By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Iran has recently published a book about
prominent poets from Iran and the world, apparently without including Forugh
Farrokhzad, regarded by many as the country's most influential female poet.
The book was reportedly published on the occasion of a congress in Shiraz of Iranian and other poets from around the world that was attended by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
Farrokhzad, a controversial and modern poet who openly discussed her love life in her poems, was killed in a car accident in 1967 when she was 32 years old. She remains one of the most influential and best-known female poets and many Iranians know her poems by heart.
In comments posted on Iranian news websites, Mostafa Omid, one of the Iranian officials in charge of the five-day congress that began on April 17, said that Farrokhzad was not included in the book for "a number of reasons."
"We have a cultural diplomacy and a governmental one. Because of that the name of Forugh Farrokhzad -- even though it is known among those who read poetry -- was not included in this book," Omid said.
Omid did not provide more details about the reason behind the move, but he added that the book was published following "necessary research and studies" and that the views of poetry experts and Iranian laws were taken into account.
Farrokhzad's poems were banned following the 1979 revolution. Later, some of her poems were republished. In her poems, Farrokhzad writes about the plight of women, her unease with the conventional style of life, and her relationships.
I am thinking that in a moment of neglect
I might fly from this silent prison,
laugh in the eyes of the man who is my jailer
and beside you begin life anew.
Life is perhaps lighting up a cigarette
in the narcotic repose between two love-makings
or the absent gaze of a passerby
who takes off his hat to another passerby
with a meaningless smile and a good morning.
Exiled Iranian poet Esmail Khoi has said that
Farrokhzad, as a poet and as a woman, has "all the characteristics that the
Iranian government hates."
"Farrokhzad is an intellectual woman, broad-minded, freedom loving, and brave, who expresses all her feelings as a woman. She can be and in my view has always been a model for other women. This is something that the Islamic republic cannot tolerate," Khoi said in an interview with the BBC.
The decision not to include Farrokhzad in the country's official book of poets is likely to draw more criticism and condemnation from intellectuals and women's rights activists. A Facebook page has already been created, titled "The Name of Forugh Farrokhzad is Always Alive," and many Iranians have posted Farrokhzad's pictures and poems to protest.
The Islamic republic has always tried to promote the image of women as good wives and good mothers, and since Ahmadinejad came to power the government's campaign and pressure on women fighting for equal rights has intensified.
During his first term, Ahmadinejad said that women should devote more time to raising children. He also suggested that women could work part-time to spend more time at home.
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