Tag Archives: prisoner

Mahvash Sabet transferred to hospital


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.



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Day of the Imprisoned Writer: a letter to Mahvash Sabet


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


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:


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

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Mahvash Sabet’s “Lights Out”

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

Lights Out

Weary but wakeful, feverish but still
fixed on the evasive bulb that winks on the wall,
thinking surely it’s time for lights out,
longing for darkness, for the total black-out.

Trapped in distress, caught in this bad dream,
the dust under my feet untouchable as shame,
flat on the cold ground, a span for a bed,
lying side by side, with a blanket on my head.

And the female guards shift, keeping vigil till dawn,
eyes moving everywhere, watching everyone,
sounds of the rosary, the round of muttered words,
fish lips moving, the glance of a preying bird.

Till another hour passes in friendly chat,
in soft talk of secrets or a sudden spat,
with some snoring, others wheezing
some whispering, rustling, sneezing—
filling the space with coughs and groans,
suffocated sobs, incessant moans—

You can’t see the sorrow after lights out.
I long for the dark, the total black-out.

I am not sure what breaks my heart more: the difficult circumstances of Mahvash’s life, health and incarceration or the beauty and sublimity of her poetry under such difficult circumstances! Please keep Mahvash in your hearts; she is gravely ill in prison, suffering from tuberculosis of the bone.

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.


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


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There is a tear that sometimes falls
and in falling, fails, yet in failing,
flies to the hearts
of those we love the most.
Why/why/why we ask, and then again, why?
Please, let it be soon!

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the arrest, then the application of trumped up accusations and finally the immoral conviction and sentencing, in Iran, of a group of Bahá’ís referred to as the Yarán-i-Irán, the “Friends of Iran.” Despite the fact that the Iranian constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and despite the fact that every civilized country of the world regards this as a most fundamental aspect of basic human rights, the Yarán, and indeed 156 Bahá’ís in total—three of whom are infants—continue to be incarcerated for no other reason then their choice of religion. Typically referred to as “prisoners of conscience” I prefer the term “prisoners of certitude” because every one of these 156 could buy their freedom by a recantation of their faith…and yet all chose to remain.

If you are interested in reading more on this topic, please see Five Years Too Many.

In the end, all I can say is this: I am blessed and humbled to be one of those permitted to say a prayer in thanks and in honor of their sacrifice and strength, and to beg for their on-going steadfastness. In comparison to their sacrifice, I do not deserve even this station, but I am grateful for it.

Thank you for reading Please. 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.


© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.


Filed under Poetry