Iran: Five members of an underground band arrested

Iranian police have arrested five members of an underground band suspected of producing music for Farsi-speaking, dissident satellite channels based in the US, and working with dissident Iranian singers abroad, reported PRI’s The World, and a semiofficial Fars news agency.


A prominent Iranian songwriter was reportedly among five musicians arrested in a police raid in Tehran. The Iranian songwriter Roozbeh Bemani, 34, appears to have been among those charged with the “illegal production and distribution of underground music for Los Angeles-based musicians and satellite channels”, the semi-official Isna news agency reported, without naming him.

Anchor of the American radio programe The World, Marco Werman, talked with a Tehran-based musician, anonymous for security reasons, about the limits of artistic expression in Iran. The musician described what it’s like to try to get a new composition approved for censorship from the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture.

“Self-censorship starts even before any notes is played,” explained the musician.

Listen to the radio story broadcast by PRI’s THE WORLD (5:52)

Read the transcript of the interview

PRI – 10 January 2013:
Musicians and Composers Battle Censors in Iran
By Joyce Hackel, producer at The World – 9 January 2013:
Iran arrests 5 musicians over dissident contacts

The Guardian – 14 January 2013:
Iranian songwriter arrested with four other musicians, says poet
Five reportedly charged with illegal production and distribution of underground music for Los Angeles satellite channels

UPDATE – May 2013

One of those arrested, Iman Hojat, has been tried; he was fined for recording illegal music in his studio and released. The other four, including well-known songwriter Roozbeh Bemani, are on bail and awaiting trial. They face fines of up to US$ 15,000 (£9,700) and possible bans on producing and even writing music.

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