Iranian authorities announced last Friday, 22 June, that the reason they shut down a prominent publishing house in Tehran was due to its ‘promotion of homosexuality, incest, and sexual relations between men and women outside marriage’.
On 8 June, Iranian officials decided to permanently shut 'Cheshmeh' (Spring in Persian), one of Iran’s leading publishing house, particularly respected in the country’s literary, academic, and intellectual circles.
The initial explanation to the government’s withdrawal of Cheshmeh's license was that some of their books offended religious beliefs.
However, on Friday, 22 June, Bahman Dorri, the deputy minister at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance told Iranian media that the charges against the Cheshmeh publishing house goes beyond offending religious beliefs and includes cases of ‘promoting homosexuality, incest, and immoral sexual relations.’
According to Dorri, the content of some of Cheshmeh's books were so graphic that 'even the censorship officers were ashamed to review the books.'
In response, Hossein Alizadeh, from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Comission (IGLHRC) stated: ‘The decision of the Iranian government to close down Cheshmeh is a perfect example of how the sodomy law and anti-lesbian gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) hysteria harms the entire society, including intellectuals and members of civil society who are simply interested in examining the issue of homosexuality.’
Gorji Marzban, Iranian LGBT activist and Chair of the Oriental Queer Organization, based in Austria (OQRA) differed in his understanding of the significance of the ban: ‘In fact this ban is not an LGBT-related issue. There are eight different publication houses that have been banned by the government, of which Cheshmeh is just one.’
‘The Iranian authorities have acted like this repeatedly; say that the books include different amoral passages and so on. The government of Iran has even banned the publisher of Paulo Coehlo due to one romantic novel featuring an Iranian and Iraqi couple who commit adultery.
‘The act of banning publishers is an act against freedom of media and speech, but not really LGBT-related. There is not even one single book in Iran published about homosexual relationships.’