Iran to censor word ‘wine’ to stop ‘Western cultural onslaught’

© Victor Fraile
Iran’s Culture Ministry has outlined new censorship guidelines aimed at scrapping the word ‘wine,’ as well the names of foreign animals and certain foreign presidents, from books published in the Islamic Republic.

“Words like ‘wine’ and the names of foreign animals and pets, as well as the names of certain foreign presidents, are also banned under the new restricting regulations,” said Mohammad Selgi, the head of book publishing at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. He added that the ideological viewpoint of clerics must be taken into account when a permit is issued for a book to be published.

The initiative presupposes that each new book should be scrutinized by the ministry’s staff to make sure editorial changes are made “in line with promoting the principles of the Islamic Revolution [of 1979]” and to counter the “Western cultural onslaught and any insult against the prophets,” according to Selgi.

The move is aimed at protecting Iranians from what the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, calls the “cultural invasion” of the West.

“The extent of the cultural invasion of the arrogant [Western] powers encompasses all the countries in the world, but the most important target of this invasion is the system of the Islamic Republic,” Khamenei said back in 2011, speaking to Iran’s High Council for the Cultural Revolution.

The decision comes just a week after Iran’s Culture Minister Ali Jannati implied there may be a softening-up of the approach to censorship, saying “society must be open to people to speak their minds.” He also said that “in the past many books were banned from publication for unfounded reasons.” with nearly 8,000 new books being published in the country last year.

Social media users were slightly puzzled, commenting on the enforcement of the measure and questioning the common sense of Iran’s rulers.  Some indicated that perhaps the most complex problem in imposing the guidelines would be how to avoid using the word itself  in the decree. 

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Middle East expert and blogger Karl Sharro  poses the same question.

Twitter user Isabella Kerr noted that the Persian poet and philosopher Omar Khayyam, who praised the benefits of good wine, may also fall within the restriction. His famous saying reads: “Drink wine. This is life eternal. This is all that youth will give you. It is the season for wine, roses and drunken friends. Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

Sabina Ahmed is also unsure if the measure will bear fruit.

Before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran, a renowned and ancient producer and exporter of wine, could boast a thriving wine-making industry, with about 300 wineries functioning around the country. 

READ MORE: Iran bans US consumer goods

The ban on alcohol introduced in the wake of the revolution failed to root out the culture of Iranian wine-drinking. Last year, reports emerged that the Iranian Health Ministry intended to set up 150 treatment centers to deal with domestic alcohol abuse.