Iran Revokes Publication Permit for Turkish Author Elif Shafak’s Novel

By Azadeh Karimi

Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has revoked the publication permit for a novel by the award-wining Turkish-British author Elif Shafak, who was shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize, according to Tehran Publishers and Booksellers Association (TPBA).

TPBA has informed all booksellers and distributors that publication permits for Shafak’s novel “The Bastard of Istanbul,” which was also printed under the title Sharm (‘Shame’), have been revoked, the Mehr News Agency reported on November 2.

Originally written in English in 2006, “The Bastard of Istanbul” was translated into Farsi by Farnaz Ganji and Mohammad Bagher Esmailpour and published by the Asim and Farhang-e Now publishing companies.

The book was also translated into Farsi by Saber Hosseini and published by Nimaj and Morvarid publishing houses with the title “Shame.”



Shafak is also an essayist, academic, public speaker, and women’s rights activist. She has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels, including the bestselling “The Bastard of Istanbul,” “The Forty Rules of Love,” and “Three Daughters of Eve.”

The authorities had previously banned the republication of Shafak’s last novel, “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World,” also written in English in 2019 and translated into Farsi by Ali Salami.

Shafak’s “The Bastard of Istanbul” tells the story of Asya, a young girl born out of wedlock who lives in Istanbul, and Armanoush, a 19-year-old Armenian girl living in Arizona who goes to Turkey in search of her roots. The novel delves deep into the history of the girls’ families and their connection through the events of the 1915 Armenian genocide.

“The book is important for having drawn attention to the massacres and the Turks’ ambivalence about them, and for what it has exposed about freedom of speech,” a review in the Guardian said in July 2007. “It is unquestionably an ambitious book, exuberant and teeming.”

“There is a moral putrescence peculiar to the denial of genocide. Yet denial’s practitioners are all around us,” the New York Times Sunday Book Review said on January 21, 2007. “It seems obvious that the Turkish novelist Elif Shafak smells the rot in her homeland.”

Shortly after the book’s publication, the Turkish government accused Shafak of “insulting Turkishness.” She could have gone to prison for three years for writing a work of fiction, but the Turkish government dropped all charges against her.

“Morvarid Publishing did not tell me anything about the ban. It is regrettable, and I do not know what to say,” the translator of the novel, Saber Hosseini, said in an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) earlier this month. “Another company also publishes the book. As far as I know, this was the fourth printing of the novel.”

“The book delves deeply into the emotional experiences and feelings of the Turkish and Armenian people about the slaughter of Armenians during World War I,” Mr. Hosseini noted. “Elif Shafak’s book has been translated into many languages since 2006. I cannot imagine why they want to ban the book.”

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]