Iran’s War On Culture: Ban(ne)d In Iran

Every time we think Iran can’t sink any lower, it stoops to new levels of oppression and authoritarianism, that gives North Korea a run for its money. The new enemy of Iran is apparently music, musical instruments, and musicians.

Iranian TV shows musical instruments for 10 seconds — and religious controversy ensues

Musical instruments were shown live on Iranian state television for the first time in decades — for 10 seconds — and the airing has caused a religious controversy in the capital.

The incident occurred on a show called “Good Morning Iran,” and now producers are calling the airing a technical error, according to the Times.

Normally, singers are not allowed to stand in front of musical instruments so that the cameras won’t pick up the taboo objects. When the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) is forced to cut away, stock images of the studio or nature are usually shown.

“The footage of instruments which was aired has nothing to do with a change in the approach or practice of IRIB, and it was just an unintentional mistake by us,” the show’s producer Gholamreza Bakhtiari was quoted as saying by Iran’s hard-line Fars news agency, the Times reported.

The mistake has prompted Iranians to wonder whether it was actually a salvo in a larger cultural battle between moderate and hard-line Islamists.

“It seems a decision was made at some level in the management [to show the instruments], but top managers did not dare to … defend the decision, and now they’re recanting,” Sobhan Hasanvand, a Sharq editor, told the Times.

It’s not just obscene musical instruments that get the Ayatollah treatment, but also musicians, concert goers, and distributors of satanic ritual music rock music:

IRGC forces arrested three men involved in the production, distribution, and promotion of Iranian underground music in October, and are pressuring them to confess on television, a source with knowledge of the arrest told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Musician Mehdi Rajabian, his brother, and Yousef Emadi, who managed BargMusic, were arrested on October 12 in the Northern city of Sari, and were transferred to the IRGC’s Ward 2-A inside Tehran’s Evin Prison, according to a report by Kaleme website.

According to the source, following the arrests of the Rajabian brothers, Azadeh S., a woman who was also affiliated with the website, was arrested in the city of Hamadan. The arrests appear to be part of a larger crackdown on Internet and IT professionals and musicians. Of those arrested, only Yousef Emadi has been released on bail.

Mehdi Rajabian founded BargMusic in 2009 and the website quickly became a dedicated portal for distributing Iranian underground and alternative music inside Iran. Rajabian and his brother managed BargMusic’s website together. During Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration, the website was repeatedly blocked to Iranian users, but the authorities never pursued its principals. The website was only active in the field of music and was not a political website. BargMusic had repeatedly requested an operation license, and at one point also asked the Iranian Cyber Police to unblock its website, but the requests have been refused, according to the source.

Kaleme reports it has information indicating that Iran’s underground music scene is a new target for the IRGC’s arrests, adding that the BargMusic site managers were put through severe interrogations and were told that they must make televised confessions.

Last week, popular Iranian musician Amir Tataloo was arrested and detained for several days before being released on bail awaiting trial. Iran’s Morality Police took responsibility for the arrest. Colonel Massoud Zahedian, Chief of the Morality Police, told ISNA that his unit is actively identifying and confronting Iranian underground musicians who produce their work inside Iran and distribute it on television satellite channels abroad.

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iranian musicians have needed government authorization in order to play their music, hold concerts, and produce music albums and videos. Government scrutiny of such musical activities and productions has been stringent, and only certain genres of music receive production and activity licenses. Under such circumstances, musicians have been pushed underground, where they perform illegally at great risk to themselves and to their audiences. Even when musical groups are issued concert licenses, there is no guarantee that they can safely hold their scheduled appearances. At an August concert of Dawn of Rage, an Iranian metal band, all the musicians and the 200 guests attending the concert were arrested at a public amphitheater in Tehran.

Ban(ne)d in Iran

Illustration: Ban(ne)d in Iran

But hey, at least they can wear jeans.

EDIT: Hey everyone! Deebo here. What an appropriate subject to insert a shameless promotion of my band, Good Life Club.

Our song “Bob Dylan in Iran” is based on the above subject matter.  Give it a listen and share with friends!

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About Judge Dan

Dan Smith has been exposing anti-Israel fallacies since the first time he opened the world wide web on Netscape Navigator, sometime in the late 90's. His lack of formal journalistic, political and sociological education means he is still capable of objective, unbiased views and opinions. A judge of media, pundits and media pundits.