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Simin Behbahani

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Simin Behbahani
سیمین بهبهانی
Simin Behbahani
Simin Behbahani in 2007
Born(1927-07-20)20 July 1927
Died19 August 2014(2014-08-19) (aged 87)
Tehran, Iran
Burial placeBehesht-e Zahra
Other namesSimin Bihbahani, Simin Khalili
EducationUniversity of Tehran
Occupation(s)Poet, lyricist, writer
Hassan Behbahani
(m. 1946; div. 1970)
Manouchehr Koshyar
(m. 1971; died 1984)

Simin Behbahani, her surname also appears as Bihbahani (née Siminbar Khalili;[1] Persian: سیمین بهبهانی; 20 July 1927 – 19 August 2014) was a prominent Iranian contemporary poet, lyricist, and activist. Renowned for her mastery of the ghazal, a traditional poetic form, she became an icon of modern Persian poetry. The Iranian intelligentsia and literati affectionately referred to her as the "Lioness of Iran."[1][2]

Throughout her illustrious career, Behbahani was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature and received numerous literary accolades from around the world.[3]Her work not only enriched Persian literature but also highlighted her role as a significant cultural and intellectual figure in Iran.

Early life and family

Board of governors of Association of Patriotic Women, Tehran, 1922

Simin Behbahani, whose name at birth was Siminbar Khalili[1] (Persian: سیمین بر خلیلی)[4] (سيمين بر خليلی), was the daughter of Abbas Khalili, a poet, diplomat, newspaper publisher, and editor of the Aghdam [Fa] (English: action) newspaper, and Fakhr-Ozma Arghun [Fa], a poet and teacher of the French language.[1] Abbās Khalili wrote poetry in both Persian and Arabic and he translated some 1,100 verses of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh into Arabic. Fakhr-Ozma Arghun was one of the progressive women of her time and a member of Kānun-e Nesvān-e Vatan'khāh (Association of Patriotic Women) between 1925 and 1929. In addition to her membership of Hezb-e Democrāt (Democratic Party) and Kānun-e Zanān (Women's Association), she was for a time (1932) editor of the Āyandeh-ye Iran (Future of Iran) newspaper. She taught French at the Nāmus, Dār ol-Mo'allemāt and No'bāvegān secondary schools in Tehran.[5]



Simin Behbahani started writing poetry at twelve and published her first poem at the age of fourteen. She used the "Char Pareh" style of Nima Yooshij and subsequently turned to ghazal. Behbahani contributed to a historic development by adding theatrical subjects and daily events and conversations to poetry using the ghazal style of poetry. She has expanded the range of the traditional Persian verse forms and has produced some of the most significant works of the Persian literature in the 20th century.

She was President of the Iranian Writers' Association and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999 and 2002. In 2013, she was awarded the Janus Pannonius Grand Prize for Poetry.[6]

In early March 2010, she could not leave the country due to official prohibitions. As she was about to board a plane to Paris, police detained her and interrogated her "all night long". She was released but without her passport. Her English translator, Farzaneh Milani, expressed surprise at the arrest as detention as Behbahani was then 82 and nearly blind, "we all thought that she was untouchable."[3]

Personal life


She had two marriages, the first was to Hassan Behbahani and it ended in divorce.[1] She had three children from her first marriage, one daughter and two sons.[1] Her second marriage was to Manuchehr Koushyar and it ended when he died in 1984.[1]



Behbahani was hospitalized on 6 August 2014. She remained in coma from 6 August until her death on 19 August 2014, and died in Tehran's Pars Hospital of pulmonary heart disease at the age of 87.[7] Her funeral, attended by thousands, was held on 22 August in Vahdat Hall, and her body was buried at Behesht-e Zahra.[8]


Simin Behbahani in Washington DC, ca. 1990.
  • The Broken Lute [Seh-tar-e Shekasteh, 1951]
  • Footprint [Ja-ye Pa, 1954]
  • Chandelier [Chelcheragh, 1955]
  • Marble [Marmar 1961]
  • Resurrection [Rastakhiz, 1971]
  • A Line of Speed and Fire [Khatti ze Sor'at va Atash, 1980]
  • Arzhan Plain [Dasht-e Arzhan, 1983]
  • Paper Dress [Kaghazin Jameh, 1992]
  • A Window of freedom [Yek Daricheh Azadi, 1995]
  • Collected Poems [Tehran 2003]
  • Maybe It's the Messiah [Shayad ke Masihast, Tehran 2003] Selected Poems, translated by Ali Salami
  • A Cup of Sin, Selected poems, translated by Farzaneh Milani and Kaveh Safa

Awards and honours


English Translations

  • A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems, translated by Farzaneh Milani and Kaveh Safa (Syracuse University Press, 1999) ISBN 978-0815605546

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Martin, Douglas (21 August 2014). "Simin Behbahani, Outspoken Iranian Poet, Dies at 87". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  2. ^ Keshavarz, Fatemeh (13 July 2007). "Banishing the Ghosts of Iran". The Chronicle Review of Higher Education. p. B6.
  3. ^ a b Tehran Halts Travel By Poet Called 'Lioness Of Iran' by Mike Shuster, NPR, 17 March 2010
  4. ^ Behbahani was the last name of her first husband
  5. ^ "BIBLIOGRAPHY, Fakhr Uzmā Arghūn".
  6. ^ a b "Laureates: 2013 Simin Behbahani". Janus Pannonius Grand Prize for Poetry. 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  7. ^ "Simin Behbahani, celebrated poet known as the 'lioness of Iran,' dies at 87". The Washington Post. 23 August 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  8. ^ Esfandiari, Golnaz (22 August 2014). "Thousands Attend Iranian Poet Behbahani's Funeral". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  9. ^ "MTVU – College Music, Activism, Shows and Activities On Campus". MTVU. Archived from the original on 12 November 2009.
  10. ^ Annamária Apró (26 September 2013). "Janus Pannonius Prize goes to Simin Behbahani". Hungarian Literature Online. Retrieved 30 September 2013.

Further reading

  • Chopra, R M, " Eminent Poetesses of Persian ", Iran Society, Kolkata, 2010
  • Norozi, N. “La mia spada è la poesia”. Versi di lotta e d’amore nella poetessa persiana Simin Behbahāni (with an extensive anthology of translated and annotated poems, and with the originals in the appendix), WriteUp Books (“Ferdows. Collana di Studi iranici e islamici”), Roma 2023.