January 15 2011 12:01AM
The Iranian regime yesterday issued a bizarre and belated denial of reports that it had banned the books of the acclaimed Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho.
The denial came after criticism from the Brazilian Government, one of the few countries that the regime has good relations with, and a decision by Coelho to post Farsi translations of 17 of his books on the internet. “Copy, share, print and distribute freely,” he invited Iranian readers. Coelho is popular in the Islamic republic. His books have been published in the country since 1998 and have sold about six million copies. He was greeted by hundreds of fans when he visited Tehran in May 2000.
He is less popular with the regime, however, as he has befriended and defended Arash Hejazi, the doctor who was the managing director of his Iranian publishers, Caravan.
Dr Hejazi fled to Britain after he was filmed trying to save the life of Neda Agha Soltan, the student who became a global symbol of the regime’s barbarity when she was shot dead during a demonstration against President Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in Coelho hits back at Iran as regime denies it has banned novelist 2009.
The regime closed Caravan down last year. Last week Dr Hejazi was told by a contact in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance that “no book that has Paulo Coelho’s name on it will be authorised to be published in Iran any more”.
Dr Hejazi said: “It seems that Paulo Coelho is paying the price of speaking up about me.”
Coelho not only drew attention to Dr Hejazi’s plight after the film of Ms Soltan’s death went viral, but has written a foreword to his friend’s forthcoming book, The Gaze of the Gazelle, in which he calls her shooting an “unspeakable crime”.