January 12, 2011

Paulo Coelho banned in Iran


Paulo Coelho

In a move 13 years in the making, Iran finally got around to banning Paulo Coelho‘s books.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Coelho made public the status of his books on his blog. In the post, Coelho quotes an email from his Iranian editor that reads: “I was informed today that the Ministry of Culture and ‘Islamic Guidance’ in Iran has banned all of your books.”

Arash Hejazi

Though Coelho goes on to say it was “an arbitrary decision,” this article in the Guardian suggests otherwise. As it turns out, Coelho’s Iranian editor is Arash Hejazi, an outspoken critic of the current regime and a participant in the protests against the government following the fraudulent elections of June 2009. More importantly, Hejazi can be seen in this now-famous video trying to offer help to Neda Agha Soltan while she’s dying from a gunshot wound suffered during  a violent crackdown on protesters by police. Neda’s death offered a spark to the Green Movement (to which she continues to serve as a symbol and inspiration), and it’s likely that the government’s move to ban Coelho’s books was meant as a warning signal to the movement.

Coelho links to an essay posted online by Hejazi in which he details the byzantine and mind-boggling reasoning and methods of the Iranian government’s censorship. I’ve quoted a relevant excerpt below but I highly recommend you go to his site and read the whole thing:

I was informed two days ago by someone I know in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance of Iran (unfortunately I cannot disclose the person’s name for their security) that they have an order to ban all of Paulo Coelho’s books in Iran, and no books having Paulo Coelho’s name on them as their author will be authorized to be published in Iran any more. I was told that they have been ordered to contact the publishers that have published Paulo Coelho’s works and have ask them to return the prepublication permissions to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance of Iran. This is despite the fact that all of these titles have previously received permission to publish from the same Ministry.

Last year, after the Presidential Election in Iran and my testimony on the circumstances of Neda Agha Soltan’s murder, I had to leave Iran for my own security, and shortly after, Caravan Books, the only official publisher of Paulo Coelho, at which I was the managing director, was shut down by the order of the Ministry of Culture. They did not even approve the new managing director of Caravan Books, and therefore Caravan has gone defunct, just because I bore witness to a horrible crime, committed by the pro-government militia.

Now it seems that Paulo Coelho is paying the price of speaking up about me in that incident. He was one of the first people who identified me in that heart-breaking video, trying to save the young woman’s life. After shutting down Caravan Books, now it seems that the government of Iran is turning against Paulo Coelho’s books.