Eve was not tall enough
I’ll pick all the apples.
– Asieh Amini
Poet, writer and activist. Asieh started her career as a journalist and boldly covered numerous stories about injustice that brought Iran’s abuse of human rights to the international community. She is also the founder of the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign and deeply involved in the women’s movement in Iran.
What is your job and what kind of activism do you do?
My activism and job are one, but they’re also different. I am a writer, and I am involved in the struggle for human rights—as a human being, and as a woman.
When did you first become interested in poetry and literature?
I grew up in a family very involved with literature. I started writing poetry when I was very young. Every Thursday we had a poetry meeting at the public library and I would wait for Thursday to go, and read my poetry, and listen to the other poets. Poetry is the most important thing in my life, after my daughter and family.
When did you become an activist?
When I started as a journalist, I didn’t pay attention to gender equality or gender problems in our society because I had enough freedom in my life. I had a very liberal family and gender issues weren’t prominent in my private life. Of course, after I became aware about gender issues in Iran, I realized I could not exist independent of the situation.
Iran censors the media; how did this impact your early work as a journalist?
A journalist in Iran first learns what she cannot write instead of what she can write. One day I heard about something that happened to a teenage girl in North Iran, I was curious and travelled there and found a very abnormal story. The girl was 16-years-old, had endured a lifetime of sexual abuse and, as a result, had turned to sex work. Eventually, the girl was jailed for extramarital sex and sentenced to death penalty. I wrote the story and found that I couldn’t publish it because the chief editor said it was dangerous for me—and everyone at the newspaper—for criticizing Sharia law. This was one of my first challenges with censorship about women’s rights, but not the last one. So, after I created a blog, I could write about things that I couldn’t publish in the newspaper.
What is the subject of your poetry now?
Everything, everybody, life. I believe my poetry comes from my life. Anything can inspire me for my poems.
Is there anything in particular you miss about Iran that motivates you?
My poems can come from everything. It could be a person who I fell in love with, it could be a place, it could be a thing, it can be anything. My poems have ranged from focusing on happiness, hope, love, and normal things to darkness, execution, stoning or my cases I was involved with in court.
What is special about poetry for you?
I believe that art and poetry has an essence. Poetry has an essence that is independent of the content that has grown with me, and comes with me until now, and I hope it will stay with me.
Do you feel more or less hopeful for women in Iran now?
Unfortunately, the situation is not good today. There is no clear future for women in this context in Iran. Civil society and women’s rights activists should have freedom to help society and the country, but unfortunately this freedom doesn’t exist. So many activists are in prison. Still, I am a very hopeful person. I think to be an activist you need hope. If you aren’t hopeful for the future, you cannot do anything to change the world.
Even the frame of this shut window
Smell of gun powder.
How many times have I told you:
“Don’t come to my dream with a gun?”
– Asieh Amini
Read more about Asieh and her work in this profile by the New Yorker.