Poetry is a far more important part of Iran’s culture than our own. In the Arab world, political and social movements have long adopted the art as a means of galvanizing support and bringing unity and focus to a cause. Thus, it’s no surprise that when the head of Iran’s Security Council threatened opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi with death, his wife Zahra, who herself has become a powerful symbol for change in Iran, responded with a poem that she twittered out to millions:
Let the wolves know that in our tribe
If the father dies, his gun will remain
Even if all the men of the tribe are killed
A baby son will remain in the wooden cradle.
She wasn’t alone. Scores of Iranians have turned to poetry for expression and in an effort to make some sense of the revolution’s violence and chaos. Sholeh Wolpe, an Iranian-American poet, wrote “I am Neda,” one of many powerful poems inspired by the death of Neda, the now iconic figure shot during a protest by Basij:
Leave the Basiji bullet in my heart,
fall to prayer in my blood,
and hush, father–
I am not dead.
More light than mass,
I rise through you,
breathe with your eyes,
stand in your shoes, on the rooftops,
in the streets, march with you
in the cities and villages of our country
shouting through you, with you.
I am Neda–thunder on your tongue.