The poet and activist Baktash Abtin died in an Iranian prison hospital on January 8. Baktash had been sentenced to 6 years for his role in the Iranian Writers Association. Engaging in any form of dissent deemed by authorities critical of the Islamic Republic of Iran can result in individuals being targeted by government security agencies and imprisoned on trumped-up national security charges.
We share with our readers a statement from PEN, the international organization of writers that champions free expression and dissent:
Imprisoned Iranian poet, filmmaker, and recipient of the 2021 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award Baktash Abtin died in a Tehran hospital, succumbing to COVID-19. Our worst fears materialized today, as we mourn the utterly preventable death of Baktash Abtin. COVID is a natural killer, but Abtin’s death was aided and abetted by the Iranian government every step of the way. Tehran’s Evin prison was a perpetual super-spreader event, making his unjust imprisonment since September of last year an effective death sentence. Abtin was denied medical treatment, his co-morbidities were ignored and at times he was shackled to his bed….. [He] was a true champion of free expression and a steadfast leader in the Iranian literary and human rights communities. When this brave role put a target on his back, he did not flinch or hide. We will remember Abtin as a gifted poet and filmmaker, but also as a courageous thinker and an honorable advocate.
POEM BY BAKTASH ABTIN
Asked, "your job?"
I said "poet"
He laughed & stamped the palm of my hand.
On the discharge form to the hospital the
guard wrote my job was "free"
How could a prisoner's job
My dear I think of you
To you, who know I am a poet
is my full time job