A poet in prison – an aside on Iran

As some of you may know, despite the peculiarly British-sounding name (my husband’s, though he is actually French) and my globe-trotting childhood, my mother’s side of the family is partly Iranian, and Baha’i. It goes without saying, therefore, that events in the ‘old country’, left behind half a century ago, and those involving Iranian Baha’is in particular are very dear to my heart.

Connections persist in a community suffering ongoing persecution: people keep in touch, pass on news, share moments of pain and hope. It’s a matter of survival. Sometimes the situation is so harrowing it’s hard to maintain any optimism. But there’s some comfort in speaking out, some sense at least that in bringing even a few of these stories to light, I am not simply sitting by, both helpless and useless.

I am deeply grateful to Gillian Polack for giving me the chance to contribute this piece to her guest series for Women’s History Month.¬†Mahvash Sabet is only one of the hundreds of people of all religious backgrounds who are unjustly imprisoned under the current regime in Iran. I hope that in telling her story, I may do something to highlight their collective plight.

The poet in prison


EDIT April 2011: As it stands today, Mahvash’s sentence along with those of her seven Baha’i companions has been¬†augmented again to 20 years.

This entry was posted in things I thunk. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A poet in prison – an aside on Iran

  1. Bahiyyih says:

    Incredible how the words of this woman and her extraordinary spirit can reach out and resonate from the depths of that ghastly prison in Karaj to touch the hearts of people she has never met, through means she is herself denied. What an affirmation of the arboreal capacities of the human spirit! You really have found a way of telling her story in ‘Samiha’s Song’, haven’t you?

    • MaryV says:

      Yes, ‘Samiha’ was partly inspired by the story of Mahvash. I took the shameful treatment in prison, the starvation, the sham trial, and transposed them. I actually didn’t know Mahvash was a poet until you sent me the work – but that makes the parallel even closer.

  2. Bahiyyih says:

    Would your readers be interested to know how much of your fantasy is inspired by what is going on in the Middle East today?

    • MaryV says:

      I don’t know! Very few people have asked me that question. In fact, exactly one person has asked me that question, leading to the post linked above.

  3. ashleycapes says:

    Wow, what a post, Mary – it makes me wish I could write poetry good or powerful enough to help people. Mahvash is amazing, to keep writing under such conditions, such constant, unwarranted persecution. I understand a little, I think – because writing is impossible for me to stop, but could I do it under the same circumstances?

    Thanks for this – and for the translations by your mother – it takes a poet to translate poetry! And I really thought Mahvash’s line

    “The blood in my narrow veins is like an old postman” is one of the best I’ve read in a long time


    • MaryV says:

      I know, the postman line got to me, too. Very vivid…

      Mahvash’s story is incredible – I do believe one day, in some Iranian renaissance of the not-too-distant future, when the truth of what’s going on comes out in that country, people will tell this tale and many others like it the way we now tell tales of the Holocaust. I wish that renaissance would come soon enough to help Mahvash…

Comments are closed.