Signs of change in Tehran at ‘world’s biggest book fair’

Censorship persists but there are fewer prohibitions this year at event that draws 500,000 people daily from across Iran: The Guardian

Tehran international book fair

Visitors at the Tehran international book fair in 2011. Photograph: Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua Press/Corbis

On a warm spring day in Tehran, against a backdrop of roses, fountains and the snow-capped Alborz mountains, hundreds of thousands of people have gathered for what organisers bill as the world’s biggest book fair.

In every direction are colourful literary and academic displays, poetry readings, impromptu book groups, schoolboy choirs singing popular and religious songs, Spider-Man face-painting, living statues, coffee shops and ice cream, and enormous, buzzing crowds of visitors.

There are conscript soldiers, morality police, daring young women with headscarves pulled back almost behind their ears, periodic calls to prayer broadcast from the Mosallah grand mosque (mostly unanswered), and above all, tens of thousands of books of every description, from novels to policy papers, presented on 7,000 stalls and booths by about 3,000 publishers and exhibitors.

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