His Excellency Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Your Excellency,

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.


Kazim Ali
John Ashbery
Amber Atiya
Mary Elizabeth Bailey
Ellen Bass
John Beer
Margo Berdeshevsky
Anselm Berrigan
Frank Bidart
Daniel Borzutzky
Melissa Broder
Gabrielle Calvocoressi
Mary Baine Campbell
Tina Chang
Henri Cole
Peter Cole
Billy Collins
Martha Collins
CA Conrad
Patty Crane
Dick Davis
Toi Derricotte
Jay Deshpande
Dot Devota
Timothy Donnelly
Mark Doty
Cornelius Eady
Jason Edwards
Mariposa Maria Teresa Fernandez
Graham Foust
Emily Kendal Frey
Forrest Gander
Ross Gay
Annelyse Gelman
Johannes Goransson
Kate Greenstreet
Linda Gregerson
Patricia Grodd
Marilyn Hacker
Joseph Hall
Joy Harjo
Robert Hass
Tom Healy
Jane Hirshfield
Paul Hlava
Emily Hunt
Ishion Hutchinson
Ha Jin
Hettie Jones
Patricia Spears Jones
Marc Kaminsky
Mary Karr
Amy King
Karen Klein
Michael Klein
Ruth Ellen Kocher
Wayne Koestenbaum
Purdey Lord Kreiden
Mike Lala
Deborah Landau
Rickey Laurentiis
Ed Bok Lee
Robin Coste Lewis
Carrie Lorig
Anthony Madrid
Fred Marchant
Khaled Mattawa
Richard Matthews
Michael McClure
Shane McCrae
Lo Kwa Mei-en
Dunya Mikhail
Ben Mirov
Jean Monahan
Rusty Morrison
Paul Muldoon
David Mura
Majid Naficy
Naomi Shihab Nye
Meghan O’Rourke
Gregory Orr
Alicia Ostriker
Greg Pardlo
Carl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
D. A. Powell
Nina Puro
Camille Rankine
Claudia Rankine
Srikanth Reddy
Victoria Redel
Matthew Rohrer
Christopher Salerno
Eva Salzman
Metta Sáma
Phillip Schultz
Danniel Schoonebeek
Roger Sedarat
Vijay Seshadri
Solmaz Sharif
Brenda Shaughnessy
Emily Skillings
Tracy K. Smith
Sampson Starkweather
Janaka Stucky
Rose Styron
Terese Svoboda
Niloufar Talebi
Michael Thomas Taren
TC Tolbert
Natasha Trethewey
Nick Twemlow
Kim Vaeth
Keith Waldrop
Rosemarie Waldrop
Sholeh Wolpé
Matvei Yankelevich