The perpetuity of every nation's civilization and culture is inseparably linked to science, wisdom, and knowledge. Expanding or narrowing these domains is highly related to book and book reading .If any nation follows education and learning it will undoubtedly guarantee its bright and developed future. The Iranian culture and civilization has deemed very lofty position for concepts like knowledge, book, wisdom, learnedness and education. Iranians in various periods of history especially centuries after the advent of Islam not only considered acquisition of knowledge their duty but also made strenuous efforts to put religious teachings into effect.
In November 2014, Iranian ministry of culture and Islamic guidance declared a public call for "Iran's Book Capital" with the aim of expanding cultural improvement, promotion of book reading and collecting people’s innovative suggestions and attractive programs about book and book reading. Of course the "World Book Capital" project is annually granted by UNESCO to a city which makes notable efforts to enhance the position of book and book reading. In the national project of choosing Iran’s book capital, a city should be introduced as Iran’s book capital that has qualities and is engaged in activities and measures related to book reading. In this project a series of programs, cultural activities related to book reading must be taken for at least one year and at most two years and all the authors, book sellers, publishers and activists of book domain should take part in the project. Moreover, it needs the cooperation of governmental organizations and NGOs related to book reading and presence of celebrities. Taking in to consideration the wide range of book devotees especially women and children is the main aim of this project and would be effective in nomination of global book capital. One of the aims of this project is trying to expand book reading .Furthermore, evaluation of the capacities and potentials of Iran’s various cities in the domain of book reading is considered as other aims of this project. The significant point of nominating book capital is that, once it is implemented, many regions with native cultures can offer their various plans which shape the basis of their lifestyle and this will strengthen subcultures.
While many cities with cultural and historical background took part and competed in the event Ahvaz was nominated as the Iranian book capital for the current year of 2015. Among the main reason for nomination of Ahvaz as the book capital was Khuzestan’s role in the domain of culture and knowledge, and effectiveness of the plans presented by Ahvaz secretariat. NGOs attendance in different parts of this project, people’s presence in the proposed plans, Khuzestan governor’s support and that of the national industries for the presented programs gave more momentum and significance to Ahvaz. In the plan for Iran’s book capital 63 cities attended out of Iran’s 22 provinces and after preliminary judgment panel based on the determined criteria, 5 cities were chosen as qualified and one city was nominated as Iran’s book capital. In this festival Gonbad-e Kavus, Neishabur, Yazd and Bushehr were awarded but it was Ahvaz that got the title of the Iranian book capital.
Global book capital is a title given annually by UNESCO since 2001 to the city which does its best to improve the status of book and promotes book reading. UNESCO's aim is to embark on implementation of cultural programs related to book and expand book reading. Each year UNESCO with cooperation of 3 international book centers nominates the book capital. These 3 centers are: International Publishers Association, International Booksellers Federation and International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Then the book capital assumes this title for one year from April 23rd (International Book Day) till April 22nd next year. Accordingly, this project was put into effect since 2001 and 15 rounds of this project were held. A short while ago ministry of culture and Islamic guidance signed an agreement with the UNESCO according to which each year an Iranian city will be titled as the book capital. This is a practice to make Iran ready for the next nomination of global book capital. Moreover, Iran is trying to submit the “bibliophile village” project to the UNESCO located in Paris so that the improvement of villages in the domain of book reading will be paid more attention and preparations be made in this regard. That's why 10 chosen Iranian villages were introduced to the first bibliophile village festival. These villages are located in the remote regions of Kerman, Yazd and Sistan-Baluchestan provinces.
Ahvaz is a metropolitan city and the center of Khuzestan province. It produces half of Iran’s oil and some of the industrial factories are situated there. With an area of 200 square kilometer it is the fourth largest city after Tehran, Mashhad and Tabriz and with a population of 1.1 million it is one of Iran’s most populated cities. The river Karun divides it in two eastern and western parts. Ahvaz is the pivot of transit which connects other parts of the country to the main important ports in the Persian Gulf.
The city of Ahvaz has played a key role in the cultural developments of Iran. The old Gondi Shapur or Jondi Shapur University was built during the Sassanid dynasty and was an important scientific center. Gondi Shapur was an old town located in the north of Khuzestan near the present day Ahvaz remnants of which can be seen today. The city was famous for its hospital and university. Books like Khoday-nameh, Kelileh va Demneh, Sandbad-nameh, Veis-o Ramin, Ayin-nameh and Taj-nameh were translated into Pahlavi from Indian, Syriac and Greek.
Ibn Nadim, an Iranian historian and bibliographer of the 4th century wrote: "The Sassanid king Ardeshir collected all ancient Iranian books from India and China and kept them in the treasury house. His son Shapur I followed his father and collected all the books translated into Persian. After the burning of libraries and books by Alexander, another library was built. The library of Khosrow I was built alongside a faculty in Jondi Shapur. He was famous for collecting books from remote regions of the world. Jondi Shapur was the best research center during the Sassanid dynasty. Many scientists congregated there and piles of books were translated into Persian upon the order of Khosrow I. In addition to this library there were other spacious and important libraries and every place like temples and hospitals and research centers had their own libraries. Jondi Shapur University was the largest cultural center. Students and professors would converge in this university. Traditional Indian, Iranian, Syrian and Greek medical methods were mixed and gave to the emergence of a new medical method. It is said that the works of Plato and Aristotle were translated into Pahlavi and taught in the University. Jondi Shapur played a significant role in transferring Greek, Iranian and Indian medicine to the Islamic world. This trend led to the fact that the first hospitals owed their structure and architecture to Jondi Shapur.