|Image courtesy of Tavaana|
Simin Behbahani, one of Iran’s most prominent poets, was born to a cultured family and raised amongst the literary elite. Behbahani published her first poem when she was only 14 years old, and in the years that followed, she gradually developed her own style of writing as she became a renowned poet. Prior to the 1979 Iranian revolution, Behbahani worked as a songwriter for the Iranian National Radio. She was also a member of the Iranian National Radio and Television Council for Music for some time.
Alongside her career as a poet, Behbahani was always involved in social and civic activism. In her youth, she was a member of the Tudeh Party of Iran’s Youth Organization, and later on, she helped found the Iranian Writers’ Association. In later years, Behbahani became known as a women’s rights activist respected by the young members of the Iranian feminist movement. Even though her poetry mainly touches on personal themes, socio-political concerns, too, played an important part in informing her vision. Social justice, poverty, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and resisting censorship are all central themes in many of her poems.
In recent years, the Iranian government had imposed restrictions on Behbahani’s activism, and the authoritarian voices in the media attacked her character. Nevertheless, Behbahani continued to express herself and chose to address these attacks from a compassionate perspective. She passed away at age 87 in August 2014.
A Poet Raised from Her Mother’s Bosom
Simin Khalili, better known as Simin Behbahani, was born on July 20, 1927 in Tehran. Her father, Abbas Khalili, wrote poetry in both Persian and Arabic. He was the editor-in-chief of Nedaay-e-Islam’ newspaper before starting his own paper, Eghdam. He translated over 1,100 stanzas from Ferdowsi’s mythical epic poem, the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings). Behbahani’s mother, Fakhr-Ozmaa Arghoun, was erudite and progressive: she was born in 1898 in Tehran and had learned Arabic and Persian in elementary school alongside her brothers before continuing her education in French and English at the Joan of Arc French school and the American School.