Police in Iran have started to clamp down on street book vendors in recent days, saying they reduce the profit margins of legal bookstores.
On a main Tehran street, where street booksellers traditionally display their selections on sidewalks, police on October 2 forced many to take their books and leave. Citizens began reacting on social media, condemning the police action.
Government-controlled media has begun defending the decision to ban street book stands, arguing that these vendors make more money than official bookstores.
But many say the real reason is the banned books offered by street vendors that regular bookstores are not allowed to sell. One example mentioned even by authorities is books about Iran’s monarchy, which the Islamic Republic is extremely sensitive about.
For a book to be published in Iran there is a lengthy authorization process, with government censors carefully reviewing the content and making notes of what pages or paragraphs break the regime’s ideological or political red lines.
The government also argues that street booksellers offer illegal copies of published books, which in some cases might be true, but they generally sell used books for lower prices.