Trees must sing songs again

In memory of Keramat Daneshian and Khosrow Golesorkhi

I see art as a reflection of social conflict and for the benefit of society [1]

Twenty-five years ago two shining figures of the history of the Iranian peoples struggles were executed. This spring, like many springs, the memory of Keramat Daneshian and his comrade in arms Khosrow Golesorkhi is rekindled by the broadcast of Keramat’s song: “Baharan khojasteh bad” [2]. These two glowed in the darkest days of the anti-people Shah’s regime and did not allow the flag of resistance, which has been raised in the 1960’s, to lie on the ground.

At that time no regime had spent so much money at home and abroad to promote itself  for its survival. All the pages of the heavily censored newspapers were filled with praise of the Shah. Yet people passed his portraits, posters and costly columns listings the principles of his White Revolution, murmuring to themselves “we do not hear” [3] and whispered news of the arrests, torture and execution of their children.

The struggle which was being conducted by different groups with different ideologies was effecting the general atmosphere of a society that appeared on the surface calm and silent. Ultimately it took the people on a road where they made their final reckoning with the Shah’s anti-people and dependent on imperialism regime. Their hearts were being filled with hatred and odium for the Shah until one day it reached explosion point.

Two camps

Art and literature were openly divided into two camps. There was the creative art and literature and there was the mummified. In the first camp were those who in obscurity, and without pretensions, under the difficult conditions of censorship and prison wrote, in the language of the people, of their pains, hopes and ideals, and of course faced the consequences. The others, attracted by the propaganda and fed by petro-dollars and  under the protection of numerous state run organisation and offices produced an elaborate, arrogant and pretentious art.

While the surface was calm people would whisper any news. Each accident was turned against the regime. This was because the Pahlavi regime was hated, particularly since the British-USA engineered coup d’etat had overthrown the most democratic and popular regime of its time, that of Dr Mohammad Mossadeq. The regime’s hands were tainted in the death by a car accident of the poet Furuq Farrokhzad, a woman who promised the appearance of someone who would “distribute bread and cough mixture equally” [4], the tragic and suspect death of the folk hero and Olympic gold medalist  wrestler Takhti in a hotel, the drowning of the writer Samad Behrangi [5] in the river Aras, Ali Shariati’s death abroad [6], and the savage tortures, killings and executions of those who has taken to an armed uprising against the regime, and many other crimes.

Even before this the imperial Court had shown its ugly face. The knifing of Mossadeq’s young foreign minister Dr Hossein Fatemi by the Shah’s leader of thugs - Sha’ban Ja’fari, the burning to death of Karimpour Shirazi, proprietor of the revolutionary newspaper Shuresh (rebellion) in prison by the Shah’s brother, the execution of Tudeh army officers, an the mass murder of people in the uprising of June 1963. This was the setting when Khosrow Golesorkhi and Keramat Daneshian stood up in front of the shah’s military court.

The two

Daneshian was born in Shiraz in 1946. In the appeals court [7] he said: In the first court of injustice because of the fascistic conditions prevailing you did not hear my defence, nor that of my friend Golesorkhi, in full. Yet my defence is no more than the defence of the rights of the poor and oppressed, and attack on the counter revolution and the sworn enemies of the people. If you are not afraid of revolutionary forces or the struggles of the people, you do not in fact believe in the death of the ruling class in Iran. History will show this reality to you. ... Marxism was never liked by the ruling classes and their dependants.”

Khosrow Golesorkhi was born in Rasht in 1943 and was thirty when, just as it looked as if the [military] judges were getting the upper hand he turned the atmosphere of the court: “In the glorious name of the people. I will defend myself in a court which I neither recognise its legality nor its legitimacy. As a Marxist my address is  to the people and history. The more you attack me the more I pride myself, the further I am from you the closer I am to the people. The more your hatred for my beliefs, the stronger the kindness and support of the people. Even if you bury me - and you certainly will - people will make flags and songs from my corpse”.

When colonel Ghaffarzadeh, the chief judge, admonished him to stick to his defence he replied with a wry smile: “are you frightened of my words?”. The judge shouted back “I order you shut up and sit down”. Eyes flashing in anger Golesorkhi spoke passionately “Don’t you give me any orders. Go and order your corporals and squadron leaders. I doubt if my voice is loud enough to awaken a sleeping conscience here. Don’t be afraid. Even in this so-called respectable court, bayonets protect you”.

Earlier Golesorkhi had defended himself: “Iranian society should know that I am here being tried and condemned to death purely for holding Marxist views. My crime is not conspiracy, nor an assassination but my views [8]. In this court, in the presence of  foreign journalists, I accuse the court, the fabricators of the dossier against me and against the irresponsible judges. I draw the attention of all human rights authorities, committees, and organisations to witness this stage managed farce, this state crime that is about to take place.

The military court did not even give itself the trouble of reading my file. I am a Marxist-Leninist, I respect Islamic sharia’ and will shout my views, for which I die, in a loud voice: nowhere in the world, in countries like ours which are dependent to and dominated by neo-colonialism, can a truly national government exist unless a Marxist infrastructure is created in society”.

Death sentence

When the judge announced death sentences on both Daneshian and Golesorkhi they merely smiled. They then shook hands and embraced. “Comrade!” said Golesorkhi.  “My best comrade!” replied Daneshian.

In a few months Golesorkhi’s book “Politics of Art, Politics of Poetry”, published both openly and in secret sold over 50,000 copies, at a time when print runs were rarely over 2,000 copies. The Shah’s secret Service tried to break their resistance using any ruse. SAVAK tried to get a face to face meeting between Khosrow and his only son Damun. Despite an desperate wish to see his only child, Golesorkhi refused fearing that this may weaken his resolve. Colonel Vaziri, the governor of Evin prison, tried in vain to get either to ask for forgiveness. There had been such propaganda that the Shah is forgiving that very few people believed the execution will take place. Both defendants at first thought they are unlikely to be executed, though when they face death they did do without flinching.

Conflict at the top

There I no doubt that, in addition to the bravery and resistance of the two defendants,  they were victims of the conflicts within the regime. SAVAK’s continuous extension of its control on everyone and everywhere was being resisted by some of the intellectuals close to the regime - the Farah-Ghotbi gang [9].

SAVAK wished to discredit this gang in the eyes of the Shah. The arrest and show trial, for the group arrested with Daneshian and Golesorkhi in front of foreign correspondents had two aims. By exaggerating the importance of the “network discovered” they indirectly discredited the Farah-Ghotbi gang in the Shah’s eyes while also discrediting the independent intellectuals. The ideological defence by Keramat and Khosrow, and the legal defence put up by Teifur Batha’i’, Abbas Samakar and Reza Allamehzadeh overturned their plan.

The death sentences on the first two and life sentences on the other three was a political defeat of the dictatorship against its revolutionary opponents. The weakness and begging for forgiveness of the other seven co-defendants did nothing to lessen popular hatred for the regime [10]. The wave of anger inside and outside the country was such that the regime never officially announced their executions.

Revolutionary teacher

Keramat Daneshian was arrested for the first time by SAVAK in 1970 and was given a one year sentence. He had made it clear in prison that he wanted to go and work among workers. At the height of the Shah’s dictatorship the passivity, and giving up of the struggle [in years since the coup against Mossadegh] by the old left had provoked a turning to armed struggle in a new generation of honest, noble and mainly young persons. There was much debate as to how this is to be done. This tendency was not unique to Iran. This was a time of urban and rural guerrilla warfare in Latin America and elsewhere. None of us, at the time understood the consequences of the question completely.

Once the governor of the prison asked Keramat “what can you people do?”. “We do nothing except awakening the anger of the people” he replied “it is they who deliver the final blows... We do not claim that victory is neigh. We want nothing for ourselves. Perhaps years, 50, 70, even 100 years. But who knows, maybe earlier. Dictators never believe their own death.”

Keramat was modest, always in search of knowledge. He was not dogmatic. He would patiently listen to, and tried to learn from, militants who has spent years in prison even if he held different views from them. That was why he was loved and respected by all the prisoners.

Born in Shiraz, he was brought up in Tabriz and was deeply familiar with Azari culture and literature. After the drowning of the revolutionary writer and teacher Samad Behrangi, he chose to follow his road in 1968. He wanted to teach in Azerbaijan villages but when told that some of Samad’s colleagues are already teaching there [9] he agreed to move south and at the time of his first arrest he was in teaching in a village near the oil town of Masjed Soleiman.

Khosrow Golesorkhi was arrested as part of a study group of revolutionary works in April 1973. He was awaiting to go to court and would have expected a maximum sentence of 3 years when his name surfaced in connection with another group who were planing to take the heir to the throne hostage in return for release of political prisoners. Neither had anything in their interrogation or dossier which would have required a death sentence according to the criteria of the previous regime. Both were condemned to death purely for their steadfastness and courage in court. Neither appealed.

Farewell to life

The cell in which they spent their last night [February 17, 1974] in Jamshidiyeh prison was covered with slogans. They sang revolutionary songs all night, eat their supper quietly, shouted slogans to the soldiers in the lorry which took them to the Chitgar execution field, refused blindfolds so that they could see the red dawn and sang together in firm voice:

O comrades! Heroes! We will give our life for our country without fear... [12]

They then themselves gave the order to fire!

Golesorkhi had written [13]: “A person has an artistic eye whose art has a wider link with the people.... an artist has a style who forge a link to the life of the people of his land and keep the torch of struggle alight in them. This style may not fit any literary school, just as the poetry of the Palestinian Fadayeens does not. Why should it fit any literary school. Why imprison our poetry, which is our only effective art form, in literary and stylistic schools? The place of a poem is not in libraries, but in tongues and minds. Literature must retain the role it always had in social movement for us too in the displacement of social order, and fulfil it. The role of literature is to awaken. The role of progressive literature is to create social movements and to help attain the goals of historic development of peoples”.

Ali-Ashraf Darvishian


This article first appeared in the monthly publication Culture and Development, no 32, Teheran, February 1998. The abridged, and lightly edited, translation from Farsi by Mehdi Kia is unauthorised. Ali-Asraf Darvishian is a writer who also tasted prison in the last regime. His four-volume novel Cloudy Years (Salhay-e Abri, Teheran 1991, Espark Publications) depicts his own experience in the prisons of the Shah.



1. Khosrow Golesorkhi in interview with Chapar

2. Greetings to the spring. In the heady days after the overthrow of the Shah this was  the anthem of the new spring the revolution promised, but did not fulfil, which every Iranian knows by heart. [tr.] 

3. Film scenario by Gholamhossein Sa’edi

4. From the poem “Someone is Coming” - kesi miayad

5. Behrangi’s stories for children such as the Tiny Black fish, Ulduz and the Ravens and Ulduz and the talking doll were highly critical of the regime [tr.].

6. Shariati was one of the modern Islamic thinkers with a large following, particularly among students. For a summary of his views see  Ali Rahnema ed, Pioneers of Islamic Revival, Zed Books, London 1994. [tr.]

7. Where the Shah had invited foreign correspondents as part of his campaign to clean up his tarnished international image [tr.]

8. Both were accused of plotting to kidnap the Shah’s son in return for release of political prisoners..

9. The Shah’s wife Farah and Ghotbi controlled a number of organisations such as the radio-television (which Ghotbi headed), the Society for the Development of Thought, Keyhan newspaper. These gang wanted to run these organisations according to its own taste and did not accept SAVAK’s special censorship. On occasions they had ignored SAVAK’s advise and employed persons opposed to the system.

10. A number of co-defendants had turned state witness [tr.]

11. Behruz Dehghani, later died under torture while Ali-Reza Nabdel and Kazem Sa’adati died at the hands of SAVAK agents.

12. A well known revolutionary song. It went on:

From our blood tulips will grow

Tulips and flowers will cover the earth like a flower garden..

We stand tall like [the vulcano] Damavand,

We give up our life for the people,

We will not take a step back until death...

13. Golesorkhi K, A hand between dagger and hear (Dasti miane deshneh va del) with the help of Kaveh Gowharin, Teheran 1998.  My Country, an anthology of his poems has also been published recently.