Iranian Translator Refuses Book Award To Protest Against 'Irrational' Censorship

An Iranian mathematician and philosophy lecturer has rejected his award for the country's book of the year "in protest at censorship" in Iran.

Kaave Lajevardi said in a post on his blog on March 15 that he informed officials of his decision after being named as the joint winner of the prize for his translation of John Locke's book "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding."

Lajevardi, who studied at the University of Toronto but returned to live in Tehran, said that while his book had not been subject to censorship, that "does not prevent me from seeing the terrible dominance of censorship in publishing" and "the violation of the civil rights of translators, authors and publishers."

"By my own decision, I do not accept this particular award in order to challenge more broadly than ever before the very common and completely irrational and possibly illegal censorship routine...of which the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance is one of the main custodians," he said in his post.

The publication of any artistic or cultural work in Iran, including books and films, is done only with the permission of the ministry or other government institutions.

Lajevardi said the ministry can demand changes to a work, including the removal of phrases and whole sentences, "without any obligation to give any rational or legal reason."

"And sometimes they order something that might be worse than deletion: they make the publication conditional on the translator or publisher saying in the subtitle that the author is wrong or that he or she is clearly in error," he said.

"I believe that, in principle, the publication of books and magazines should not require government permission -- I find it unjust and unreasonable to require the government to prepublish the work, even if there is a clear and explicit law on it that has been democratically enacted," he added.

Iran's Book of the Year Awards, considered the country's most prestigious book award, is handed out annually for categories including religion, social sciences, language, applied sciences, art and literature.