PEN protests the arrest of poets and lyricists Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi, who have been held in Section 2A of Tehran’s Evin Prison since December 7, 2013, apparently for their critical writings. They are feared to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment, and there are mounting concerns for their well-being. Iran is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Article 19 guarantees the right to freedom of expression.

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Background Information

According to PEN’s information, on December 6, 2013, poets and activists Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi were due to travel to Turkey for a literary workshop. At the airport they were both informed that they had been placed under travel bans and were summoned for interrogation. They chose not to appear at the interrogation. Later that day Mehdi Moosavi wrote in his Facebook page:

I and Fatemeh Ekthesari were prevented from leaving the country this morning and our passports were confiscated. We do not know the reason… Why have I been facing problems for years to hold a literary workshop and even classes to teach rhyme and meter? Why are our books banned despite taking care to select the poems and passing the censorship of the poet, editor and publisher? Why should the oppositionist swear at me for writing war poetry and the pro-regime activist swear at me for have read a rumour about me?... I have been often in the same conditions as the artist who killed themselves after years of failing to obtain permission. Do you know how many times I have thought about death? What is the body of an artist worth when their soul is tortured and killed?...

Within a few hours they had disappeared. There was no further news of them until Christmas Eve, when it was confirmed that they were being held in Section 2A of Evin Prison, which is under the administration of the Intelligence Division of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and where torture and other ill-treatment of detainees is common. They are feared to be under pressure to appear in self-incriminating televised "confessions," a practice reported by many detainees. The reason for their detention is not known, although some reports suggest that they could be held because of their lyrics, which have been performed by Shahin Najafi, an Iranian singer in exile. The two have previously made statements critical of the government and in support of pro-democracy movements, and have both been under escalating pressure in Iran.

Mehdi Moosavi, born in 1976, is a prolific poet, and has written five collections of poetry, including The Angels Have Committed Suicide (2002), I Only Publish These for You (2005), and The Little Bird Was Neither a Bird nor Little (2010). Two collections of poems entitled Suddenly and Beeping for the Sheep were deemed unpublishable by the authorities. Many more of his poems were published online. Mehdi Moosavi is known as the leading figure of the "Postmodern Ghazal" movement, the most radical poetic movement in contemporary Iran, known for its rejection of conformist religious and ideological dogma. Most of the works by this movement faced severe censorship by the Iranian officials, and almost all of these works were banned in Iran and have been distributed underground.

Fatemeh Ekhtesari is a poet and student of Mehdi Moosavi. She edited the postmodern magazine Hamin farad bud [It was the very tomorrow]. Her most recent poetry collection Feminist discussions before cooking potatoes was withdrawn from bookshops and the Tehran Book Fair. The following information is from a Facebook page set up by Swedish poets who have worked with Fatemeh Ekhtesari:

During 2013, Fatemeh Ekhtesari, born 1986, has been part of the literary exchange, Resistance At My Writing Desk, through which six poets from Iran and six poets from Sweden together translated the Persian poets’ work to Swedish. The collaboration culminated in a special issue of the journal Kritiker devoted to contemporary Persian poetry, as well as appearances by the Persian poets at the poetry festivals in Stockholm and Göteborg this past September. Upon returning to Iran, Fatemeh was arrested and interrogated for hours. Her Facebook account was hacked and her blog was shut down.


Write A Letter

  • Expressing serious concern about the detention of poets and lyricists Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi, who are feared to be held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression, and seeking details on the reasons behind their arrest;
  • Expressing serious concerns for their well-being in detention, urging that they be protected from torture or other ill-treatment, and calling for them to be granted full access to their families, lawyers, and all necessary medical care immediately;
  • Calling for them to be released immediately and unconditionally if—as it appears—they are held solely in connection with their peaceful critical writings; otherwise they should be charged and brought to trial promptly and fairly.

Send Your Letter To

Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei
Leader of the Islamic Republic
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street -- End of Shahid
Keshvar Doust Street,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani
Head of the Judiciary
c/o Public Relations Office
Number 4, 2 Azizi Street intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Hassan Rouhani
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Pasteur Street, Pasteur Square
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Twitter: @HassanRouhani (English) and @Rouhani_ir (Persian)