Iran’s Artists in Peril

Dear Folks,   

Well today we finally have  some lovely sunny weather, and after drinking plenty of cups of subsidized EU coffee, I am ready to write and tell you about a shocking turn of events regarding the poetess and writer Simin Behbahani, who is one of Iran’s great literary gems.   

Here is what the BBC reported:    

Simin Behbahani, 82, said she was about to fly to France when her passport was confiscated at Tehran airport.The human rights activist has written poems in support of the opposition campaign against disputed elections in June last year.   

Last week Iran detained international award-winning film director Jafar Panahi and members of his family.”The moment I was due to get on the plane, a man came and took my passport away from me and said that I was banned from going abroad,” she told the BBC’s Persian service.   

They questioned her for hours asking questions and then ordered her to appear before a court, she said. She was on her way to Paris to present a paper on feminism and read a poem at conference. Mrs Behbahani is close to the Nobel Peace Prize winning human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who has been living in exile since elections in June.   

Supporters of reformist figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi say that the elections in June were rigged in favour of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian protest movement has developed into the biggest challenge to the government since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Thousands of people have been arrested and dozens killed.   

Opposition supporters have faced increasing pressure from the authorities, with some hardliners labelling them as “mohareb” – enemies of God who can be sentenced to death under Iran’s Sharia law. At least nine have so far been sentenced to death and two people have reportedly been hung.   

Ít seems that Iran has slipped out of the media spotlight of late, and it is so important that Iran’s leaders should not be given the luxury of apathy from the outside world. It is vital that everything is done to bring pressure against a regime which has no right to exist in its present form. Iran’s artists and writers need our support because they are extremely vulnerable at this time, and we owe it to them to show our solidarity.   

Simin Behbahani

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