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 be

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: Fever of High Prices and Hoarding


Persian Voices: Fever of High Prices and Hoarding

The problems of political and social life were reaching city squares and factories. In the civil service and the university, the young were becoming increasingly agitated. Adventures of various brands were busily enlisting the simple-minded to their own cause. The bazaar was gripped by the fever of high prices and hoarding. Everything was beyond reach—sugar, cloth, medicine, tires, rice, etc.—and everything was being greedily bought and sold. Every commodity … was being exchanged ten or twenty times a day, profit was added to profit, misery to misery. Typhus and inedible bread… were two prevailing calamities, and rationing coupons the foundation stone of windfall riches.

—A Noted Writer


Azimi, Fakhreeddin. (2008). QUEST FOR DEMOCRACY IN IRAN C: a century of struggle against authoritarian rule. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, p.122.

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

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: Fires of Norwuz


Persian Voices: Badr ol-Moluk Bamdad

Two or three years after the admission of girls to the university, some boy and girl students clubbed together in the days before Nowruz (the Iranian New Year on 21 March) and worked long and hard to organize a convivial celebration with the traditional bonfire on Chaharshanbe-ye Suri (the Wednesday before Norwuz). The bonfire symbolizes the end of dark days and the burning away of past evils. It was arranged that the bonfire should be lit in a certain large courtyard, and that the girl students, whose number had now risen, should form a ring round the fire and the boys should stand behind them and all should sing a Nowruz song. Probably at the suggestion of an agitator outside the university some boy students acting in concert stationed themselves just behind the girls and joined hands and all at once, pushed, with the intention of driving the girls so close to the fire that they would get scorched or burned.

—Badr ol-Moluk Bamdad


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 26

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: Peacock of Paradise


Persian Voices: Peacock of Paradise

She would decorate her assembly room like a bridal chamber and her body like a peacock of Paradise. Then she summoned the followers of the Bab and appeared unveiled in front of them. First she ascended a throne, and like a pious preacher reminded them of Heaven and Hell and quoted amply from the Qur’an and the traditions She would then tell them: “Whoever touches me, the intensity of Hell’s fire would not affect him.” The audience would then rise and come to her throne and kiss those lips of hers which put to shame the ruby of Ramman, and rub their faces against her breasts, which chagrined the pomegranates of the garden.

Mirza Muhammad Taqi Sepehr


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 81


Editor’s Note: The writer describes Tahereh Qorratol’Ayn, a modern female writer cursed for her involvement in the Bahai’s Babi Movement.

Persian Voices: City of Men


Persian Voices: City of Men

But one strange thing about this country is that, apparently, there are absolutely no women in it. You see little girls, four or five years old, in the alleyways but never any women. No matter how much I thought about this I could never figure it out. I had heard that a “city of women” existed somewhere in the world where there were no men, but I’ve never heard of a “city of men”…

Another thing that is very strange about Iran is that a substantial part of the people, about half the population of the country, wrap themselves from head to foot in black sacks, not even leaving space to breathe. And that’s how they go about the alleyways, in that black sack. These people are never allowed to speak and have no right to enter a teahouse or any other place. Their baths are also separate and, at public gatherings like passion plays and mourning-feasts, they have their own viewing sections.



Mohammad Ali Jamalzadeh, “What’s Sauce for the Goose,” in Once Upon A Time, trans. Heshmat Moayyad and Paul Sprachman, New York: Bibliotheca Persica, 1985, 96-7.

Editor’s Note: Reza Shah outlawed women’s veiling as part of his modern state-building reforms designed to end gender segregation. This law lasted until the 1941 Allied Invasion of WWII in Iran at which point veiling would become a personal choice. Compulsory veiling was instituted after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.