by Jay Sheets
On October 27th, the Associated Press published an article on how two Iranian poets, Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi, were recently detained, interrogated, and ultimately sentenced to prison for their work which “insulted the sacred,” and, “[acted as] propaganda against the state.” They were also sentenced to 99 lashes apiece for shaking hands with members of the opposite sex. Both poets have the right to appeal and are currently free, but are facing 11 ½ and 9 years in prison, respectively. The full story can be read here.
From Mousavi’s Facebook page:
“I and Fatemeh Ekhtesari were prevented from leaving the country this morning and our passports were confiscated. We do not know the reason… Why have I been facing problems for years to hold a literary workshop and even classes to teach rhyme and meter? Why are our books banned despite taking care to select the poems and passing the censorship of the poet, editor and publisher? Why should the oppositionist swear at me for writing war poetry and the pro-regime activist swear at me for have read a rumour about me?... I have been often in the same conditions as the artist who killed themselves after years of failing to obtain permission. Do you know how many times I have thought about death? What is the body of an artist worth when their soul is tortured and killed?...”
PEN Center USA has taken an active approach to this injustice by sending a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, along with starting a petition on their website.
PEN Center USA:
“On Monday, November 2, 2015, more than one hundred of the most prominent names in poetry, including Robert Pinsky, Claudia Rankine, Billy Collins, John Ashbery, and Tracy K. Smith, sent a joint letter with PEN American Center to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, urging him to nullify their conviction and harsh sentencing. Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center, said, "It is not often that poets join together in a blunt political statement, but this sentence is an affront not just to governments or advocates, but to all who understand that without creativity a culture and society cannot thrive."
Please take a moment to support PEN Center USA’s cause and sign their petition which calls on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally quash their sentences.
Thank you for reading.
Image courtesy of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran