TEHRAN, Iran -- The Muslim clerics who set out 14 years ago to rid Iran of the decadence of secular Western culture are fighting a losing battle against a host of black marketeers who provide everything from music videos of Madonna to novels by Emile Zola.
The tapes of banned Iranian singers and Western pop stars, especially female soloists, are sold under the counter or out of the trunks of cars.
Worn copies of the prohibited works of authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Milan Kundera, who deal with the intricacies of human relationships, are passed hand to hand.
And Western movies, from "Dances With Wolves" to hard-core )) pornography, are peddled door to door by legions of distributors.
The subterranean network has unleashed a government campaign, which includes the threat of a 10-year prison sentence to any distributor, to curtail the spread of the books, cassettes and especially the videos.
"Videos," reads a government poster, "is an invitation to prostitutes from the East and West to come into your living
room." And the government newspaper Salaam warned recently that the video trade was "the means by which America is trying to kill our revolution."
Abbas Maroufi, whose literary magazine, Gardoun, was shut down by the government last September after it began to question state censorship, said: "The Iranian revolution was first and foremost a cultural revolution. This is why the clerics are so concerned about the pervasion of Western culture and so frightened of intellectuals. Intellectuals and artists are constantly peeling away the layers of belief systems to disclose contradictions and ambiguities, and this is something the religious leaders cannot allow. It questions the basis of their authority."
Many Iranian intellectuals argue the availability of banned cassettes, videos and books is so widespread it cannot be controlled.