"Stop this extravagance, this reckless throwing of my country to the wind.”
This week millions of Iranians are mourning the loss of Nobel Prize nominated Persian poet Simin Behbahani, who penned these words and who died on Tuesday from respiratory disease. As Iranians reflect on her life and re-read her poetry, disillusionment and frustration against the government will be drawn to the surface afresh. Simin’s fearless, defiant words express the longing for change felt by many Iranians. Let’s pray that this deep longing will continue to cultivate hearts that are open to the gospel.
Born in 1927 in Tehran, Behbahani published her first poem at age 14 and studied law at Tehran University in the 1950s. Following the 1979 revolution Behbahani's poetry took on a darker and more explicitly political tone and she became an outspoken advocate for equal rights for women. She was awarded the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women's Freedom in 2009, and was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in literature. Fondly referred to by Iranians as the ‘Lioness of Iran’, Behbahani was feared by the regime because her poetry gained national recognition and was widely memorized and quoted.
In 2009 she published two poems addressed directly to Iran’s theocrats: "Stop Throwing My Country to the Wind", which denounced Tehran's brutal crackdown on the 2009 Green uprising, and "For Neda Agha-Soltan”, which was a tribute to the young woman shot by regime agents on Tehran's streets in 2009. In retaliation for the poems, the Islamic Republic imposed a travel ban on her. She was barred from boarding a plane and interrogated, despite being 82 and nearly blind.
After falling ill, Behbahani had been hospitalized and unconscious in Tehran since 6 August 2014 and she died on 19 August of heart failure and breathing problems, aged 87.