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Wednesday, February 12, 2014


by B.Z. Niditch

Iranian poet Hashem Shaabani was executed January 27th by order of President Hassan Rouhani for “waging war on God,” “spreading corruption on earth,” and “questioning the principle of walayat al-faqih” (the Rule of the Jurisprudent.) A statement by Freedom House on February 5th condemning the execution said Shaabani was severely tortured and interrogated over the three years he remained in prison. It stated that Shaabani’s death illustrates Iran’s continuous violent repression of ethnic minorities.

Responding to the execution, Human Rights Voices writes: "To those who knew him, Hashem Shaabani was a man of peace and understanding struggling to extend spaces of individual freedom within the despotic Khomeinist system… In one of his letters from prison, made available to use through his family, Shaabani says he could not have remained silent against ‘hideous crimes against Ahvazis perpetrated by the Iranian authorities, particularly arbitrary and unjust executions.’ He adds ‘I have tried to defend the legitimate right that every people in this world should have which is the right to live freely with full civil rights. With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.’"

Shaabani was founder of the Dialogue Institute, which worked to promote an understanding of Arabic culture and literature in Iran. He was 32. --Liberal America, February 10 2014

Today we are all Shaabani
no capital death sentence
for a poet's conviction
has been commuted
instead by his own voice
for justice
he was executed
from inky windows
of an icy prison
accused of helping
the Arab minority
and waging a war
on god in Iran
Today we are all Shaabani,
for over his pale shoulders
under staggered clouds
in a veil of farewell
on a crude dawn
we heard a call
of his name
and a bell sound
from his anonymity,
survivors may read him
to honor his famed poetry
we will freely outlive
his cold murderers
and those who try
to erase his memory.

B.Z. Niditch is a poet, playwright, fiction writer and teacher. His work is widely published in journals and magazines throughout the world, including: Columbia: A Magazine of Poetry and Art; The Literary Review; Denver Quarterly; Hawaii Review; Le Guepard (France); Kadmos (France); Prism International; Jejune (Czech Republic); Leopold Bloom (Budapest);  Antioch Review; and Prairie Schooner.  He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.