Vol.59/No.22           June 5, 1995 
Thousands Turn Out For Tehran Book Fair  

TEHRAN, Iran - Despite the soon-to-be-implemented U.S. embargo against Iran, the Eighth Tehran International Book Fair opened here May 16 with 470 foreign publishers from 38 countries participating. Publishers from Cuba are participating in the book fair for the first time since 1990.

The book fair is a major cultural, educational, and commercial event in Iran and the whole region. Tens of thousands of people flocked to it on the first day. Opening the fair, President Hashemi Rafsanjani explained, "We believe it is beneficial to attract knowledge from abroad and that a cultural exchange of books will have a positive effect in the long run."

The government here has allocated 50 billion rials this year for subsidizing the purchase of books from abroad, most of which will be used by people buying books at the 10-day book fair at government-subsidized prices. Individual Iranians can get a card giving them permission to buy books up to a certain limit at subsidized prices, by showing their drivers license or similar identification.

At the exchange rate that operated three weeks ago (4,000 rials to US$1) the subsidy for books would be equivalent to $12.5 million. However, uncertainty over being able to complete trading contracts and over the strength of the Iranian economy in the face of Washington's proposed sanctions sent the rial plummeting in the foreign exchange markets. At its lowest level two weeks ago - 7,500 rials to the dollar - the purchasing power of the book budget would have been reduced considerably. The government has recently imposed a fixed rate of 3,000 rials to the dollar for all foreign exchange transactions.

Many publishers here oppose the U.S. moves and see their presence at the book fair as an indication of that opposition.

The largest publisher at the fair is the U.S. company McGraw-Hill, which has brought 60,000 books on medicine, engineering, chemistry, and other sciences to sell. Their representative, Behruz Neirami, said he believes the sanctions are unpopular among U.S. citizens as well as Iranians. "Nobody should be allowed to prevent the transfer of knowledge and cultural achievements to any part of the world," he told the English-language daily Tehran Times May 24.

The May 23 Tehran Times quoted Pathfinder representative Oygen Lepou, who also attended the Havana International Book Fair last year, as saying, "Cuban and Iranian people are very similar, they are both open minded, intelligent and confident people who get harsh treatment from the U.S.-We are told there is a lot of chaos in countries like Iran but when we come to Iran we see that people are just trying to make a living, which makes you think what all this propaganda is for."

Last year the book fair was attended by more than 1 million people. Estimates so far are that at least as many will attend this year, coming from all parts of the country - Turkmens from the northeast, Azerbajanis from the northwest, industrial workers from Esfehan and Arak, and students from as far afield as Tabriz and Shiraz.


Just as in the past three years, Pathfinder is being welcomed at the Eighth Tehran International Book Fair. Pathfinder is now a familiar name. "This booth smells revolution," said one student visiting the Pathfinder booth for the first time.

Many who bought Pathfinder books in previous years have come back looking for new titles. One doctor from a village near the town of Uromieh in the northwest (Azerbaijan) came back this year and bought Che Guevara: Economics and Politics in the Transition to Socialism by Carlos Tablada. A group of young men who bought To Speak the Truth - Why Washington's 'Cold War' Against Cuba Doesn't End by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara last year, came back to buy several more books on the Cuban revolution.

There is an increased interest in Pathfinder titles on national self-determination, particularly among young people who are Kurdish. The best-selling titles so far are New International no. 10, containing the article, "Imperialism's march toward fascism and war," and Evelyn Reed's Problems of Women's Liberation.

"Pathfinder is offering 200 titles of books and altogether 2,000 copies for sale, mainly on politics which are the writings of great philosophers, politicians and world leaders such as Carl Mar[x], Fidel Castro, Lenin, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, etc.," pointed out the Tehran Times in an article about the book publisher's participation in the fair.  
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