Simin Behbahani

Simin Behbahani (Persian: سیمین بهبهانی; 20 June 1927 – 19 August 2014) was a prominent Iranian contemporary poet, lyricist and activist. She was an icon of modern Persian poetry, Iranian intelligentsia and literati who affectionately refer to her as the lioness of Iran.[1] She was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in literature, and "received many literary accolades around the world."[2] Her surname also appears as Bihbahani.


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

Simin Behbahani, whose real name was Simin Khalili (Persian: سیمین خلیلی)[3] (سيمين خليلی), was the daughter of Abbās Khalili (عباس خلیلی), poet, writer and Editor of the Eghdām (Action) newspaper,[4] and Fakhr-e Ozmā Arghun (فخرعظمی ارغون), poet and teacher of the French language.[5] Abbās Khalili (1893–1971) wrote poetry in both Persian and Arabic and translated some 1100 verses of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh into Arabic.[4] Fakhr-e Ozmā Arghun (1898–1966) was one of the progressive women of her time and a member of Khānun-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 secondary schools Nāmus, Dār ol-Mo'allemāt and No'bāvegān in Tehran.[5]

Simin Behbahani
سیمین بهبهانی

Simin Behbahani
Born Simin Khalili
(1927-06-20)20 June 1927
Tehran, Persia
Died 19 August 2014(2014-08-19) (aged 87)
Tehran, Iran
Burial place Behesht-e Zahra
Nationality Iranian
Education University of Tehran
Occupation Poet, Lyricist, writer
Spouse(s) Hassan Behbahani (1946–1970, divorced)
Manouchehr Koshyar (1971–2002, his death)
Children Ali (b. 1948)
Parent(s) Abbas Khalili (Father)
Fakhr-e Ozma Arghun (Mother)

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 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."[2]


Behbahani was hospitalized in Tehran on 6 August 2014. She remained in a coma from 6 August until her death 19 August 2014. She died in Tehran's Pars Hospital and she was 87. Her funeral was held on 22 August in Vahdat Hall and her body was buried at Behesht-e Zahra.


Simin Behbahani in Washington DC, ca. 1990.

Awards and honours

See also


  1. Fatemeh Keshavarz, Banishing the Ghosts of Iran, The Chronicle Review of Higher Education, Vol. 53, No. 45, p. B6 (13 July 2007).
  2. 1 2 Tehran Halts Travel By Poet Called 'Lioness Of Iran' by Mike Shuster, NPR, 17 March 2010
  3. Behbahani was the last name of her first husband .
  4. 1 2 Abbās Khalili, Persian Wikipedia.
  5. 1 2 Fakhr-e Ozmā Arghun, Persian Wikipedia.
  6. Annamária Apró (26 September 2013). "Janus Pannonius Prize goes to Simin Behbahani". Hungarian Literature Online. Retrieved 30 September 2013.

Further reading

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