The Frankfurt Book Fair has said that "freedom of expression is non-negotiable", in response to the Iranian Ministry of Culture’s confirmed boycott of this week’s fair over the presence of keynote speaker Salman Rushdie.
Iran's deputy minister for culture and Islamic guidance, Seyed Abbas Salehi, last week asked FBF to cancel Rushdie’s appearance at the book fair calling it an "anti-cultural action”, Iranian state TV reported last Thursday (8th October).
Iran objects to Rushdie's presence at the fair after he was issued with a fatwa by Iran’s former supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, in 1989 for perceived blasphemy contained in his controversial 1988 novel The Satanic Verses.
Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, said: “We very much regret the Iranian Ministry of Culture’s cancellation. Frankfurt Book Fair is a place of dialogue. At the same time, we hope that this year’s cancellation is just a brief interruption in the existing conversations and that we can continue to expand on the established relationships. Nevertheless, for us, freedom of expression is non-negotiable. We must not forget that Rushdie is still being threatened with death for his work.”
At the end of last week, the Iranian Ministry of Culture told the Frankfurt Book Fair that it was cancelling the national stand planned for this year’s fair, citing the presence of the author Salman Rushdie at its opening press conference as the reason.
The presence of Iranian publishers in Frankfurt had been growing steadily in recent years. A handful of Iranian publishers will still be present at the Book Fair in Hall 4.0, Hall 3.0 (in the children’s book area, among others) and in the Gourmet Gallery in Hall 3.1.
Salman Rushdie is due to speak at 11am tomorrow (13th October).
The Frankfurt Book Fair has said it hopes for further dialogue with the Iranian Ministry of Culture.