Simin Behbahani, the poet known as “the Lioness of Iran,” has died at 87. I’ve only read a few of her poems, but she seems to have been a master of justified righteous fury. As an example, here’s her poem about the 2009 uprising known as the “Green Revolution”
Stop Throwing My Country To The Wind
If the flames of anger rise any higher in this land. Your name on your tombstone will be covered with dirt.
You have become a babbling loudmouth. Your insolent ranting, something to joke about.
The lies you have found, you have woven together. The rope you have crafted, you will find around your neck.
Pride has swollen your head, your faith has grown blind. The elephant that falls will not rise.
Stop this extravagance, this reckless throwing of my country to the wind. The grim-faced rising cloud, will grovel at the swamp’s feet.
Stop this screaming, mayhem, and blood shed. Stop doing what makes God’s creatures mourn with tears.
My curses will not be upon you, as in their fulfillment. My enemies’ afflictions also cause me pain.
You may wish to have me burned , or decide to stone me. But in your hand match or stone will lose their power to harm me.
NPR describes her place in Iranian culture:
For millions of Iranians all over the world, Behbahani represented the invincible power of the Iranian psyche. Her words were piercing and fierce, lamenting on the lack of freedom of expression through the ages. For six decades, many Iranians found refuge in her poetry as a way to nurture their hunger for dialogue, peace, human rights and equality.
In 2010, she counseled her fellow countrymen and women: “Don’t give up the fight for freedom.”
Farzaneh Milani at the University of Virginia made the translation of the poem I quoted.