilna News Agency. Hajizaden is a prolific author and the managing editor of Vistar Press. She speaks about her experience in book publishing [on Behalf of authors, the presses in Iran who must get a publication permit from the Ministry of Guidance for each book they intend to publish].
She starts by saying that: The process of growing censorship has reached a point that even the concept of censor does not apply to it. In a time when we all seem to be living in glass houses and have nothing left to hide, such approaches to book publishing is synonymous to a return to the Middle Ages.
Regarding two of her books, which have been determined "unpublishable" by the Ministry of Guidance, she told the reporter "I submitted to Negah Press my novel entitled The Hour 77… for publication about two years ago. During this period, every time I inquired about the status of my application from the Ministry, I was told that it is being processed. And then, the verdict came: "Unpublishable."
My other book, a collection of short stories along with their English translations, entitled Unconventional… met the same fate after one year of “processing” in the Ministry of Guidance.
In both cases, the only explanation I was offered for the rejection was the word "unpublishable." That is, the censor officers do not even care about offering a reason for the decision to reject a book.
I believe there was no reason for denying the permit for the publication of these books. And I have a reason for my belief. One of the calamities bestowed upon us in recent years is the phenomenon of 'self-censorship.' That is, authors have been forced to write their books in such a way that there would be no room for the inspectors' objection. In my writing, I experienced such concerns first hand as well, however, it seems that even self-censorship does not sufficiently describe the current state of affairs either.
We live in a period when many forms of media have embraced our life. Today, one cannot hide the truth from the people and prevent them from receiving a message. For example, it suffices for me to announce my news to four of my friends during a dinner party; the news will be soon broadcasted via a number of other media. I therefore repeat, in this time and under such circumstances, insisting on censorship and creating obstacles for physical publishing by the Book Bureau of the Ministry of Guidance, is an attempt to return to the Middle Ages [and ignore modern realities].
Though such conditions cannot last long, they do undoubtedly and negatively affect our readers, our art producers, and our culture in general.
The result [of these polices] is obviously the pacification of the writers. An incentive that compels an author to write despite all social and economical difficulties is the love and madness [for writing]. That is, any author wants to see the reflection of his or her work on readers. But when the books do not reach the readers, it is natural for the writers to become disappointed and isolated. In the long run, this process will create numerous victims in literary community by denying the authors the chance to be creative.
And there is also discrimination in the process. Some names have been crossed out by a red pen from the outset and never get the chance to publish. The censor officers are sensitive to such names. Their work does not go receive any serious consideration.
Nevertheless, I am still in the last stages of editing my latest novel; a 300-page book that does not have a title yet. Also, Ms. Pariya Latifi and I are compiling a dictionary of The World's Greatest Lovers; an original and enormous project. I am also finalizing a dictionary of proverbs and a collection of poetry whose fate [before the censors] I of course have no clue.
For the Persian texts of the report see: http://ilna.ir/newsText.aspx?id=228108
Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, "Censorship" In Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. 5, 135-142. Costa Mesa, Calif.: Mazda Publishers.
Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, "Authors and Authorities: The Censor as Reader of Literature in the Islamic Republic of Iran," Middle East Studies Association of North America, 1989.
Bahar, Sarvenaz.; Fellow Silberberg, Sophie.; Brown, Cynthia G., Guardians of Thought: Limits on Freedom of Expression in Iran (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993).
Shahriyar Mandani’pur, Censoring an Iranian Love Story [a novel] (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).Nasrin Alavi, We are Iran (London: Portobello Books, 2005).