Despite being silenced, Iranian pop singer Shirvin Hajipour’s impassioned song in support of protests over Mahsa Amini’s death in custody remains an unofficial anthem of the movement.
The song “Baraye” racked up 40 million views on Instagram before it was deleted when Hajipour was arrested, but he has since been released on bail and has distanced himself from politics, likely as a condition of his release.
Baraye, the Persian word “for” or “because,” is made up of tweets about the protests and highlights people’s yearning for shortages in sanctions-hit Iran, where many lament hardships stemming from economic mismanagement.
It also draws on everyday activities that have brought people into trouble with the Islamic Republic authorities.
“Because of dancing in the street; Because of the fear of kissing; For my sister, your sister, your sisters,” the lyrics read.
“Because of the embarrassment of an empty pocket; Because we long for a normal life… Because of that polluted air.”
Baraye was played loudly at night from apartment blocks in Iran to show support for the protests sparked by Amini’s death on September 16, after the notorious morality police arrested her for allegedly breaking rules requiring women to wear hijab -Wear headscarves and decent clothing.
It was also chanted enthusiastically by the Iranian diaspora at rallies in more than 150 cities around the world over the weekend.
In a clip shared by the New York Center for Human Rights in Iran, a group of schoolgirls without headscarves can be seen singing baraye in class with their backs to the camera.
The tune was removed from Hajipour’s Instagram account shortly after his arrest, but is still widely shared on other social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube.
– ‘Because of forced Instagram Stories’ –
Hajipour’s lawyer Majid Kaveh said he was released on bail Tuesday afternoon.
The reformist newspaper Shargh said his family had been briefed on his arrest in the northern city of Sari in a report citing his sister Kamand Hajipour on Saturday.
She had said in an Instagram post that her parents had received a call from the city’s intelligence agency notifying him of his arrest.
Shortly after his release, Hajipour was back on Instagram, but this time to apologize and distance himself from politics.
“I’m here to say I’m fine,” he told his 1.9 million followers on the platform.
“But I’m sorry that some specific movements outside of Iran — with whom I had no ties — made inappropriate political use of this song.
“I wouldn’t trade this (country) for anywhere else and I will stay for my homeland, my flag, my people and I will sing.
“I don’t want to be a toy for those who don’t think of me, you or this country,” he added.
In response to his post, many on Twitter suggested adding the line “Because of forced Instagram stories” to the song’s lyrics.
Human rights groups, including Article 19, have repeatedly urged Iran to stop its coerced confessions, which they say are false and obtained under duress or even torture.
In a recent case, a young Iranian woman, Sepideh Rashno, disappeared after she got into an argument on a Tehran bus with another woman, who accused her of taking off her headscarf.
She was held by the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and appeared on television in what activists said was a forced confession before being released on bail in late August.