Two Iranian poets who faced lashings and prison sentences for their work have escaped from Iran.
Fatemeh Ekhtesari told AP Monday that both she and fellow poet Mehdi Mousavi escaped from Iran in recent days and were safely in another country. She declined to elaborate out of concerns about their safety.
Ekhtesari, a practicing obstetrician, and Mousavi, a trained doctor who teaches literature and poetry, were first arrested in December 2013, months after President Hassan Rouhani took office.
Ekhtesari received an 11½-year prison sentence and Mousavi got nine years on charges ranging from propaganda against the state to "insulting sanctities," according to PEN. The poets were also sentenced to 99 lashings each.
The two poets were arrested in December 2013 when they were attempting to travel to Turkey for a literary workshop. Some reports suggested they were being held because of their lyrics, and the two had previously made statements critical of the government and supported pro-democracy movements, PEN reported.
Mousavi is a prolific poet and has written five collections of poems. Two of his collections were deemed unpublishable by Iranian authorities. Ekhtesari was a student of Mousavi. Her most recent poetry collection, A Feminist Discussion Before Boiling the Potatoes, was withdrawn from bookshops.
Last year, more than 100 poets, including Robert Pinsky, Claudia Rankine, Billy Collins, John Ashbery, and Tracy K. Smith, signed a letter urging Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to pardon the pair, The Guardian reported.