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Music

Iran Singer who Faces Prison Wins Grammy for Protest Anthem

February 6, 2023

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An Iranian singer who faces possible prison time for his song that’s become an anthem to the ongoing protests shaking the Islamic Republic wept early Monday after seeing he’d won a Grammy.

Shervin Hajipour appeared stunned after hearing Jill Biden, the wife of President Joe Biden, announce he’d won the Grammy’s new song for social change special merit award for “Baraye.” An online video showed Hajipour in a darkened room, wiping tears away after the announcement.

Hajipour’s song “Baraye,” or “For” in English, begins with: “For dancing in the streets,” “for the fear we feel when we kiss.” The lyrics list reasons young Iranians have posted on Twitter for why they had protested against Iran’s ruling theocracy.

It ends with the widely chanted slogan that has become synonymous with the protests since the September death of Iranian-Kurdish woman Masha Amini: “For women, life, freedom.”

Released on his Instagram page, the song quickly went viral. Hajipour then was arrested and held for several days before being released on bail in October. The 25-year-old singer faces charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “instigating the violence,” according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been monitoring the monthslong protests.

The charges Hajipour faces can carry as much as six years in prison all together. The singer is also banned from leaving Iran.

Wearing a shining, off-the-shoulder Oscar de la Renta dress at the Grammy ceremony in Los Angeles, Biden said that a song “can unite, inspire and ultimately change the world.”

“This song became the anthem of the Mahsa Amini protests, a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights,” Biden said. “Shervin was arrested, but this song continues to resonate around the world with its powerful theme: Women, life, freedom.”

Those gathered cheered Biden’s remarks. On Instagram, Hajipour simply wrote: “We won.”

There was no immediate reaction in Iranian state media or from government officials to Hajipour’s win. The singer is among over 19,600 people arrested amid the demonstrations, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran. At least 527 people have been killed amid a violent suppression of the demonstration by authorities.

On Sunday, Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday reportedly ordered an amnesty or reduction in prison sentences for “tens of thousands” of people detained amid the protests, acknowledging for the first time the scale of the crackdown.

 

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