Outrageous, Barbaric, Despicable: Iranian Poet and Activist Hashem Shaabani Executed


Toute l’eau de la mer ne suffirait pas à laver une tache de sang intellectuelle.– Isidore Ducasse dit Comte de Lautréamont, “Les Chants de Maldoror”…

We were saddened and horrified today to learn of the death of Hashem Shaabani, who was executed on January 27th by the order of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. From Radio Free Europe:

An Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal reportedly had sentenced the poet to death, along with 14 others, last July on charges that included “waging war on God.”

Press reports said Shaabani was hanged after his sentence was approved by President Hassan Rohani.

In a statement on February 5, Freedom House said Shaabani was subjected to severe torture and interrogation during his three years in prison.



Human Rights Voices also reports on the execution, writing:

To those who knew him, Hashem Shaabani was a man of peace and understanding struggling to extend spaces of individual freedom within the despotic Khomeinist system…In one of his letters from prison, made available to use through his family, Shaabani says he could not have remained silent against ‘hideous crimes against Ahvazis perpetrated by the Iranian authorities, particularly arbitrary and unjust executions.’ He adds “I have tried to defend the legitimate right that every people in this world should have which is the right to live freely with full civil rights. With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.’”


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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, February 6th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.

Nobletea impotrivirii: Despre Alice Voinescu


Alice Voinescu s-a nascut pe 10 februarie 1885 si a incetat din viata pe 4 iunie 1961. Intre multele si impardonabilele crime ale regimului comunist s-a numarat arestarea si intermnitarea acestei admirabile ganditoare, o eseista de prim rang, al carei jurnal ramane una din marile creatii spirituale ale acelor ani intunecati. Alice Voinescu a simbolizat, cum observa Monica Lovinescu, nobletea impotrivirii. Despre temnita comunista: „Nu vreau să mă gândesc la cele 19 luni petrecute în închisoare. E ceva atât de străin de gândul meu, de soarta mea adevărată, îndreptată spre libertate, încât nu-mi recunosc nicio rudenie, nicio afinitate, nicio coincidenţă între mine şi cele prin care am trecut. Zadarnic am încercat să integrez acest timp în sensul vieţii mele. Am vrut să-i găsesc un rost, o explicaţie. Mă amăgeam că pretindeam că e o mare experienţă ce-mi poate folosi. Nu mi-a folosit toată urâţenia şi murdăria şi comicăria decât să mă delimitez mai bine, să mă smulg din ea.” Apelul ei la “deslichelizare” ramane mai actual ca oricand.




Ales Debeljak RIP


I can’t believe, it’s absurd, it’s revolting! Ales Debeljak is a dear friend, I refuse to use the past tense. A great poet, a noble spirit, a genuine Central European intellectual. I just learned about this news from Ajla Terzić. Like her, I feel devastated.


I first met Ales in Warsaw in 2004, at a conference on the idea of Europe organized by Rob Riemen’s Nexus Institute, then we saw each other frequently, he sent me his books, I sent mine. A few months ago he lectured at Yale, invited by Marci Shore. Ales has written illuminating essays on modernism and post-modernism, nationalism, and the Yugoslav bloody debacle. The Romanian publishing house Polirom published an original collection of his essays with the movingly telltale title “In cautarea nefericirii” (The Quest for Unhappiness). I was honored to write an endorsement for the jacket of his book “The Hidden Handshake”…

Will the Centre Hold?


There is an urgent need to foster what the great historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once called the vital centre. In Europe and in North America. There is a pressing need to remember those disquieting lines from “The Second Coming” by W. B. Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

TGA’s assessment, warning, and behest: “On past form, the woman whose professed heroine is Catherine the Great will see off the immediate political challenge with a combination of ruthlessness and tactical accommodation that has earned the label “Merkevellian”. But Merkel is now embattled, and with her the very centre of Europe’s centre. I will never forget a photograph of Merkel standing alone in the centre of a vast empty stage with, suspended above her head, a sign saying simply Die Mitte (the centre). Over her 10 years as chancellor she, and Germany with her, have come to be just that: Europe’s centre, politically, economically, diplomatically, but also ideologically.”


Great News: Restoring Democracy in Venezuela


This is great news and should be welcomed by all those who hold dear the values of truth, tolerance, and liberty! This a gigantic step towards restoring people’s sovereignty in Venezuela. It proves that de-democratization is not irreversible. Yes, Venezuela has a presidential system, but this is a major breakthough. One can envision a referendum that would put an end to the lurid farce of “Bolivarian socialism.”

Venezuelan opposition supporters celebrate the results of the legislative election in Caracas on 7 December, 2015


Lecturi pentru vremuri intunecate


What books do we read in these dark times? I re-read Sigmund Neumann’s classic “Permanent Revolutiion: Totalitarianism in the Age of International Civil War,” second edition, with a new preface by Hans Kohn (New York, Prager, 1965). The concept of a global civil war, introduced by Neumann in 1942, remains disturbingly accurate. As the late Indiana University professor Matei Calinescu showed in a great book, re-reading is always instructive, inspiring and enriching.

The conclusion is partucularly timely: “This fight against moral anarchy, however, should never obsuce the basis of human existence: individual responsibility. It is an inalienable right. Dictators attack it. They must be defied. No compromise is possible because this personal responsibility is the fountain of life. Nobody shall take it away from us, for on this responsibility rest the pride and dignity of man.”

Povestea unui refugiat: Lectii ale secolului XX


Ahmad este prietenul meu. Este etiopian, musulman, suntem de-o varsta. A ajuns in Statele Unite cam tot atunci cand am ajuns si eu, la inceputul anilor 80. Mama sa. trecuta de 80 de ani, traieste in Etiopia. Sotia sa este crestina ortodoxa. Diminetile, Ahmad lucreaza ca sofer de taxi (asa ne-am cunoscut), dupa amiezile este concierge la un mare hotel de langa Dupont Circle, pe Massachussets Avenue. Locuieste in Silver Spring, o suburbie multietnica a Washingtonului. I-a placut la nebunie “Grand Budapest Hotel”. Mi-a spus ca pretuieste mult pozitia Germaniei in aceste zile cand sute de mii de oameni, inclusiv refugiati din Eritreea, sunt priviti, de multi, ca fiinte dispensabile. I-am povestit despre Hannah Arendt si conceptul de populatie superflua.

Ahmad asculta NPR (National Public Radio) si isi viseaza un singur lucru: sa gaseasca timpul spre a citi macar unele dintre cartile care il intereseaza. Stam de vorba des despre vedetele pe care le-a intalnit la acel hotel: Al Pacino, Gregory Peck (favoritul sau), Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep si lista e mult mai lunga. Am discutaty despre filmul “Teza”, despre prigoana intelectualilor in timpul dictaturii Derg-ului in Etiopia. Teza e numele personajullui principal, un fel de Iuri Jivago nimerit in malaxorul leninismului etiopian. Mi-a povestit despre soarta multor prieteni in acei ani intunecati, dar si despre imensa coruptie care a urmat prabusirii regimului Mengistu. Vorbim despre secolul XX, despre dictatori, despre Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Ceausescu, Castro, Mengistu. Vorbim despre Putin si Ucraina. Ahmad detesta orice forma de intoleranta. Fanatismul ii repugna. Este unul dintre cei mai decenti oameni pe care mi-a fost dat sa-i cunosc. A ajuns aici ca refugiat.

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