A shining and unfading star in the bright galaxy of Persian literature…
You have come from millennia afar
On this long crimson path
Omnipresent in every step
Taken in this monstrous lair
All around echoes of your illuminating strides
On the morning of Wednesday 10 August 2022, Hushang Ebtehaj (a.k.a. ‘Sayeh’, meaning ‘Silhouette’), the poet of our people and homeland, passed away.
When Sayeh turned 90, a comrade asked him, “Have you ever thought about death?” He replied, “I see death as a leaf falling from a tree!”
Even by taking a glance at Sayeh’s poems, it is as if we are reviewing the history of the social and political movements of Iran, with all their victories and failures, and not through the usual vocabulary used in writing history, but through Sayeh’s clear and pure wording of his poems as well as the simple and tangible truths of their themes. The secret of his popularity and the adoration of his poetry is this simplicity and the truth that he takes after the characteristics of the ordinary and hardworking people of his homeland. As he said in a speech commemorating a departed friend: “As the foundation of this hall supports this structure and its load, the ordinary and hardworking people are the foundation of our society. I would frequently talk to the shopkeepers in my neighbourhood, discussing everyday issues – while not revealing that I am Sayeh, the poet, lest our simple relationship fall apart.” Sayeh’s view of society was strongly reflected in his poetry, which [not only] resulted in a considerable amount of his work being published, but also lovers of his poetry believing in his words. His poetry always reflected something that he had experienced, an event that had impacted upon his emotions and thoughts, a perception of an existing or past reality, or an awakening of human consciousness as to its capabilities.
In the poem ‘On the Black Cobbled Roadway’, [penned/released] in August 1952, after the bloody events of 21 July 1952 [the ’30 Tir’ uprising by pro-Mossadegh protesters against the Shah], he shouts out his anger at the Shah’s regime by addressing the executioner: “Shame on you, hangman!” In the poem ‘Galia’, he writes of what took place, his first love and his turning away from it, during the fateful events of 1952: “… Our love?… Ah / This is but another event too / My comrades all chained up / In the dark, damp crypts of Bagh-e Shah dungeon / or the hellish solitude exile of Khark Island…”
He wrote the poem ‘The Sombre Spring’ in 1954 after the coup d’état of 19 August 1953: “Spring has arrived, but with no blossoms or smiling faces.” In the poem ‘Alleyways of night’, dating back to 1958, he appeared to be expressing his deep sorrow after Iran’s national hero, Comrade Khosrow Roozbeh, faced the firing squad. Following the 1953 coup and the reign of terror that dominated in the horrific post-coup atmosphere, Comrade Ebtehaj was a [close Party associate] of Comrade Roozbeh. His home with his wife, Alma, was even one of Comrade Roozbeh’s hideouts for a while. In one part of his poem ‘Nightingale’s blood’, he describes the arrival of Comrade Roozbeh at their house: “… He leaned his cane against a corner of the house, lifted off his hat, and removed his cloak… The house was safe, he sat confidently, his weapon and hat next to him at hand…”
Comrade Sayeh wrote several poems welcoming the  Revolution, including the poems ‘Your turn’ (i.e. ‘It is now time for your turn’) and also ‘Dawn’ (a.k.a. ‘Iran, Ey Saraye Omid’ meaning ‘Iran, O Land of Hope’). However, he wrote a poem entitled ‘Freedom’ in March 1979, in which he expresses doubts about achieving freedom despite describing the people’s sacrifices. At the end of the poem, he says: “Oh freedom! / You come through blood / But / You come and I tremble in my heart / What is this that is concealed in your hand? / What is this that is wrapped around your feet? / Oh freedom! / Are you in chains? Coming in chains?” In his Mathnavi entitled “Cry of the Fife”, Sayeh talks about the struggles of the Iranian people and their oppression: “… So long was the oppression that kindness and justice was forgotten…”. In the same poem, he describes the fate of his eminent and wise comrade, Professor Ehsan Tabari [the esteemed theoretician of the Tudeh Party of Iran], as an “avalanche of rocks [upon] that crystal-like gracious being” and goes on to ask: “… What was all that hatred and bloodshed for? Those beatings, those killings, those hangings? What became of all your cries for freedom? You found a chance and you yourselves became the jailers!”
The poetry of the eternal Comrade Sayeh never weakened in the face of tyranny and did not wither under any condition or pretext – either in terms of art or in terms of content. Whether in defence of human dignity or human struggle for a bright future, he provoked the audience of his poetry into defending peace, social justice, and freedom.
The Tudeh Party of Iran expresses its condolences on the passing of Comrade Hushang Ebtehaj to his family, friends, and members of the Tudeh Party of Iran; to all the artists, poets and writers of Iran; to all the followers of progressive art and literature of the country; and to all his admirers.
The Tudeh Party of Iran
11 August 2022
The body of Hushang Ebtehaj (‘Sayeh’), the national poet of Iran, and a socialist, was returned to the country on 26 August. Tens of thousands of people turned out to say their final farewells to him while his coffin travelled the route from Vahdat Hall, Tehran’s most famous and prestigious performing arts venue, to the townhouse he once resided in before he went to live in Germany following the ruling regime’s violent purging of the political opposition in Iran. His coffin was placed under an ‘Arghavan’ tree (‘Judas’ or ‘redbud’ tree) which he referred to in some of his most famous poems.
In 1983 during the regime’s onslaught against the Tudeh Party of Iran and the arrest of more than 10,000 leaders, members, and supporters of the Party, Hushang Ebtehaj was also arrested and spent a year in the dungeons of the regime.
Ebtehaj’s body was finally laid to rest in one of the most famous parks in the northern city of Rasht, his place of birth, as he had requested. Once more, many thousands of admirers of his poems of hope and devotion to truth, justice, and love filled the park and the surrounding areas. Many of them were singing his famous anthem, “Iran, Ey Saray-e Omid” (“Iran, O Land of Hope”), which was written to greet the 1979 Iranian Revolution. He always, and until the last, defended his beliefs in socialism and its historical inevitability.