This is why the regime has been cracking down on every kind of artistic or cultural expression that is not deemed sufficiently Iranian and Islamic. Artists, filmmakers and actors, academics, intellectuals and authors – they are all suffering the heavy-handed oppression of the Iranian regime.
The regime seems to believe that the “soft war” is the true threat to its stability. Not a direct military attack, but rather a “quiet revolution” supported by the West. Therefore, it attempts to instill the “pure” Islamic values in the Iranian people (and to “export” these values abroad as well), while leading a never-ending campaign against anyone that is thought to be a propagator of a different culture.
The policies of cultural oppression are created by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance (MCIG) and the High Council for Cultural Revolution. Their goal is to put the values of Islamic culture – as defined by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini – into practice, and protect the Islamic Revolution from what they call the “cultural onslaught” on Iran.
The MCIG decides what Iranians can wear, what schoolbags their children may use (Barbie is out!), what they can read, what movies and TV shows they may watch, and even how they should cut their hair.
MCIG decisions are enforced by the various Iranian security forces – mainly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and the Ministry of Intelligence, but also the Judiciary and the prison system.
Many Iranian artists and intellectuals who managed to incite the anger of the regime found their works banned or censored; they themselves have been persecuted, and some of them were imprisoned. There are many stories, many of them are unknown, I chose to share a few examples:
- Cinema – Iranian film-makers need the MCIG permission before shooting, and all artistic productions are subject to vetting before release. For celebrated filmmaker Jafar Panahi, the regime did more than just censor his works. He has been jailed for three months this year over an “unauthorized” film about the post-election unrest amid a crackdown on critics and opposition supporters. On May 16, Panahi has gone on a hunger strike to protest abuse in jail as well as continuous threats against his family members.
After his release, Panahi said, “Sometimes I feel that the mere thought of writing a film can be a crime
here, just the idea that to do so may be penalized. It may even be enough to go to jail.”
- TV – Foreign films and TV shows must be in line with Iran’s Islamic values in order to be approved for broadcast. Of course, most western TV shows are not in line with these values. A channel that dares to broadcast popular Western movies should be prepared to face harsh criticism about cooperating with Iran’s enemies. Lately, Jahan News slammed the Iranian Channel 5 for broadcasting Steven Spielberg’s “ET” and James Cameron’s “Abyss,” dubbing them “Zionist Cabalist Hollywood movies.”
- Books – As with films, the contents of books must be pre-approved by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. A book or an author is either completely banned, or edited to become in line with the regime’s ideology. Hundreds of writers, poets, historians, and thinkers – foreign and Iranian alike – are banned or censored in Iran. Not only Iranian work is the target of these censorship policies, many internationally renowned works of literature that have been censored or banned in Iran. The recent Tehran International Books Fair (May 2010) has also seen its share of censorship. Unwelcome subjects and titles removed from the fair included:
- Documentation of the Holocaust
- Books about the Baha’i faith, Budahism and Zen.
- Works of late pro-Reformist Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, Ayatollah Beheshti and Grand Ayatollah Yusuf Sanei.
- Music – Iran’s Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has recently announced that “promoting and teaching” of music was “not compatible with the highest values of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic.” His comments came two months after Iran’s Education Ministry announced a ban on musical education in private schools.
Due to the numerous regime-enforced limitations, many Iranian youth that are drawn to Western culture have found refuge in Iran’s underground culture. The regime, of course, is trying to act against this “poisoning of the youth’s minds,” and against the adoption of the “degenerate” Western values.
Iranian security forces raid underground parties organized by young people, and arrest the participants. In state-run media, these parties are usually described as licentious events, where young people drink alcohol, listen to forbidden music and watch “inappropriate and immoral” movies.
Intellectuals and academics have also been under increasing pressure by the regime in recent years.
Reformists insist that professors are now being appointed for their willingness to support the government line rather than for their academic qualifications. Shortly after the 2009 disputed elections, a wave of politically motivated layoffs, or forced retirements, has been imposed on university lecturers throughout Iran.
One insubordinate lecturer who paid the price for his views is Hadi Hakim Shafaei. In August 2010, a Revolutionary Court imposed a three-year sentence on Shafaei, a lecturer of literature at the Bojnurd University, who had been arrested during the crackdown on academics who joined the post-election protests.
However, the regime is not only working against individuals but against entire fields of knowledge. Just a few days ago we’ve seen Iran restricting social science studies in all major universities. Iran is now trying to restrict studies of all western related professions such as law, philosophy, etc.
From all of us at Giyus.org here is for freedom to the Iranian people – may they find their way out of the regime’s oppressive darkness.