Poems by Mahvash Sabet, adapted from the original Persian by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani
By a member of the Yaran, these poems testify to the courage and the despair, the misery and the hopes of thousands of Iranians struggling to survive conditions of extreme oppression.
‘My first encounter with Mahvash Sabet took place on a hot summer’s day. After many hours of tedious waiting in a special room set aside for lawyers, I was finally allowed to meet her in the presence of two women guards . . . it was obvious that the Bahá’í prisoners had been deprived of fresh air and daylight for a long time; their entire beings seemed thirsty for the energizing heat and light of the sun. However, despite all their hardships, their will remained unbroken.’
Mahnaz Parakand, Member of the Center for Human Rights defenders and one of the four lawyers for the Yaran
Mahvash Sabet served for several years as secretary of an informal council of seven individuals known as the Yaran, who have been responsible for managing the affairs of the Iranian Bahá’í community. In 2008 she was arrested and jailed for two-and-a-half years without a proper hearing. She was finally convicted and condemned in 2010, together with her fellow members of the Yaran, to twenty years imprisonment. Beneath all the false accusations – those usually fabricated against the Bahá’ís in Iran – there was nothing more than her belief in her Faith and her commitment to running the affairs of the Bahá’í community.
Her poems have allowed her to speak when words were denied, to talk when no one was listening to her. But unlike many prison poems, hers are not merely a catalogue of hopes and fears. Sometimes a means of historical documentation, a chronicle of what the Bahá’ís have been subjected to since their incarceration; sometimes a series of portraits of other women trapped in prison with her; sometimes meditations on powerlessness, on loneliness; her poems are plangent with appeal, ardent with hope – for whatever the accusations against her, she is a prisoner of faith.
Adapted from the Persian by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani based on translations by Violette and Ali Nakhjavani, these poems testify to the courage and the despair, the misery and the hopes of thousands of Iranians struggling to survive conditions of extreme oppression.