Iran: 26 popular singers banned from performing

5 November 2015


The Iranian Intelligence Ministry banned 26 popular musicians and singers from performing in Iran after their music was aired by networks abroad, IranWire reported, citing an investigative piece from Etemad newspaper published on 19 October 2015.

The head of the music department at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance confirmed that letters were sent to the performers informing them of the ban, which was in connection with several infractions, including “publishing music online,” publishing music on foreign networks,” and “inappropriate behaviour” during concerts outside Iran.

The list of banned musicians has yet to be published or confirmed, but at least 26 have been banned and it is thought that both pop and traditional artists are on the list, including Shahram Shokoohi, Mohsen Yeganeh, Reza Sadeghi, Sirvan Khosravi, Homayoon Shajarian and Hafez Nazeri.

Hossein Noushabadi, a spokesman for the ministry, however said he was unaware of the bans, but clarified that: “In general all musical artists are told that they’d be breaking the law if they cooperate with sites outside of the country and satellite networks that are hostile to the Islamic Republic.”

Tighter controls on music
This new ban continues a trend of greater restrictions on music in the country, especially from religious leaders. In February 2015 IranWire reported that Asadollah Imani, the supreme leader’s representative in Fars Province, called for more controls on music in the city of Shiraz, the province’s capital and nicknamed the cultural capital of Iran.

Imani said there should be the same restrictions in Shiraz, as in other holy cities, such as Mashhad and Qom, on music performance and lessons.

Imam Ahmad Almolhoda, supported such bans, saying at Friday prayer on April 14, 2015, that he opposes “concerts in the city of Mashhad,” according to a further IranWire repot. He later said in a statement, however that he had “no problem” with music or teaching centres, but that concerts nevertheless should not be performed.

Regulations getting clearer
Conversely, according to a 31 October 2015 story in the International Business Times, a Tehran-based musician, Amir Khaki, sees the country’s stance on music changing.

Khaki has been a musician for many years, since the 1990s when President Khatami was in power, and he sees the lives of musicians getting back to those days. At the very least, musicians can now apply to hold concerts in Tehran – which he is in the process of doing now – as opposed to having them outright banned as in the days under President Ahmadinejad.

“I believe the procedure for officially performing this music is more structured than before,” he explained to the newspaper. “These days there are rules and regulations for releasing albums and holding concerts, rules which did not exist before.”

Contradictions remain
Khaki’s appraisal notwithstanding, he does admit that he may only be able to infrequently organise concerts and that turning rock and heavy metal into a business won’t happen any time soon.

He also knows things won’t change overnight: “I don’t say there are not restrictions [now, but] I don’t doubt that a new generation can make a revolution in [our] music industry.”

However, as a male, circumstances are different as earlier in the year, on 12 January 2015, IranWire reported that authorities forced female musician, Harir Shariarzadeh, off the stage while performing with  her husband in Tarqobeh, Shandiz. Further, Shariarzadeh was not an isolated case, and is just one of 13 female musicians who have been stopped from performing in live concerts due to an “unwritten law imposed by hard liners and pressure groups.”



» International Business Times – 31 October 2015:
Iran rocks! State lifts ban on live shows as musicians sound check a brave new world

» IranWire – 21 October 2015:
Music Censorship on the Rise

» IranWire – 17 April 2015:
Mashhad Cleric Calls for Ban on Live Music

» IranWire – 2 February 2015:
Cleric Calls for Ban on “Disgraceful Music”

» IranWire – 16 January 2015:
Female Musician Banned from Performing


Related Information
» International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran – 1 December 2015
Rouhani Administration Continues Ban on Popular Musician

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