As protests over the death of Mahsa Amini enter their third week in Iran, a protest song by one of Iran’s most popular musicians has become the soundtrack to the biggest civil uprising in decades, channeling rage of Iranians at home and abroad.
Shervin Hajipour’s Baraye lyrics are taken entirely from messages Iranians have posted online about why they are protesting. Each begins with the word Baraye – which means “For…” or “Because of…” in Farsi.
Hajipour posted the song online last week and it quickly went viral, being viewed millions of times on various platforms. Videos show the song sung by schoolgirls in Iran, played through car windows in Tehran and played at solidarity protests in Washington, Strasbourg and London this weekend.
Hajipour, 25, was reportedly arrested on September 29, days after the song was released. According posts posted on Twitter by Hajipour’s sister and double-checked by Human Rights Watch, Mazandaran provincial intelligence called Hajipour’s parents and informed them of his October 1 arrest.
On Tuesday, a Mazandaran prosecutor told the official IRNA news agency that Hajipour had been released on bail “so his case could go through the court process”, but gave no further details.
Sources close to Hajipour believe the singer was forced to delete the song from Instagram upon his arrest. It has since been recorded as having been written by someone else, leading to claims of copyright infringement resulting in the song being removed by the platforms it had been on downloaded. However, the song has already been widely shared and continues to be uploaded by users on YouTube.
“This [song] broke Persian social media tonight. Many of us cried listening to it over and over again. Artist Shervin Hajipour has encapsulated the deep national sadness and pain that Iranians have felt for decades, culminating in the tragedy of #MahsaAmini», BBC correspondent Bahman Kalbasi said.
“The best way to understand the Iranian uprising is not just any book or essay, but Shervin Hajipour’s ‘Baraye’,” wrote Karim Sadjadpour, from the Carnegie Endowment think tank. “Its depth requires multiple viewpoints.”
A campaign is underway calling on the public to nominate the song for a Grammy in the Best Song for Social Change category.
In the song, Hajipour sings lyrics such as “To dance in the streets, to embrace loved ones” and “For women, life, freedom”, a chant synonymous with the wave of protests following Amini’s death.
Amini was traveling with her family from the western province of Kurdistan to the capital, Tehran, on September 13 to visit relatives when she was arrested for breaking the country’s strict rules on women’s dress. Witnesses reported that Amini was beaten in the police van, an allegation that police deny. Amini, 22, was taken to hospital in a coma and died two days later.
But Baraye’s words reflect widespread anger and misery, just as Amini’s death was the tipping point for many after the regime engaged in a concerted crackdown on alleged anti-Islamic activity. Enforcement has included the increased presence of orientation patrols – also known as morality police – on the streets.
A lyric was posted with an image of Hamed Esmaeilion with his 9-year-old daughter, Reera. She was killed alongside her mother, Parisa, on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which was shot down by Iranian Revolutionary Guards shortly after taking off from Tehran airport in January 2020. Esmaeilion was the one of the main organizers of the global protests that took place over the weekend. .
There have been new arrests across Iran as protests continue, including footballer Hossein Mahini, who was arrested after expressing support for online protests, and poet Mona Borzoi, after writing a poem in support of the protests, according to Hrana, an Iranian human rights news agency.
In a statement, Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based group, said “so far, 133 people have been killed across Iran”, including more than 40 people it says died in clashes. last week in Zahedan, capital of the south-east. Province of Sistan-Balochistan.
Sadjadpour said: “No matter what happens to the protests, it should be noted that the most viral song in Iran’s history, which will probably be remembered for decades, is not about resisting America. or Israel or wherever. It’s a song about Iranian dreams of a normal life.”
Additional reporting by Maryam Foumani