Simin Behbahani (born July 20, 1927, Tehran, Iran) is one of the most prominent figures of the modern Persian literature and one of the most outstanding amongst the contemporary Persian poets. She is Iran's national poet and an icon of the Iranian intelligentsia and literati, who affectionately refer to her as the lioness of Iran. She has been nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in literature, and has received many literary accolades around the world.
Simin Behbahani, whose real name is Simin Khalili, is the daughter of Abbās Khalili, poet, writer and Editor of the Eghdam (Action) newspaper and Fakhr-e Ozma Arghun, poet and teacher of the French language. Abbas Khalili (1893–1971) wrote poetry in both Persian and Arabic and translated some 1100 verses of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh into Arabic. Fakhr-e Ozma Arghun (1898–1966) was one of the progressive women of her time and a member of Kanun-e Nesvan-e Vatan'khah (Association of Patriotic Women) between 1925 and 1929. In addition to her membership in Hezb-e Democrat (Democratic Party) and Kanun-e Zanan (Women's Association), she was for a time (1932) Editor of the Ayandeh-ye Iran (Future of Iran) newspaper. She taught French at the secondary schools Nāmus, Dar ol-Mo'allemat and No'bavegan in Tehran.
Simin Behbahani started writing poetry at twelve and published her first poem at the age of fourteen. She used the "Char Pareh" style of Nima Yooshij and subsequently turned to the ghazal.
Behbahani contributed to a historic development by adding theatrical subjects and daily events and conversations to poetry using the ghazal style. She has expanded the range of the traditional Persian verse forms and has produced some of the most significant works of Persian literature in 20th century.
She is President of The Iranian Writers' Association and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999 and 2002.
In early March 2010 she was refused permission to leave the country. As she was about to board a plane to Paris, police detained her and interrogated her "all night long". She was released but without her passport. Her English translator (Farzaneh Milani) expressed surprise at the arrest and detention as Behbahani is 82 and nearly blind. "We all thought that she was untouchable."