Tag Archives: Baha’i

Mahvash Sabet Released From Prison

 

Those of you who have followed this blog (as irregular as it has been) have read my previous posts and poems by Mahvash Sabet, a Bahá’í prisoner of conscience immorally incarcerated in her native Iran because of her Faith. She is one of seven such unfortunates who are referred to as the Yaran or Bahá’í 7. It is with great joy that the Bahá’í world recently announced her release from prison, after enduring ‘ten years of unjust imprisonment and harsh treatment.’

Mahvash’s poems come from her wonderful book of poetry, Prison Poems, available here in the United States and here in Great Britain. I recommend you obtain a copy of this volume as soon as you can.

Mahvash Sabet’s release does not, sadly, indicate a softening in the hard-line government of Iran’s attitude to the human rights abuse of members of the Bahá’í Faith—there are still nearly 100 Bahá’ís incarcerated in Iran, including some of the original Yaran. Nor is Iran the only country guilty of such duplicity. Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara, a Bahá’í in Yemen, was recently sentenced to hanging, solely because of his religion.

Still, we take what joy we can in this world when we can. In light of Mahvash’s joyous release, I would like to feature another of her poems, particularly apt now:

The Blossom

The prayer of the flower was answered.

After giving up its colour, leaving a complexion jaded,
after giving up its fragrance, with a scent that had faded,
after leaving all its petals drop down one by one—at last
it turned into a tender fruit: one of the finest.

Would that our lives might blossom with such taste.

Would that our lives might…

Thank you for visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

 

8 Comments

Filed under News, Poetry

Mahvash Sabet transferred to hospital

up
All:

Mahvash Sabet is a Bahá’í prisoner of conscience immorally incarcerated in her native Iran because of her religion. She is one of seven such unfortunates who are referred to as the Yaran or Bahá’í 7. As many of you know I have had the honor of posting several of her poems on this site:

At Such a Time You’ll Come

Bear This in Mind

Lights Out

(For more of her incredible poetry, click on the Other Writers menu option above, or better yet, purchase her book Prison Poems, available at Amazon in the USA and at George Ronald in Great Britain.)

It is with heavy heart that I report that she has been transferred to Intensive Care as reported in this blog,  for, among other things (I understand she has tuberculosis of the bone), a broken but untreated hip fracture.

Please say a prayer for this long suffering and tormented woman and the well over 150 other Bahá’í  prisoners of conscience currently in Iranian jails solely because of their religious beliefs. Please.

Thank you.

john

11 Comments

Filed under News

Day of the Imprisoned Writer: a letter to Mahvash Sabet

up2

Alberto Manguel is a well known and celebrated Argentine-born Canadian anthologist, translator, essayist, novelist and editor. Below is the letter he wrote to Mahvash Sabet, a Bahá’í and prisoner of conscious in Iran. During her incarceration, Mahvash has published a wonderful and inspiring book of poetry about her experiences in prison. (See below.) The letter was published in the British newspaper The Guardian  on Monday, November 10th in recognition of tomorrow, November 15th, the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. This is one of many open letters by leading authors written to defend persecuted writers.

I find his letter both touching and sincere and hope that it, in some degree, alleviates and comforts Mahvash Sabet and all her sister and brother Bahá’ís—and indeed all prisoners of conscious—in their unjust imprisonment.

Dear Mahvash Sabet,

It’s almost an impertinence, I feel, to write to a poet who is being kept behind bars for her words and beliefs. King Lear, imprisoned at the end of the play with his daughter Cordelia, tells her that they will become “God’s spies”. That is what you as well have become, bearing witness to society’s injustices, prejudices and inability to understand that no matter what society might do to a poet, the poet’s words will still be free in the minds of the readers, and continue to conjure up ideas, engage the mind in conversation. Perhaps there’s consolation in this.

You end one of your poems saying that “You can’t see the sorrow after lights out,” and that you therefore “long for the dark, total black-out.” I hope, for your dear sake, that the end of your sorrow is near but not as that “total black-out” you speak of: instead, as a resolution of freedom, as the free sunlight that is every person’s natural right, a right no one is entitled to take away.

I don’t know if you can find comfort in realising that you have now been welcomed into a vast and honoured company of imprisoned writers, from all centuries and all tongues, from Boethius to Abu Nuwas, Cervantes, Yevgenia Ginzburg, Nazim Hikmet and hundreds of others, and that generations of readers to come will remember your name as they remember theirs, long after the names of your jailers have been swept off the memory of the earth.

I can’t offer you anything in your cell except my devotion as your reader, my trust in better times, and my distant but sincere friendship. I hope that in the very near future we will meet in person, not only on the page.

With very best wishes of hope and courage,

Alberto Manguel

up

Mahvash Sabet, teacher and poet, is one of over 150 Bahá’ís currently serving long term prison sentences in Iran. She has been detained since 2008 for her faith and activities related to running the affairs of the Bahá’í religious minority in Iran. I have previously posted several of her poems, all taken from her book, Prison Poems:

up

available both in the US and UK.

A great thanks to Pete Hulme of Everybody Means Something for his post on this subject and for bringing this letter to my attention.

– john

Comments Off on Day of the Imprisoned Writer: a letter to Mahvash Sabet

Filed under Poetry

In Rwanda, colline is French for hill

red

The collines roll on to the horizon, green drifting into dark,
verdant into resigned and all of it into the red quivering sunset.
And me there thinking it back literally for as long
as we have measured it: up eye, down eye, see-us-all bloody eye,
never-stop-rising eye, blind to it all; the victims begging,
their wide eyes screaming, the yelling, the weeping,
the hoarse men grunting, excited to be on the hunt.

Thus it has gone and thus it goes still, repeating ever so,
their echoes floating up and down the valleys below—
les pauvres, the ones we sit and watch go home
to the cool, cool dark—the loam of them drifting off into green,
resigned into verdant, and all of it under the crimson sun,
literally for as long as it has watched us.

up

My home in Rwanda (I was there as a Bahá’í to teach my religion) looked to the west over the collines (pronounced cull-LEANs) directly into the most spectacular sunsets. Beyond this, the poem ties together a number of other thoughts and memories of Africa:

• it’s beauty. The vista of rolling, green treed hills fading into black at the horizon was stunning.

• Rwanda is close to the equator but in the highlands of Africa. The sun at that latitude often seemed to be a big, red eye burning into the horizon as it set.

• Africa is the birthplace of humanity. We do not know the exact region where homo sapiens first evolved, but it was probably close to Rwanda, in Central Africa. In any case, it is in Africa where we, as a species, first developed the concept of, and started measuring, time.

• it would be comforting to think that the 1994 Rwandan genocide was an isolated event. Sadly it is not, and not just in Rwanda but throughout the entire continent. Tribal dominance and warfare have been and is, in Africa, just as unrelenting as every other form of political violence has been, and is, throughout the rest of the world. What makes it so disheartening in Rwanda is not only that it happened in 1994, and before that in the early 1960s, and is still happening today north of Rwanda, in Uganda, and over the western border in the Congo.  Moreover, the very personal nature of this kind of violence typifies African conflicts: up front and personal, usually machete, and often, neighbor to neighbor.

May we all look forward to a day soon to come when the cries of those poor victims of violence—nos pauvres—will no longer be heard anywhere in this sad, beleaguered world, nor will anyone be put to rest in the dark, loamy soil earlier then the time when God calls them.

Thank you for reading In Rwanda, colline is French for hill. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at Eastern Point Beach in Groton, Connecticut. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Poem and notes © 2013 by John Etheridge; photograph © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

8 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Mavash Sabet’s “At Such a Time You’ll Come”

Mahvash Sabet is a Bahá’í prisoner of conscience currently serving an unjust 20 year sentence in Iran. Read more of her story here.

At Such a Time You’ll Come

I fear that time
when patience will no more be mine
when brittle hope will have been blown away,
it’s kindness gone,
when the wind will have scattered me
and my eyes will have strayed from the path–O!
if no door opens to me then, not one–
I will know for sure it is that time
when you will come again.

 

up

 

I am amazed at the strength and constancy that this poem radiates! Especially for one who is unjustly in prison and ill, such utter resignation is like a blade of grass which bends to the storm, unlike a strong tree, which is uprooted and thrown down.

Please consider purchasing Mahvash Sabet’s poetry as an act of solidarity in the fight for human rights: in the US, from Amazonin the UK, directly from the publisher.

john

This English edition of At Such a Time You’ll Come is ©2013 by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, who adapted the original Persian text into English; all rights reserved.

3 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Not by half

Building detail

I would like to write a poem about the death of Mírzá Mihdí, the Purest Branch,
who burst open the doors of his prison and broke the shackles of an empire.
It would tell of his mother’s grief, his sister’s misery, his brother’s pain
and of course, his Father’s love…

But most of all it would tell of the seven, small, shiny, black beach rocks
with worn, rounded corners found in his pocket and which comprised
all that he possessed in this world. “Where did you get them?” I’d ask.
“What was it about these seven that caught you and held you so that
you’d leave them behind? What were you trying to tell us?”
And then I’d tell of his Father releasing His son from his duties
that hot afternoon, knowing in advance what would happen to him:
that he would go to pray on the windswept prison rooftop;
that he would become enraptured in his meditations;
that he would forget the skylight was there;
that he would fall to his doom and lie there, pierced and broken;
that he would beg leave to offer his life as a ransom,
thereby opening the doors of Reunion;
that He, the Father, would accept, and that, days later, when He placed
His son in the grave, an earthquake would shake the ground so that
He would reveal, thereafter, When thou wast laid to rest in the earth,
the earth itself trembled in its longing to meet thee.

I would like to write such a poem, to eulogize one so perfect, befittingly.
But I am not, I know, good enough to reach into my soul to find it.

up

Mírzá Mihdí, whose title was “The Purest Branch,” was the youngest son of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, and His wife, Navváb, to survive infancy. His death happened as described here: falling through a rooftop skylight in the early evening while enraptured in prayer and then offering his life so that the throngs of pilgrims who longed to visit His Father in His incarceration in the prison of ‘Akká—then the penal colony of the Ottoman Empire, but now a small city in Israel—could do so. Previously, pilgrims who had traveled the 1,500 miles on foot from Iran would either be turned back at the city gate, or if they managed to be admitted to the city, would be frustrated to enter the prison. Now, they would be allowed, finally, to enter and tarry therein. Mírzá Mihdí was but 22 at the time of His passing.

I saw the seven, black, shiny beach rocks when I was on pilgrimage to the Bahá’í Holy Places in Israel. I do not think any one thing on that journey moved me more than those simple little stones, except perhaps walking into the prison and suddenly realizing what the roped off spot below the skylight was.

And so thus did I, and so still do Baha’is from the world over, go to that Spot, we for whom the doors of Reunion were, on that fateful day, flung open…

Thank you for reading Not by half. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The quotation from Bahá’u’lláh is quoted by Shoghi Effendi in This Decisive Hour: Messages from Shoghi Effendi to the North American Bahá’ís, 1932–1946 (Wilmette, IL, USA: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 2002) 64.12: 47.

The photograph was taken in ‘Akká during our family’s pilgrimage there. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

The quotation from Bahá’u’lláh is quoted by Shoghi Effendi in This Decisive Hour: Messages from Shoghi Effendi to the North American Bahá’ís, 1932–1946 (Wilmette, IL, USA: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 2002) 64.12: 47.

13 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Mahvash Sabet’s “The Prayer of the Tree”

Mahvash Sabet is a Bahá’í prisoner of conscience currently serving an unjust 20 year sentence in Iran. Read more of her story here.

The Prayer of the Tree

That hapless tree that sat through all the winter months out there
naked in the snow and ice, it’s shivering branches bare,
broken, wind-torn, bleak and dreary,
bent by the changing seasons, weary,
has finally had an answer to its prayer.
See how the kind Creator full of loving care
has decked it in new garments, fresh and rare!
Have you seen how green it is at last, how finally dressed, how fair?

 

up

Can one not but be amazed that anyone, sick and unjustly imprisoned for their faith, could still find the tenderness and gentleness in their heart to write such a delicate and joyous poem? Shame to the Iranian authorities for such an injustice!

Please consider purchasing Mahvash Sabet’s poetry as an act of solidarity in the fight for human rights: in the US, from Amazonin the UK, directly from the publisher.

john

This English edition of The Prayer of the Tree is ©2013 by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, who adapted the original Persian text into English; all rights reserved.

8 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Mahvash Sabet’s “The Imaginary Garden”

There was once a woman
green as the spring,
who planted her hands in a garden.
And another woman,
red as her heart
who plucked light from the bars of a prison.
And now here I am
with my own patch of soil,
growing a garden
in this tiny cell,
with poppies of love for each pane.

You need just one flower–
that’s all it takes–
to open the windows of sight.
A single verse
is quite enough
to illumine the eyes with light.

So I’ll tie my bags to the foot of the breeze
and soar high up to the top of the trees
in my garden that grows inside.
And I’ll spread wings to reach you
and soar high to teach you
how windows can open wide.
You don’t need much:
one poppy is all
it takes to open to love.
One verse is sufficient
to fill the eyes
with that shining beam from above.

up

Mahvash Sabet is a Bahá’í prisoner of conscience currently serving an unjust 20 year sentence in Iran. This is another heart-rendering poem smuggled out of her prison and translated and published in the west. Read more of her story from my post of her poem Fire.

Mahvash is not well and languishes in prison without proper treatment. Please pray for her strength.

Please consider purchasing Mahvash Sabet’s poetry as an act of solidarity in the fight for human rights: in the US, from Amazon; in the UK, directly from the publisher.

– john

This English edition of The Imaginary Garden is ©2013 by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, who adapted the original Persian texts into English; all rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Poetry

The Copper Tree Tops

The Radiant Sun bursts forth
Reflecting on the tree tops
Electrifying their pose with a copper glow.

The Fast begins.
I have prepared my body
With an abundance of food and water.
I have prepared my soul
With an abundance of prayer and meditation.

The Sunlight envelops all the trees
From the top to the base… and all
That is in its path. The copper glow
Has transformed into a clear, warm Light.

The fast continues…
The Will of God encircles me.

Clouds rumble across the sky
As midday bells chime.
They act as veils dulling the Light
And the hues of the trees seem less clear.
Yet, the bell tones re-energize the amity.

My body is hungry. I know this will pass.
The corners of my lips feel sticky.
I cherish the opportunity to splash water against my mouth
While saying my ablutions.

It is mid afternoon.
The Light has changed angles.
New and different shadows appear on the ground.
Shadows that are unhindered by leaves
That will soon encompass the branches.

The hunger pains have passed into nothingness.
My head, on some days at this time, feels strangely foggy…
On others, strangely vibrant.

It is a few minutes before sundown.
The trees stand strong and silent
Urging me to cast-off my doubts and join them.

During those last moments,
We are on fire again.

up

Again this year I am very proud to post this poem by my wife, Lyn. It is during the Fast, the period from March 2 through to the 21st, when Bahá’ís refrain from eating or drinking from sunup until sundown. If you have never participated in an extended period of fasting, it would be natural to fear the process, thinking it to be a physical misery. It is anything but.

The point of fasting is not, in any event, the physical process itself. This is, I believe, true of the fasting tradition for all religions: the 28 day Muslim fast of Ramadan, the 40 days of Lent for Christians, or the 25 hour fast of Yom Kippur for Jews. The physical discipline is meant to act as a lens and allow you to concentrate on the spiritual process that is the heart of true fasting: obedience to the Law and disciplining oneself for control over your actions. But while this is, in itself, meritorious, there is even a sweeter reason to fast: it is an act done out of love for the Founder of your religion. And this love, this transformative force, is the very heart of what the religious experience is all about.

Lyn’s poem dates from 2006 and the story she tells of the early dawn light, copper coloring the tops of the tall trees outside our kitchen window, and then illuminating them from behind at sunset, is absolutely true…and particularly noticeable at this time of the year. Every year the beauty of it grabs us more and more. Alas, the church up the street, which does have a carillon (bells played with a keyboard-like instrument) no longer has anyone to play them and we miss their gentle, clear, clean rhythms. But all things, it seems, change and grow older…

Thank you for reading The Copper Tree Tops by Lynette D. Tolar. It is used with her permission. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

The Copper Tree Tops by Lynette D. Tolar © 2006; all rights reserved. Notes © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address,https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

4 Comments

Filed under Poetry

The Letters of the Living

Burst

There, then, on that Purest Spot,
with the night pregnant with the day,
Shiva the Destroyer lifted up
and threw down on the knee of His love
the entire world and the heavens thereof,
breaking them then, all that lay therein
so that they fell, cast deep into darkness and doubt.

There were but Twenty still living:
the First, the eighteen and the Second,
Witness unto Himself. What Word
on that day did those eighteen say
so that the reunion could finally begin?
“Yea!” they cried, voices flung in abandon,
high unto the heavens.
“Yea!” they cried, necks bared to the blade,
arms lifted taut with joy.
“Yea!” they cried and thus they died
leaving only their echoes to recall them.
But here in my place, God help me,
I think I hear them still.

up

This is a poem that is steeped in the history of the Bahá’í Faith and the allusions will be unclear to non-Bahá’ís, so let me explain very briefly:

Much like John the Baptist came first to prepare the world for Jesus Christ, the Báb (“the First” in the poem) came to prepare the world for Bahá’u’lláh (“the Second” in the poem), the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. The first eighteen brave souls—martyrs all, as was the Báb Himself—who declared Their belief in Him are referred to as the Letters of the Living.

This concept of “living”  i.e. spiritual rejuvenation through belief in a new Manifestation of God, is developed also in the first stanza, where Shiva—a Hindu deity—fulfills one of the roles of God and “destroys” the world (everyone is metaphorically dead upon His arrival) and then transforms it, through giving “life”, i.e. spiritual rejuvenation through faith in Him.

Thank you for reading The Letters of the Living. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is entitled Burst and was taken in Washington, DC on Memorial Day, several years ago. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

9 Comments

Filed under Poetry