An Iranian citizen journalist, who writes under a pseudonym to protect her identity, wrote the following article on the ground inside Iran.
“He has been known as a symbol of success for a long time and has inspired millions around the world.”
This sentence refers to Donald J. Trump, the frontrunner Republican presidential candidate. It appears on the first page of a translation of his 2007 book Trump 101: The Way to Success, which can be found in many bookstores along Tehran’s Revolution Avenue.
The book was published during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, but it is not the only title by Trump available in Iran. I visited bookstores on Revolution Avenue and other Tehran neighborhoods and found that, from 2010 to 2015, at least six books by Donald Trump received publication permits from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Trump might be a presidential candidate now, but for a long time, he was well known as a successful and wealthy businessman who taught others how to get rich by reading his books. Persian translations of his books are available, including Why We Want You to be Rich: Two Men – One Message; Trump: Think Like a Billionaire: Everything You Need to Know About Success, Real Estate, and Life; Trump 101: The Way to Success; and Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life.
The covers of some of these books show Trump in a suit and tie with a serious and determined look on his face. One of the covers resembles a campaign poster more than anything else.
Revolution Avenue is one of Tehran’s main thoroughfares. The main campus of the University of Tehran, the oldest university in the country, sits on on its north side. Booksellers Row is located opposite the campus, on the south side of the street, and has been for a long time. In 1979, the street was the main site for protest marches against the Shah, leading to his eventual downfall and the establishment of the Islamic Republic.
Most of the bookstores feature display racks dedicated to books on how to get rich, how to be successful or how to run a business. In addition to the Donald Trump titles, browsers can find translations of works by the billionaire Warren Buffet, the motivational speaker and writer Dr. Spencer Johnson and businessman and self-help author Robert Toru Kiyosaki.
It’s easy to find Trump’s books. Every general-purpose bookstore on Booksellers Row has at least a couple of his books in stock, or has only recently run out of them.
“That Crazy Guy?”
I purchased four of Trump’s books from four different stores. But only one bookseller in all of the stores recognized who he was. When I uttered the author’s name, the bookseller smiled and said, “You mean the same crazy guy who is running for the president of the United States?” Then he stopped smiling and added, “But don’t look at him that way. He is a big business brain and is very successful.” He then proceeded to search “Trump” on his computer and said he normally stocked three books by him, but that two of them were sold out and only one was currently in stock. Guided by the computer, he located the book on the shelves, pulled it out and handed it to me. The price? Less than $10. Though really, the price is inconsequential, since because Iran is not a signatory to international copyright conventions, the “Master of the Deal” will not see a penny of the translated works.
When I mentioned the name of Donald Trump in other bookstores, or asked for a book by him, no one else responded in any particular way. They simply searched on their computers for what was on offer, told me the name of the book and its price. After taking the money, they put the book in a bag and gave it to me. That was all.
The lack of response was a little surprising, of course, because these days you cannot escape hearing or reading about Trump, his provocative statements or his weird behavior, from demanding that women who have abortions be punished to making fun of the disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.
Donald Trump has mentioned Iran a few times throughout his campaign and in debates with his competitors. In a speech in October 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida, he made a reference to Iran and the nuclear agreement. “We’re going to re-negotiate that horrible deal with Iran,” he announced. “We’re giving them $150 billion. It’s insane to give them money, we shouldn’t give them anything.” He promised his audience that, if elected, he would get rid of the agreement. He also said that when a friend makes a bad deal and he is in trouble, he buys his company, fixes it and sells it back to him at higher price, which makes both parties happy. Any deal must have something for both sides, but Trump told his supporters this was not the case with the nuclear deal with Iran. It was a deal he was going to fix, he said.
Statements like these have not escaped the attention of Iranian politicians and the media, especially hardliners like Hossein Shariatmadari, the managing editor of the daily newspaper Kayhan. Like Trump, they are against the nuclear agreement, and relish the opportunity to publish his vitriol.
Farzaneh Edrisi, citizen journalist, Tehran
This article was originally published on March 20, 2016