Poets Rally for Iranian Colleagues
His Excellency Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
We the undersigned poets join with PEN American Center to appeal for the immediate nullification of the sentences given to poets Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi. As you know, Ms. Ekhtesari and Mr. Mousavi have been condemned to 11.5 years and 9 years, respectively, in prison for charges related to their poetry, including “insulting sanctities” and “propaganda against the state.” The two poets have also been sentenced to 99 lashes each for the act of shaking hands with unrelated members of the opposite sex. They were first detained in December 2013 and endured more than a month of interrogation while in prison.
We are deeply concerned by the inhumane sentences levied against Ms. Ekhtesari and Mr. Mousavi for the simple act of expressing themselves by creating art. The act of writing poetry is no crime. Freedom of expression, a fundamental right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, allows creativity to flourish and promotes the creation of great literature. Iran has a long and proud literary history. As a poet and a scholar of poetry, we appeal to you not to allow this legacy to be clouded by cruel and unwarranted treatment of these two writers. The work of these poets deserves to be celebrated as a contribution to that rich tradition, not punished. Their harsh sentences form part of a disturbing pattern of escalating pressure on artists and cultural figures, as well as journalists including the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian.
We urge you to immediately abrogate the sentences handed down to Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi.
Mary Elizabeth Bailey
Mary Baine Campbell
Mariposa Maria Teresa Fernandez
Emily Kendal Frey
Patricia Spears Jones
Ruth Ellen Kocher
Purdey Lord Kreiden
Ed Bok Lee
Robin Coste Lewis
Lo Kwa Mei-en
Naomi Shihab Nye
D. A. Powell
Tracy K. Smith
Michael Thomas Taren