Simin Behbahani, the poet known as “the Lioness of Iran” for her defiant verses opposing dictatorship and defending the rights of women, has died at age 87, according to media reports.
Behbahani, who died Tuesday after a week in a coma, was twice nominated for a Nobel Prize. In 2010 the Iranian government seized her passport and prevented her from leaving the country. She was honored with many awards for her human rights work.
“For millions of Iranians all over the world, Behbahani represented the invincible power of the Iranian psyche,” NPR’s Davar Ardala wrote in a remembrance. “Behbahani's death brings stillness to our eternity. I want her to keep singing.”
Born in Tehran in 1927, Behbahani came of age during the regime of the shah, and remained in Iran after the revolution that brought an Islamic state to power. She said she had never lived in an Iran without official censorship.
“The nightmare of censorship has always cast a shadow over my thoughts,” she told Guernica magazine in a 2011 interview. “I have said again and again that, when there is an apparatus for censorship that filters all writing, an apparatus comes into being in every writer’s mind that says: ‘Don’t write this, they won’t allow it to be published.’ But the true writer must ignore these murmurings. The true writer must write.”
Her poems often explored themes of official repression and dictatorship. Her poem “Stop Throwing My Country to the Wind” offers a thinly veiled rebuke to the country’s leaders.
“You have become a babbling loudmouth,” the poem reads. “Your insolent ranting, something to joke about .... The rope you have crafted, you will find around your neck.”
Hector tweets about topics literary on Twitter as @TobarWriter