A journalist, poet and IranWire colleague has been targeted by one of the most influential and hardliner Shia religious authorities in Iran. 

A poem by Mohammad Tangestani spurred controversy in the Islamic Republic because it discusses extremist and "irrational" Islam, poverty in Iran, and also refers to the expeditionary Quds Force. The narrator of the poem also invites people to join together in peace. 

Over the last week, Tangestani, who now lives in Belgium, has received death threats via email from unknown sources. “You are going to hell,” one email said, which was typical of the attacks against him. “Blasphemy and insulting what is sacred to us will not go without response.”

On May 2, the eve of World Press Freedom Day, Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi responded to a question from somebody who identified himself as “a Basiji student at Isfahan University.” He referred to poems by Tangestani and said they were blasphemous.

The Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, Maziar Bahari, and organizations including Iran Human Rights and the Pourzand Foundation have condemned the fatwa and have written letters to the Belgian police and government, demanding that they take the threats seriously and take necessary measures to protect Tangestani’s life.

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