Tahirih of Persia (1818-1854) was courageous as Joan of Arc,
determined as Elizabeth Stanton, and beautiful as the legendary
Scherazade. She often lectured (behind a curtain) at her father’s Mosque in Qazvin. A religious prodigy, Tahirih prophesied the coming of a 1000-year Prophet, Bab. She was denounced as a heretic by her Mullah father, uncle, and husband, and sent into exile.
Tahirih composed spiritual poems on horseback in the Mazanderan forests above Tehran and on an 800-mile desert caravan to teach at Karbala.
Bab made her his disciple, and at the First Babi Conference Tahirih led the women in their fight for equality. Soon after, she was forced into hiding. Babi followers were executed by the hundreds, but charmed by Tahirih’s wit and beauty, the Shah ordered, "I like her looks so let her be."
An attempt on the Shah’s life led to her arrest and murder. Although most of Tahirih’s poems went up in flames when she did, a strange turn of poetic justice today preserves a few as popular folk songs.
Older’s Tahirih poems won a First Varoujan Prize and grants from the Puffin Foundation and Deming Memorial Fund. Older’s novels include The Island Queen and This Desired Place (Appledore Books). Older’s poetry, essays and stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Poets & Writers, Entelechy International, Sisters of the Earth and many other publications.
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On the cover of Tahirih Unveiled,
Older is wearing one of her own poems stitched with gold and silver thread in Farsi by women of an Afghani handwork collective. Tahirih Unveiled
Listen to Julia Older read her poem "Tahirih"
from her book "Tahirih Unveiled".