The condition of culture in Iran is moving towards what can only be described as a ‘state of emergency.’ This report, published by Small Media in 2011, addresses some of the major concerns in the fields of literature, cinema, theatre and music in Iran by examining the reactions of audiences and practitioners to the policies of the increasingly conservative Iranian government.
Open publication: Cultural Censorship in Iran – published Small Media, London, 30 June 2011
The report is organised into four sections: literature, film, theatre and music.
The comparative brevity of the third and fourth sections attest to how restricted these artforms are in Iran. Commonalities abound: the arbitrary pre-review process that a work of art (be it a book, film, play, concert or musical recording) must go through before it reaches the public domain is both stringent and arbitrary, the government uses state-controlled media to its own advantage and cracks down harshly against artists and practitioners when it believes an act of subversion has occurred. And, as books are removed from shelves, shops are closed, albums are kept from public distribution, critiques of films digress into libel of an extremely personal nature, and crucial characters are culled from plays, Iran’s artists are becoming increasingly frustrated and disillusioned.
Excerpt: “Out of all of the art forms, music has been the most harshly repressed due to its historically controversial status within Islam and its association with the attempts made by the shah to westernise Iran. Although classical, traditional and folk music have been permitted for many years, the government is now cracking down on all forms of music in order to exert complete control. Again, they are attacking those who they believe are in support of the Green Movement. Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Iran’s most famous and most liked classical Iranian musician, has been used and abused by the Iranian government. When it suits them, they have used his music both for prayer and propaganda, however, following his dissatisfaction with the authorities after the 2009 elections, they have prevented the distribution of his album. The pre-review process is stringent for theatre, cinema, books and music, however a process that used to take Iran’s most famous musician no longer than two months, has now lasted more than a year. With no imminent release date for his album, Shajarian, like many of Iran’s musicians, turned to alternate means such as the internet and foreign distribution companies in an attempt to have his voice heard”.