For Sepideh Rashno

I am Dawn
My name starts the day
I signal the night’s retreat

I tear hijab from my head
The virtue matron bites my hand
records me on her phone
Revolutionary Guards arrest me the next day

I disappear
until they show me on TV—

my cheeks hollowed out
my face bruised
my gaze lowered—

Under a loose manteau—
bleeding—bones—and flesh—

They air my confession against the sun
when the night is ongoing

In a “secret” location in Evin ((Prison in Tehran, Iran))
the interrogator-interviewer
will have no deviation from the script

Defiance costs me lashes
Submission gives me nightmares—
Torture interrogates my life

My name is Dawn
The day starts with my name

Who I am
is not who I am—in pain—

I am Dawn
and I tear the hijab
of the night

Author’s Note:  Sepideh Rashno, a woman defying the Islamic Republic of Iran’s hijab edict who was arrested on June 15, 2022, and whose forced confession was aired on State TV on July 30. Her given name means “dawn.”


Bänoo Zan is a poet, librettist, translator, teacher, editor and poetry curator, with more than 250 published poems and poetry-related pieces as well as three books including Songs of Exile and Letters to My Father. She is the founder of Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night), Toronto’s most diverse and brave poetry reading and open mic series (inception: 2012). Bänoo is the Writer-in-Residence at the University of Alberta, Canada, Sept 2022-May 2023. Her social media links are: LinkedIn; Instagram; Facebook; Twitter. Read other articles by Bänoo.