The Iranian


email us

US Transcom
US Transcom

Sehaty Foreign Exchange

    News & views

Iran's 20-year culture war draws to an end

By Jonathan Lyons

TEHRAN, March 13 - Iran's Islamic government has honoured prominent writers in a public ceremony that marks a political about-face from two decades of official hostility toward the country's secular intellectuals.

Reformist newspapers on Saturday featured front-page coverage of Ataollah Mohajerani, the liberal minister of culture and Islamic guidance, handing out prizes for literary achievements since the 1979 revolution to secularists who not long ago were vilified, harassed and even murdered. (Read news in Persian)

The recognition follows last year's string of "mystery murders" of at least four writers and nationalist politicians, later blamed on rogue elements in the security services.

Among those honoured at Thursday's ceremony was novelist Mahmoud Dolatabadi, long relegated to the sidelines of official Iranian culture as a pro-western stooge.

"This marks a turning point because they are now paying attention to people who have not been listened to for the past 20 years," writer Houshang Golshiri told Reuters. "All we have seen in the past 20 years are curses."

The Zan daily, close to moderate President Mohammad Khatami, hailed the event with a banner headline: "A new era in Iranian literature begins with reconciliation between writers and the government."

The culture minister, himself a target of conservative critics of Khatami's political and cultural reforms, said writers had to feel secure in order to realise their creative talents.

"Our effort is to allow writers in this country to be able to work in a quiet atmosphere and to be creative," state-owned Iran daily quoted Mohajerani as saying.

"But it is natural that we live in a system that has characteristics well-known to our writers," he said in an oblique suggestion that restrictions on intellectual life were unlikely to vanish altogether anytime soon.

The ceremony appeared to mark the public reversal of two decades of official persecution of cultural figures seen as less than supportive to Iran's Islamic system, backed up a recent decision to allow the resurrection of the pre-revolutionary Writers Association.

It was in that spirit, said Dolatabadi, that he and his fellow writers accepted their prizes.

"I feel a sense of responsibility toward this trend toward freedom, individual and social rights and negation of violence," the author, who was not present at the ceremony, said in a message.

"I accept the prize and I thank you." Dolatabadi offered his prize to the families of Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Pouyandeh, two of the victims of the mystery murders that shocked the nation and eventually brought down the conservative-backed minister of intelligence.

Mohajerani said the new atmosphere surrounding the arts would promote better work by Iranian artists. The rehabilitation of the Writers' Association has drawn fire from conservative elements.

A commentary in the hardline daily Kayhan said Mohajerani's ministry was irresponsible in allowing the group to be reconstituted.

"With the help and support of the culture ministry, the writers association has once again surfaced. Among it members are a bunch of people linked to the former regime and to anti-revolutionary currents. These are people who have no ties to the masses," the newspaper said.


Copyright © 1997 Abadan Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved. May not be duplicated or distributed in any form

 MIS Internet Services

Web Site Design by
Multimedia Internet Services, Inc

 GPG Internet server

Internet server by
Global Publishing Group.