Thousands mourn Shamlou
By Mehrdad Balali
TEHRAN, July 27 (Reuters) - Thousands of mourners lined the streets
of Tehran on Thursday for the funeral of Ahmad Shamlou, one of Iran's finest
poets who fell foul of the shah and grew disillusioned with the Islamic
Revolution that overthrew him.
The crowds clapped and sang nationalist songs in defiance of Iran's
religious rule as the procession, led by intellectuals and writers, passed.
It began at the hospital where Shamlou, 75, died of diabetes on Tuesday
and ended at a mosque in the north of the capital.
``Iran, the treasured land. I am willing to be sacrificed for the pure
soil of my homeland,'' youths chanted, fists raised.
Mourners, red roses pinned to their chests, sang Shamlou's poems. Mahmoud
Dolatabadi, a leading writer, recited Shamlou's love poetry through a loud
speaker, mounted on a pickup truck.
A symbol of secular nationalism and social justice, Shamlou was a major
force in the intellectual movement opposed to the former shah before the
He developed a simple, free-flowing style at odds with the tightly-balanced
rhymes of classical Persian poetry. Influenced by the Spanish poet Federico
Garcia Lorca, the black American Langston Hughes and the French communist
Louis Aragon, Shamlou also wrote increasingly of love and suffering.
``He was a humanist, an atheist and a socially conscious intellectual
who skilfully wove his personal love and affections into his political
stance,'' said writer Esmail Nooriala [in an artile in The Iranian, "Prophet
``He was a lover and a fighter. At the centre of his poetry was the
bare-footed man with nothing but hope and an insatiable desire for justice.''
His books were banned for long periods before and after the revolution,
although since the early 1990s his poems have appeared in literary magazines.
Shamlou's opposition to the shah cost him a period of exile in the 1970s,
and on his return, he became disillusioned with politics.
His hopes for social justice returned in the wake of popular opposition
to the shah in late 1970s, and he joined other writers to lead a secular
intellectual movement against the monarch's dictatorship, in parallel with
the Islamic one.
Shamlou's poetry nights at the time drew large crowds of mainly socialist-minded
``I dread dying in a land where a grave-digger's wage is higher than
the price of human freedom,'' said one
of his poems.
However, Shamlou grew disenchanted with the revolution after the Shi'ite
clergy cracked down on secularism and imposed religious restrictions on
``They smell your mouth to see if you have said 'I love you!'. These
are the strangest of times, my love... We must hide our joys in the closet,''
Shamlou had lived in virtual seclusion in a Tehran suburb in recent
years, but made occasional trips to the West for medical treatment.
Although vilified by hardline Islamists as a ``traitor and a Western
stooge,'' the poet was rehabilitated under moderate President Mohammad
Khatami. Khatami's liberal Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani publicly
expressed grief over his death, in a marked departure from past practices.
Shamlou's body was buried at a cemetery in Karaj, a town west of Tehran.
Shamlou's companion Aida Sarkisian said there were plans to build a monument