Please join me in mourning the death by execution of Hashem Shabaani in Iran.
A high-school teacher of Arabic language and literature, a poet in Arabic and Persian, a pacifist-activist who promoted Arabic culture and literature in Iran, a carer to his ill father, and a father himself, Shabaani was a man to admire and emulate.
In July 2012, he and the four others arrested with him were sentenced to death on the charge of “sowing corruption on earth”, acting against national security, spreading propaganda against the Islamic “Republic” and an offence no true republic considers a matter of law, Moharebeh (“waging war on God”).
And now — on 27 January 2014 — they have done him to death, executing him along with fellow Ahwazi Arab Hadi Rashedi. Neither had access to a lawyer or their families for the first nine months of their detention and both, together with three other men arrested at the same time, are reported to have been tortured, or otherwise ill-treated, before and after the verdict.
These two men now join the many hundreds executed under Iran's current regime for telling their truth.
In a letter from prison, Shabaani spoke of his need to speak out against “the hideous crimes against Ahwazis perpetrated by the Iranian authorities, especially arbitrary and unjust executions… I have tried to defend the legitimate right that every people in this world should have — which is the right to live freely with full civil rights.
“With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.”
Except the pen.
I and The Alliance of Independent Authors are associate members at The Free world Centre in London, the only centre in the world devoted to literature, literacy and free expression. Many of the organisations who work from there including Article 19 and Pen, defend the right of all to freedom of expression.
It seems like the only way we can properly remember Hashem Shabaani and Hadi Rashedi and the many other writers who have died for want of that freedom.