On Tuesday, July 24, dozens of devoted fans of Shamlou attempted to hold a commemoration ceremony to mark the 18th anniversary of his death, near his grave at a cemetery in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran, but they were prevented by the brutal Iranian security forces.
The suppressive forces closed the cemetery gates in order to prevent the gathering by Shamlou’s grave, according to a member of Iran’s Writers Association who attempted to attend the event. The gates remained shut even after the security forces dispersed the crowd, according to eyewitnesses.
The security forces arrested five people, including two members of the Writers Association, which has been under pressure from the authorities in recent years. Only one detainee has been subsequently released.
However, this is far from the first time that the Iranian Regime’s authorities have attempted to stop people from marking Shamlou’s death and remembering him at his grave. Indeed, the Regime would prefer that the Iranian people forgot all about Shamlou and his works.
Who was Shamlou?
Shamlou was a groundbreaking poet who used his work to push for greater freedoms in Iran and describe the atmosphere of fear and repression that plagued the country following the 1979 revolution that brought down the Shah and led to the Regime’s rule.
He is considered by many to have been Iran’s most influential contemporary poet, but much of his work was banned by the Regime, who notoriously oppose anyone who questions them.
Shamlou also wrote poems that criticised the rule of the Western-backed shah, who was also a dictator who oppressed the Iranian people, so the Shah banned some of his work before 1979.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) awarded Shamlou the Freedom of Expression prize for his efforts in support of human rights.
He died in Tehran in 2000.
Why is the Regime so desperate to stop commemorations to him?
The atmosphere in Iran is incredibly volatile right now, with an ongoing popular uprising that has been raging since December. The Regime knows – and is terrified that – any gathering in Iran will turn into a protest, especially when you consider that the man they would have celebrated was such a stringent advocate of human rights.
It says a lot about the weakness of the Regime that they can lob threats against the US, but they cannot let their own people gather to commemorate a poet.