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'Why Nations Fail' Among Works Seized At Tehran Book Fair

Iranian President Hassan Rohani attends the opening of the 28th Tehran International Book Fair on May 5.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani attends the opening of the 28th Tehran International Book Fair on May 5.

Several books have already been confiscated from one of Iran's largest cultural events, the annual Tehran International Book Fair, which kicked off last week.

They include Why Nations Fail, a 2012 treatise by Daren Acemoglu and James Robinson that examines why some nations are rich while others are poor, and argues that "it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success" or failure.

The book was translated into Persian by Mohsen Mirdamadi and Mohammad Hossein Naimipur and published in Iran last year. Mirdamadi and Naimipur, both members of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, were among dozens of political activists and intellectuals jailed following the disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in 2009 and the state crackdown on opposition members.

They reportedly translated and edited the book during their time in a general ward of Tehran's Evin prison, which for decades has housed a political prisoners' block.

Iranian media said police offered no reason for seizing the book from the fair, which runs from May 6-16 and draws some 500,000 attendees daily.

A book of poetry by Fatemeh Ekhtesari was also confiscated. RFE/RL's Radio Farda reported that officials justified that ban by citing the use of some of the book's poems by controversial Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi. Najafi, who lives in Germany, has been accused of insulting religious sanctities.

An examination of the life of the founder of Iran's post-shah Iranian republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- A Critical Introduction To Khomeini, edited by Arshin Adib Moghaddam and published by Cambridge Press -- was reportedly also confiscated.

Censorship has been a regular facet of the Tehran International Book Fair, where in past years dozens of books -- some published with the permission of Iran's Culture Ministry -- have been confiscated and publishing houses banned from attending.

ALSO READ: Getting Past The Censors In Iran

The booth of the Hayan publishing house, run by blogger and establishment critic Mehdi Khazali, who's been detained by Iranian authorities a number of times, was shut down. Officials were quoted by domestic media as saying Khazali's publishing house, which specializes in medical literature, hasn't published a sufficient number of titles in recent years to be represented.

On the other hand, the respected Ney publication house, which has been banned for years from the fair, is participating at this year's event, according to the BBC.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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