GOL-ĀQĀ, a weekly satirical magazine founded by Kayumarṯ Ṣāberi which first began publication on 23 October 1990. The circulation of Gol-āqā soon reached over “100,000 copies a week; a remarkable success” (Geraldine Brooks, “Hot New Satirical Magazine Reflects a New Glasnost: Judge Blood Not Amused,” The Wall Street Journal October 1, 1991, p. A1). The name “Gol-āqā” was first used as a pen name by Ṣāberi in his highly popular regular satirical column for the daily newspaper Eṭṭelāʿāt (q.v.)from January 1985 to October 1990. A number of comical characters appear regularly in Gol-āqā,including Šāḡolām, Ḡażanfar, Mamṣādeq, Kamina (Mamṣādeq’s wife), and Gol-nesā, the most important and popular of them being Šāḡolām. In August 1991 a monthly magazine with a similar name, Gol-āqā-ye māhāna, was also begun. In March 1996, this monthly magazine was reorganized andgiven a new direction, becoming the first satirical magazine in Persia to cover satire from a literary point of view. A series of yearbooks (sāl-nāmas) have also been published by Gol-āqā since 1993.

Gol-āqā began its publication in a new era in postrevolutionary Persia marked by a quick succession of important events: the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, the death of Ayatollah Khomeini a year later in June of 1989, and, shortly afterwards, the election of the powerful speaker of the Majles, ʿAli-Akbar Hāšemi Rafsanjāni, as president. These events set the stage for the emergence of a new centrist and more moderate faction in the Islamic Republic. Gol-āqā was conceived and published at this juncture with moral and financial support from the establishment as an outlet to vent and defuse the discontent created by the excesses of the revolution and the war. It began its publication with the help of the veterans of the highly popular satirical weekly Tawfiq which was closed down in the early 1970s because of its critical stance towards the previous regime. Gol-āqā’s appearance, its format and cover and back pages, and the organization of the various sections are all closely copied from Tawfiq. A number of Gol-āqā’s editors had served as Tawfiq’s associate editors, including Ṣāberi, Mortaża Farajiān, and Hušang Meʿmārzāda. They were joined by several well known satirists and caricaturists from Tawfiq, including Abu’l-Qāsem Ḥālat, ʿOmrān Ṣalāḥi, Abu Torāb Jali, Moḥammad ʿArabāni, Manučehr Eḥterāmī, Moḥammad Purṯāni, Moḥammad-ʿAli Guyā, and Maḥmud Givi.

Only the non-clerical members of the political elite are picked out by Gol-āqā for its satirical observations and can become the butt of its humor and comical sketches. It refrains from criticizing the main political issues, limiting its acerbic comments to everyday difficulties of the people. Since the mid-1990s, with the rising popularity of journals associated with the reformist movement, and the appearance of political satirists prepared to challenge the above-mentioned unwritten rules, Gol-āqā’s circulation has decreased sharply.


Originally Published: December 15, 2001

Last Updated: February 9, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 1, p. 62