Iran Human RightsIran clamps down on coffee shops

Iran clamps down on coffee shops

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The Guardian: They have become a haven for modern bookworms everywhere – a place to combine a love of the written word with the pleasures of cafe society. The Guardian

Robert Tait in Tehran

They have become a haven for modern bookworms everywhere – a place to combine a love of the written word with the pleasures of cafe society.

But now the trend of opening coffee shops inside bookstores has fallen foul of the authorities amid a general clampdown on social and intellectual freedoms.

Four bookshops in Tehran this week closed their coffee shops after receiving a 72-hour ultimatum from Amaken-e Omoomi, a state body governing the retail trade. The order has led to the closure of the cafe in one of the city’s best-known bookshops, Nashr-e Sales, which has hosted reading sessions by writers, including the Nobel prize-winning Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk, and become a popular meeting point for literary types.

Amaken justified the closures by declaring that the coffee shops constituted an illegal “mixing of trades”. However, critics suspect the move is aimed at restricting the gathering of intellectuals and educated young people.

The reformist newspaper, Etemad-e Melli, pointed out that Ahl-e Ghalam, a bookstore linked to the culture and Islamic guidance ministry, had been allowed to keep its cafe. “When we pointed this out to the authorities, their argument was that just because other people make a mistake doesn’t mean you have to repeat it,” one bookshop owner told the Guardian.”We are trying through our trade association to find a remedy.”

The closure order comes amid an offensive against liberal trends by the Islamist government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which has included the banning of western books.

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