Iran shuts reformist paper for interviewing opposition poet

Editor says publication of an interview is not a plausible justification for banning a newspaper.

Iran's leading reformist daily newspaper was ordered to shut down again on Monday, less than three months after it was allowed to resume publication, the newspaper's editor said. While the government said the daily Shargh, or East, was closed down for interviewing an opposition poet that disputed Islamic views on relationships between the sexes, the paper's editor said this was an excuse to silence one of few remaining reformist voices in Iran. "An interview with an anti-revolutionary figure, who is famous for promoting anti-morality materials, is the main reason behind the closure of the paper," said Ali Reza Malekian, a Culture Ministry official, according to the official IRNA news agency. But Ahmad Gholami, the editor of Shargh, said this was a pretext to silence the most vocal reformist paper in Iran. "Publication of an interview is not a plausible justification for banning a newspaper," Gholami said. Saghi Qahraman, an opposition poet, said in the interview published Saturday that men should play a bigger role in household activities like taking care of children, and that gender boundaries should be made less strict in Iran. Such positions are deemed to be against hard-line interpretations of Islamic rules imposed in Iran since the 1979 Revolution that brought Shi'ite Muslim clerics to power. The paper apologized to readers in its last edition on Monday for having run the interview with Qahraman, a female poet who is reported to live in Canada. Many of the writers in Shargh are well-known reformists who have seen their newspapers banned one after the other in the past seven years by the hard-line judiciary. The newspaper closures came amid a confrontation between reformers and hard-liners during the tenure of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who was replaced by hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. The judiciary has shut down more than 100 pro-reform newspapers and jailed dozens of editors and writers on vague charges of insulting authorities.