February 12, 2014
Poet Hashem Shaabani executed in Iran
by Julia Fleischaker
Iranian poet and human rights advocate Hashem Shaabani was executed in Iran on January 27. According to reports, an Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal sentenced the poet, and 14 others, to death, for the crimes of ‘waging war on God,’ ‘spreading corruption on earth,’ and ‘questioning the principle of velayat-e faqih’ (the rule of the jurisprudent, Iran’s system of vesting supreme power in an unelected cleric).”
A story on Al Jazeera notes that President Rouhani, who won the national election in June 2013 and took office in August, “promised to follow a ‘path of moderation’ in international affairs and to ease restrictions on civil liberties…But from the time of his inauguration in August to the end of 2013, more than 300 people have been executed, according to a figure tallied by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre (IHRDC).” Moving into 2014, Amnesty International has said that 40 executions were carried out in the first two weeks of the year.
Shaabani, an Ahwazi (Iranian Arab) was in prison for 3 years, having been arrested in 2011 for being a Mohareb, or “enemy of God.” According to Freedom House, Shaabani, the founder of the Dialogue Institute, which promoted understanding of Arabic culture and literature in Iran, was subjected to severe torture during his incarceration. It’s widely believed that torture led to his 2012 confession, on state-owned Press TV, that he was guilty of “separatist terrorism.”
According to Amir Tehiri, writing on Asharq al Awsat, much of Shaabani’s poetry is apolitical. “One of his odes is Homage to Karoun, Iran’s largest and only navigable river; in another poem he speaks of ‘the blonde sun of Khuzestan.’” Shaabani was able to smuggle a few letters out of prison.
In one of his letters from prison, made available 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.”
Shabaanie is the author of the poem, “Seven Reasons Why I Should Die.”
Seven Reasons Why I Should Die
By Hashem Shaabani
For seven days they shouted at me:
You are waging war on Allah!
Saturday, because you are an Arab!
Sunday, well, you are from Ahvaz
Monday, remember you are Iranian
Tuesday: You mock the sacred Revolution
Wednesday, didn’t you raise your voice for others?
Thursday, you are a poet and a bard
Friday: You’re a man, isn’t that enough to die?
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.