Persian Voices: A Fourth Power


Persian Voices: A Fourth Power

Among the powers of the state there is a fourth power which, if it should disappear would greatly harm freedom and the Constitution, for it represents public opinion… Of course, a power is required which is external, which may alert the public to current instances of both corrupt and good practices and educate people in regard to the good and the evil, and generally direct public opinion toward rightful ideas. Of course, I mean the press which represents political parties and groups and not the ideas of a single person…

—Ali-Akbar Davar, the Klub-e Mah, October 1922


H., Enayat. Law, STATE, AND SOCIETY IN MODERN IRAN Constitutionalism, Autocracy, and Legal Reform, 1906-1941. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, A division of St. martin’s Press LLC, , 2013. Page 120. Print.


Editor’s Note: Ali Akbar Davar constructed the modern judiciary under Reza Shah importing French judicial models to Iran, and even introduced a statistics division designed to improve the efficiency of the trial processes.

Persian Voices: For I am Human


Persian Voices: For I am Human

With love in one hand,

Labor in the other,

I fashion the world

On the ground of my glorious brilliance,

And into a bed

Of clouds I tuck

The scent of my smile,

That the sweet smelling rain

may bring to blossom

all of the loves of the world,

for a I am a woman

…for I am human.

—Partow Nooriala. Translated by Shahrzad Sepanlou

Persian Voices: Human Beings Are Members of A Whole


Persian Voices: Human Beings Are Members of A Whole

Human beings are members of a whole

In creation of one essence and one soul

If one member is afflicted with pain

Other members uneasy will remain

If you have no sympathy for human pain

The name of human you cannot retain

—Saadi Shirazi (Abu-Muhammad Muslih al-Din bin Abdollah Shirazi)


Editor’s Note: The voice of Saadi emerges from the time of the Mongol invasion and conquests within Iran, therefore speaks to the suffering of those low and high displaced and scattered across the land much like the war-torn region of today.

Persian Voices: My Face I Hide From All Eyes


Persian Voices: My Face I Hide From All Eyes

What if the rain does not stop

Until the earth sinks into the water

like a small boat?

Without you I grope in darkness, 0 my shining eyes!

Unveiling the Other

Without you tears, sorrow, regret are my guests.

My face I hide from all eyes,

—Parvin E’tesami

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Persian Voices: Cursed Path Damns


Persian Voices: End of The Game

The soldiers

Passed by, shattered,


On scrawny horses,

Faded rags of ousted pride

Upon their spears.


What do you gain


To the world


Every particle of dust on your cursed path damns you?

—Shamloo, End of The Game


Shāmlū, Ahmad., Papan-Matin, Firoozeh. translated by, Land, Arthur. (2005). The love poems of Ahmad Shamlu. Bethesda, Mar.: IBEX Publishers, p.183.

Persian Voices: She Labors Like A Man


Persian Voices: She Labors Like A Man

All she sees is but aperity

What she reads, breathes adversity;

Her back is bending, with all the load,

Her eyesight is dim in this abode;

Thus she labors like a man;

Thus she toils, the woman.

—Nima Yushij, The Soldier’s Family


Translated to English by M. Alexandrian tebyan. (2018). Nima Yushij. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2018].


Editor’s Note: Nima Yushij is one of the leading modern writers in Iran’s literary movement called, “New Poetry” which also included Ahamad Shamlu and Sadegh Hedayat.  Nima Yushij’s themes include war, tyranny, poverty, and love.

Editor’s Note: Reza Shah built up Iran’s modern military between WWI and WWII. In addition to mandatory military service, often prisoners were sent to join the ranks as well. However, the state struggled to pay for this substantial force and it was not unheard of for the men in uniform to sell their rifles for bread.

Persian Voices: Unveil My Scented Hair


Persian Voices: Unveil My Scented Hair

Should I unveil my scented hair

I’ll captivate every gazelle

Should I line my narcissus eyes

I’ll destroy the whole world with desire

—Tahereh (Qurrat al-Ayn)


Farzaneh Milani,(1992). Veils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women Writers, Contemporary Issues in the Middle East (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1992). Page 92

Persian Voices: Shackles of Life


Persian Voices: Shackles of Life

We are still in the shackles of life.

Sadeq Hedayat


Editor’s Note: Sadegh Hedayat studied in France and returned to Iran without finishing school, but became one of the most important writers of the 20th century. His generation of literary elites embraced modern industrial development and social change yet criticized Pahlavi autocratic rule which in their view, limited democratic development in Iran. His published fiction works from the Pahlavi time include:  Buried Alive (Zende be gūr), Mongol Shadow (Sāye-ye Moqol), Three Drops of Blood (Se qatre khūn), Chiaroscuro (Sāye-ye roushan), Mister Bow Wow (Vagh Vagh Sahāb), Sampingé (in French), Lunatique (in French), The Blind Owl (Boof-e koor), The Stray Dog (Sag-e velgard), Lady Alaviyeh (Alaviye Khānum),  Velengārī (Tittle-tattle), The Elixir of Life (Āb-e Zendegi), The Pilgrim (Hājī āqā), Tomorrow (Fardā), The Morvari Cannon (Tūp-e Morvari). His style is closely related to Franz Kafka, Edgar Allen Poe, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Anton Chekhov.

Persian Voices: Persian is Sugar


Persian Voices: Saints and Sinners Treated Alike

In no other place on the face of the earth but in Iran are saints and sinners treated alike. Finally, after five long years of suffering and homelessness, I was returning home.

—Sayyid Muhammad Jamalzadeh, Persian Is Sugar


Sayyid Muhammad Jamalzadeh, from the collection: Once Upon a Time. Translated by Iraj Bashiri.


Editor’s Note: Persian Is Sugar is a known literary work famous for encapsulating the Constitutional Movement in Iran in which western-educated intellectuals participated in a revolution to transform Iran from autocratic rule to a constitutional monarchy with a parliament. Literary elites were often educated abroad and upon returning home could take up liberal causes though found themselves repeatedly up against larger forces from Iran’s government and conservative Islamic clergy.

Persian Voices: 53 Marxists


Persian Voices: Bozorg Alavi

Old trees were fighting with one another. From woods the cry of a tortured woman could be heard. The blowing gale had unbounded the silent songs. Chains of rain had fastened the murky sky to the muddy ground. Rivers were revolting and the flowing of water was pouring everywhere.

—Bozorg Alavi, Gilemard


Edited by Scott Slovic, Swarnalatha Rangarajan and Vidya Sarveswaran. “Zahra Pasrpour (Bozorg Alavi Gilmard).” Ecocritism of the Global South. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015. Page 242. Print.


Editor’s Note: Bozorg Alavi was one of the 53 marxists convicted and sent to prison in the show trial of 1938. He originated the new literary genre called, Prison Literature in Iran. Prior to that he published a journal called, Peykar and co-published another journal called, Donya. The surviving prisoners were freed after the Allied Invasion in 1941, and eventually Alavi wrote propaganda for the Tudeh Party. Later, he exiled to Germany.