Iran: Musician and filmmaker brothers released from prison, await appeal

Freemuse has learned that Iranian brothers and artists, musician Mehdi Rajabian and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, were temporarily released on bail from Tehran’s Evin Prison on 22 June 2017. On 23 June 2017, Mehdi Rajabian made the following post on his Instagram page: Our incarceration has almost been suspended at this stage after bail payment and […]

In prison for a year in Iran; artists call for musician’s and filmmaker’s release

COPENHAGEN / NEW YORK, 1 June 2017 | Two Iranian artists will have been in prison for a full year on 5 June, sentenced for their peaceful artistic expressions. Today, artists and supporters of artistic freedom from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East called for their release in a public letter sent […]

Iran: Musician and filmmaker returned to prison

On 7 April 2017, the Center for Human Rights in Iran reported that music producers Mehdi and Hossein Rajabian returned to Evin Prison in Tehran on 4 April after their request for an extension of their seven-day temporary leave was denied by the judiciary. “The only change in the new year was that we walked […]

Iran: Ten films banned from international film festival

The new culture and Islamic guidance minister for Iran, Reza Salehi Amiri, announced on 19 January 2017 that ten films have been banned from entering the 35th annual Tehran Fajr International Film Festival set to take place 21-28 April 2017, reported the Center for Human Rights in Iran on 26 January 2017. Amiri said the […]

Iran: Musician and filmmaker attacked and threatened in prison

On 5 March 2017, the Center for Human Rights in Iran reported that musician Mehdi Rajabian and filmmaker Keywan Karimi have been beaten and threatened by other inmates in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison while being imprisoned in the ward for political prisoners. According to the organisation, authorities are violating the law by refusing to move […]

Iran: Band banned from festival due to women singing solo

Kurdish band Dayrak Khatoon was banned from performing at the International Festival of Tribal Music in Kermanshah, in western Iran, due to the band including women who also sing solo, reported Kurdistan Human Rights Network on 22 January 2017. The organisation reported that a critical article was published in Marsad News accusing the band of […]

Iran: Writer re-arrested after temporary release from prison

Revolutionary Guards re-arrested Iranian writer Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee while on her way to visit her hospitalised husband, reported Amnesty International on 25 January 2017. Ebrahimi Iraee had been temporarily released from prison on 3 January 2017 pending a judicial review of her six-year sentence for writing an unpublished fictional story. The writer told Amnesty International […]

Iran: Writer temporarily released on bail

Iranian writer and human rights activist Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee was temporarily released from prison on bail on 3 January 2017, reported Amnesty International. She had been in prison since 24 October 2016 to serve a six-year sentence for writing an unpublished story about the practice of stoning as punishment in the country. The writer’s human […]

Iran: Imprisoned filmmaker granted 72-hour medical leave, back in prison

Freemuse has learned from its sources that filmmaker Hossein Rajabian was granted a 72-hour medical leave earlier in the week to address health problems that have grown worse while in prison. Hossein was taken back to prison after the three days were up. Hossein and his musician brother Mehdi had been on a second hunger […]

Iran: Imprisoned musician’s health deteriorating

Imprisoned Iranian musician and music distributor Mehdi Rajabian communicated via social media on 3 December 2016 that his health condition continues to worsen, despite him being granted a four-day furlough for medical treatment. In his Instagram post from 3 December, Mehdi said: They want me to go back to Prison tomorrow, while I haven’t been […]

Iran: Art gallery owning couple held in detention since July without charge

In late July 2016, Islamic Revolutionary Guards detained art gallery owners Afarin Niasari and her Iranian-American husband Karan Vafadari at the Tehran airport, where they were arrested and taken to Iran’s infamous Evin Prison, reported International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on 2 December 2016. The couple have been held without charge or access […]

Iran: Imprisoned musician granted four-day medical leave

Musician Mehdi Rajabian, after being on hunger strike for 30 days demanding he and his brother receive much needed medical attention, was given a four-day medical furlough on 27 November 2016, according to an Instagram post the musician posted on 28 November 2016. His filmmaker brother Hossein, who also needs medical assistance, remains in prison. […]

United Nations member states urge Iran to improve human rights

Eighty-five United Nations (UN) member states voted on 15 November 2016 calling upon Iranian authorities to take real steps in correcting its human rights record. The resolution builds upon last year’s adopted resolution where Iran accepted 130 recommendations made to its human rights record and practices stemming from the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process […]

Iran: Artists’ medical condition on hunger strike growing worse

Musician Mehdi Rajabian and his brother, filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, began their second hunger strike on 28 October 2016, since being imprisoned on 5 June 2016, demanding they receive a medical furlough for their increasingly severe medical conditions, which are growing more severe as a result of the hunger strike, reported International Campaign for Human Rights […]

Iran: Artist awaits appeal of five-year prison sentence

Iranian artist and painter Shahriar Siroos is awaiting a judgment on his appeal over his five-year prison sentence handed down by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in September 2016 on charges of establishing a group to “perturb the security of the country” related to him teaching art classes at his home, reported International Campaign […]

Iran: Musician sentenced to five years in prison and 74 lashes

On 5 November 2016, Iranian singer Amir Tataloo (real name: Amirhossein Maghsoodloo) was sentenced to five years in prison and 74 lashes after being found guilty of “spreading Western immorality”, reported Al Bawaba on 6 November 2016. The singer’s original sentence was for ten years and 74 lashes, but the time term was reduced in […]

Iran: Artists call for support in letter from prison

“We urge all artists from around the world to show their protest and criticism against all of this [being denied legal rights and medical attention], in a peaceful way, worthy of an artist,” wrote artists Hossein Rajabian and Mehdi Rajabian in a letter from prison. “Stand by our side and [don’t] forget us, because being […]

Iran: Writer arrested and imprisoned after violent home raid

On the morning of 24 October 2016, Iranian authorities broke through the front door of writer and activist Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee’s home, arrested her and took her to the women’s ward of Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison to begin serving a six-year sentence on charges of “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “spreading proganda” in an unpublished novel […]

Iran: Writer sentenced to six years in prison for unpublished novel

Iranian authorities have sentenced writer and activist Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee to serve six years in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison on charges of “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “spreading propaganda” in an unpublished novel found in her home in September 2014, reported The Independent on 6 October 2016. Ebrahimi Iraee said authorities called her on 4 October […]

Iran: Jailed artists go on hunger strike

According to Freemuse sources, musician Mehdi Rajabian and his brother, filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, have gone on hunger strike as of 7 September 2016 to protest against prison authorities not granting Mehdi a promised furlough to seek medical attention for a spreading infection and for separating them by moving Mehdi, while still ill, to the section […]

Iran: Concerts in the crosshairs

Religious conservatives in Iran have been tightening control over the nation’s cultural and moral values ever since the 2013 election of liberal President Hassan Rouhani and the 2015 nuclear deal, amidst fears that the country will lose its values to Western influences. Art, especially music and live concerts, has become one such target for religious […]

Iran: Musician arrested on charges of “spreading depravity”

Authorities arrested Iranian singer Amir Tataloo (real name: Amirhossein Maghsoodloo) on 23 August 2016 on charges of “spreading depravity among the youth” brought up in an 8 August 2016 judicial order, reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on 25 August 2016. “Sadly, this latest imprisonment of Amir Tataloo is not an isolated case. Iranian governmental and […]

UN: “Artistic expression is not a crime” – Special Rapporteurs urge the Iranian government to free jailed artists

On 24 June 2016 the two United Nations Special Rapporteurs on cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, and freedom of expression, David Kaye, issued a statement calling on Iranian authorities to free musicians Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian. The statement was also endorsed by the Special Rapporteurs on Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and torture Mr. […]

Iran: Film screening banned due to religious pressure

Iran’s Ministry of Culture withdrew the screening permit for director Mani Haghighi’s film ’50 Kilos of Tart Cherries’ in the city of Tabas in central Iran after a local imam during Friday prayers said the film is “destroying revolutionary values”, reported Radio Zamaneh on 30 May 2016. Imam Hojatoleslam Ebrahim Mohajerian criticised the ministry for […]

Iran: Eight producers arrested for “obscene” music videos

Eight producers of music videos broadcasted on Persian-language satellite networks outside Iran have been arrested, reported Iranian judiciary news agency Mizan Online on 28 May 2016. According to Tehran prosecutor general Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi the videos were “obscene” and “broadcast on a famous anti-revolutionary television channel” and added that a special court for media and […]

Iran: Musician and filmmaker imprisoned

According to Freemuse sources, musician Mehdi Rajabian and his brother, filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, were imprisoned for their art on 5 June 2016. They have been convicted to three years imprisonment. Please help us in getting the charges dropped against the two artists and freeing Mehdi and Hossein by taking action and sharing the video below and using the […]

Iran: Two musicians and a filmmaker summoned to prison

A summons order issued on 27 May 2016 by Iranian authorities requires musicians Mehdi Rajabian, Yousef Emadi and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian to turn themselves in to prison by 31 May 2016 to serve out their three-year sentences. The summons orders them to report to the Office of the Prosecutor at Tehran’s Evin Prison. “Art is […]

Iran: Concerts cancelled under pressure from religious conservatives

This article on cancelled concerts and the nebulous state of artistic freedom due to opposing viewpoints between religious conservatives and the government in Iran was originally published by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on 19 May 2016, who have kindly allowed Freemuse to republish it here: Concerts of Popular Iranian Musicians Cancelled Due […]

Art Under Threat: Attacks on artistic freedom in 2015

Freemuse Annual Statistics on Censorship and Attacks on Artistic Freedom in 2015 Artistic freedom is under extreme pressure in far too many countries. The Freemuse annual report summarises censorship and threats on artistic freedom in 2015 in over 70 countries. In total, Freemuse registered 469 cases of censorship and attacks on artists and violations of […]

Iran: Artist Atena Farghadani released from prison

The Iranian artist Atena Farghadani, who was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison last June for her satirical cartoon of members of the Iranian government, was released on 3 May 2016, according to Amnesty International. Her freedom comes following a successful appeal in April 2016 to have her sentence reduced to 18 […]

Iran: Imprisoned cartoonist wins appeal, soon free

Iranian artist and cartoonist Aten Farghadani will be released from prison on 11 May 2016, according to her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi, after an appeals court reduced her original 12-year-and-nine-month sentence down to 18 months, reported IranWire on 25 April 2016. “Miss Farghadani has been acquitted of the charges of ‘gathering and colluding with counter-revolutionary elements’ […]

Iran: Banned music legend may sing again

Mohammed Reza Shajarian has been known as Iran’s “king of singing” for his renditions of classical poems and religious prayers; however, since he publicly supported the Green Movement against Ahmadinejad in June 2009, Shajarian found himself the victim of a nation-wide ban, unable to perform live or release music. Now, at 76, Shajarian has announced, […]

Iran: Musical instruments still not allowed on Iranian tv

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting blurred the musicians playing instruments, reported on 12 February 2016. Families around Iran were told they were in for a treat: Iran’s state tv announced it would broadcast a concert by the popular Iranian singer Salar Aghili. But when it came to the event, very little of the concert […]

Iran: Two musicians and a filmmaker sentenced

Branch 54 of the Tehran Appeals Court has issued their final judgment on Mehdi Rajabian, Hossein Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, sentencing each of the three artists to three years in prison, three years probation and a 200 million rial (about  USD 6,600) fine, reported the Human Rights Activists News Agency on 29 February 2016. According to a source of […]

Iran: Filmmaker loses appeal, receives reduced prison sentence and lashes

An Iranian appeals court sentenced filmmaker Keywan Karimi to one year in prison, 223 lashes and a fine for “shaking hands with women and drinking alcoholic drinks”, Reuters reported on 22 February 2016. In an interview with The Times of India published on 23 February 2016, Karimi said he would serve out the sentence and […]

Iran: Two poets flee due to censorship and imprisonment

Iranian poets and song-writers Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi, who were sentenced to 11.5 and nine years in prison respectively, and 99 lashes each, have fled their native Iran some time in February 2016 while their cases were still pending, reported Huffington Post. In an interview with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty published on […]

Iran: Actress attacked at film screening

Fatemeh Motamed-Aria, one of Iran’s most famous actresses, was attacked by religious hardliners at a screening of her movie ‘Yahya Did Not Stay Silent’ on 29 January 2016, according to The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. The actress joined the director and cast of the movie in Kashan, a city in the Isfahan […]

Italy: Nude statues covered up for Iranian president

Classic nude statues were covered up in Rome’s Capitoline museum when Iranian president Hassan Rouhani walked through its halls during his Italy visit, reported The Guardian on 27 January 2016. Rouhani and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi held a press conference in the museum and it is supposed the statues were covered up so as […]

Iran: Singer banned from tv and festival

Salar Aghili has been banned from appearing on Iranian television and performing in the country’s Fajr International Music Festival, reported human rights organisation on 26 January 2016. The famous singer was banned due to his appearance on Manoto TV, a Persian-language satellite channel based in London. Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati […]

Iran: 165 Iranian artists and activists protest charges against two musicians and a filmmaker

165 Iranian musicians, filmmakers, writers and activists have signed and released a statement objecting to the 2013 imprisonment and 2015 sentencing of Mehdi Rajabian, a musician and founder of BargMusic, an alternative music distributor in Iran, along with his filmmaker brother Hossein Rajabian and musician Yousef Emadi. All three have been sentenced to six years […]

Call on Iranian authorities to drop charges on two musicians and a filmmaker

Human rights organisations Freemuse and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, along with 14 other organisations, protest the 2013 imprisonment and 2015 sentencing of musicians Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, and call on the head of the judiciary and other Iranian authorities to drop the charges against them. Mehdi […]

Iran: Poet/activist detained; released on bail

** Updated as of 13 January 2016 ** Poet and activist Hila Sedighi was arrested on 7 January 2016 at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport upon her and her husband’s return from a trip to the United Arab Emirates, reported the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Two days later, on 9 January 2016, […]

Iran: Detained poet released on bail

On 16 December 2015 Iranian poet Mohamadreza Haj Rostambegloo was arrested from his home by six Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization agents and was released on bail four days later from Karaj Central Prison, reported the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. The poet ’ s mother Maryam Soltani told the organisation that one of the […]

Iran: Musicians call for lifting concert ban

A group of musicians and artists have written to the governor of the Razavi Khorosan province in northeastern Iran to remove the ban on music concerts in Mashhad, the province’s capital and the country’s second most populous city, reported Radio Zamaneh. The musicians and artists state in the letter that the current ban will lead to […]

Iran: Album by prominent musician denied distribution

Majid Derakhshani’s latest album ‘Khoroosh’ will not be distributed in Iran, reported Payvand Iran News. The album, which translates to ‘Roar’, is comprised of Derakhshani’s music sung by Mojtaba Asgari and was tied up in legal red tape for over two years before the denial was issued. Further, the Ministry of Guidance’s security department has […]

Iran: Detained writers released on bail

The two Iranian writers Rouzbeh Gilasian and Elaheh Sorooshnia, who were arrested on 14 December 2015, were released on bail from Amirabad Prison in Gorgan after three weeks in detention, according to Payvand Iran News quoting Radio Zamaneh. The writers were held primarily in the Revolutionary Guards detention centre and then transferred to Amirabad Prison […]

Iran: Two writers arrested

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry forces allegedly arrested two Iranian writers, Rouzbeh Gilasian and Elaheh Soroushnia, on 14 December 2015. The two writers were arrested in Gorgan in northern Iran and transferred to an unknown location, according to the organisation Journalism Is Not A Crime, citing Human Rights Activists News Agency, HRANA. The reason for the arrests and […]

Iran: Music distributors await appeal decision for six years in prison

Two musicians and a filmmaker who were jointly sentenced to six years in prison and fined 200 million toman (about  USD 66,650) each for “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state,” are awaiting a ruling by a Tehran appeals court, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Mehdi Rajabian, a musician […]

Iran: Songwriter and poet released

Iranian songwriter and poet Yaghma Golrouee was released on bail from detention on 9 December 2015 after being arrested on unclear charges on 30 November 2015, according to the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA). Though the reason behind the arrest is still unknown, it is thought that Golrouee was detained in response to his new […]

Iran: Songwriter and poet arrested

Iranian songwriter and poet Yaghma Golrouee was arrested on 30 November 2015, according to the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA). Details on the reason behind the arrest or where Golrouee was taken are still unknown and unclear. According to in 2013 one of Goulrouee’s poems was used by controversial Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi, who […]

Iran: Concert cancelled for having female musicians

A concert by the Tehran Symphony Orchestra was cancelled at the last minute on 29 November 2015 because some of the musicians were female, reported The National.  The orchestra was due to play in Tehran before the World Wrestling Clubs Cup competition and was stopped from performing as it was readying itself to play the […]

Iran: Imprisoned cartoonist forced to take ‘virginity test’

Cartoonist Atena Farghadani, through a note leaked from prison, said she was forced to take a “virginity and pregnancy test” on 12 August 2015 prior to her trial on a charge of “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery” for shaking her lawyer’s hand when he visited her in prison, Amnesty International reported. The human rights […]

Iran: 26 popular singers banned from performing

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 […]

Iran: Filmmaker sentenced to six-year prison term and 223 lashes

On 13 October 2015, after nearly two years of hearings, the 30-year-old Iranian filmmaker Keywan Karimi was sentenced to six years in prison and 223 lashes. He was arrested on 14 December 2013 on charges of “insulting the sacred,” “propaganda against the regime,” and “illicit relations.” According to Karimi’s lawyer, Amir Raeesian, most of the charges […]

Iran: Two poets sentenced to flogging and lengthy imprisonment

Iranian poets and song-writers Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi have been sentenced to 11.5 and nine years in prison respectively, as well as 99 lashes each.   According to an interview with their lawyer on Radio Farda, both Ekhtesari and Moosavi were convicted of ‘insulting the holy sanctities’, for which they received seven and six […]

Iran: Imprisoned cartoonist possibly prosecuted over handshake

Amnesty International reported that Atena Farghadani, 29, who was was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison after she depicted Iranian government officials as monkeys and goats in a satirical cartoon, may face a longer sentence amid claims over a handshake: her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi visited her in prison and shook her hand […]

Iran: 14 films banned since 2007

Films continue to be banned in Iran. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has compiled a list of 14 films banned since 2007 in Iran. Other films may also have faced censorship issues but their makers have chosen to remain quiet, hoping to eventually get a screening permit. “Rouhani’s remarks during his election […]

Iran/Lebanon/Ukraine: Artists affected by conflicts

When conflicts unfold between and within countries, artists’ rights to artistic freedom of expression are often violated. Recently, artists have been affected by the ongoing conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, and between Israel and Lebanon as well as Iran. Singer banned in Iran after performance in Israel The Iranian-born British Muslim singer Sami Yusuf, whose […]

Iran: Cartoonist convicted several years in prison for her art

Iranian designer and cartoonist Atena Farghadani could face years in prison for having drawn an image depicting members of the Iranian parliament as monkeys and cows. On 19 May 2015, she was convicted to 12 years imprisonment (some sources say 14 years). She has appealed the verdict. Cartoonists around the world have been drawing in […]

Iran: Call for the release of imprisoned writer and film producer

Writer and film producer Mostafa Azizi was arrested on 1 February 2015 and convicted of national security-related offences by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran and sentenced to eight years in prison. PEN International is calling for his immediate and unconditional release. 52-year-old Iranian writer and film producer Mostafa Azizi is feared to […]

Iran: Radical website calls for murder of musician

On 1 May 2015, the ultra-conservative Iranian website Aba Shohada website announced a reward of approximately $155,000 for anyone who would blow up the concert venues of German-based Iranian musician Shahin Najafi. According to the US based organisation International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the threat is being addressed by the German police and […]

Iran: Film about illegal dance company

“A world behind closed doors”, the film ‘Desert Dancer’ tells the true story of Afhsin Ghaffarian (Reece Ritchie), an Iranian dancer who started his own underground dance company with his friends even though dancing was illegal at the time. “Dancing is forbidden. So if you are going to do it, go somewhere safe,” a mother […]

Iran: Film about singer who outwitted ban on women singing solo

Nothing like it had been attempted in Iran for 35 years. The Iranian singer and composer Sara Najafi proposed hosting a concert in Tehran – “a festival of the female voice” featuring solo singers. “Since the 1979 revolution, women in Iran have been banned from singing solo. So what happened when this woman decided to […]

Iran: Banned director wins Berlin film festival’s Golden Bear

A film by dissident Iranian director Jafar Panahi has won the Golden Bear, the Berlin Film Festival’s top prize. Jafar Panahi won the award for his Tehran road movie ‘Taxi’ in what critics described as a victory for freedom of speech and the art of cinematic storytelling. Jafar Panahi was unable to be in Berlin […]

Russia, China and Turkey top yearly list of music freedom violations

Freemuse monitored and documented violations of freedom of expression for musicians on in 2014. Musicians around the world are facing imprisonment, attacks, and censorship in attempts by government and non-state actors to silence the music. In 2014, Freemuse registered a total number of 90 attacks and violations against musicians’ rights to musical freedom of expression. […]

Iran: Prominent musician banned from traveling abroad

The Iranian musician and composer Majid Derakhshani says authorities are preventing him from traveling abroad. Majid Derakhshani told the Iranian daily Etemad on 5 January 2015 that security officials confiscated his passport at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport over the weekend while he was on his way to Dubai. Derakhshani quoted the officials as saying he […]

Iran: 20-year-old musician’s reality check: oppression persists

“Rights for musicians are extremely weak in Iran”, wrote Tooka Zokaie, a 20-year-old Iranian-American piano teacher and speech coach who travelled to Iran and unintentionally broke the law: “When I went to Iran this summer, almost everything I participated in related to music was illegal. I played piano to male audiences, participated in underground concerts […]

PEN International: Day of the Imprisoned Writer

15 November 2014 marks the 33rd anniversary of the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. PEN International launched the first Day of the Imprisoned Writer in 1981, with the aim of focusing much-needed global attention on imprisoned, murdered or otherwise harassed writers. Since then, the Day of the Imprisoned Writer has become a key campaigning event […]

Iran: Security forces shut down poet’s commemoration

The fourteenth commemoration ceremony for the passing of Iranian poet Ahmad Shamloo was interrupted by Islamic Republic security forces. HRANA reports that the ceremony was organised by Iran’s Writers’ Association and was held on Thursday 25 July 2014. Source:

Amnesty International on silencing of filmmakers: ‘Manuscripts Don’t Burn’

Steven W. Hawkins, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, and writer and film director Gregory Nava have written an article in Huffington Post’s The Blog about the silencing of filmmakers and other artists in countries such as China, Iran and Russia. “Freedom of expression is both an essential human right and a foundational requirement […]

Iran: Three arrested for music video of men and women singing and dancing

Iranian police have arrested three people who appeared in an online video of young men and women singing and dancing in support of the country’s World Cup football team, the official IRNA news agency reported on 23 June 2014. The music video was produced by the London-based Ajam Band and features scenes from outside and […]

Iran: Female musicians banned from stage in Isfahan

Female musicians are not allowed to go onstage and give live performances in Isfahan. Mohammad Qotbi, the head of the Isfahan Culture and Guidance administration and also a member of the clergy, compared music bands to the national football team, saying that just as there are substitutes for players on the football team, music groups […]

Iran: Producer of ‘Happy’ dancing video remains under arrest

Sasan Soleymani, who produced the video of Iranian youth in Tehran dancing to the Pharrell Williams song ‘Happy’, remains in custody in Rejai Shahr Prison, even though all six people who appeared in the video have been released on bail. » See on » And on Related post on Iran: Arrested for dancing in […]

Iran: Arrested for dancing in ‘Happy’ video

Six young Iranians were arrested for recording Tehran version of Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’. They have since been released again. The video was published on on 20 May 2014. Age: 25 Crime: Happiness About a month ago, six Iranian boys and girls (seen in this video) danced to the famous song by Pharrell Williams called […]

Iran: Censored writer publish novel on Facebook

After trying and failing for years to obtain a publishing license for his novel, Iranian writer and journalist Mohammad Motlagh finally had enough. Instead of taking the Culture Ministry’s no for answer, on April 28, Motlagh began posting his novel – one chapter at a time – on Facebook. In Iran, all books have to […]

Iran: An indie rock band can play once but not twice

In-depth article by Sune Engel Rasmussen, a journalist based in Tehran, about censorship and the arts in Iran. Excerpts: “For Iranians, negotiating the barriers of censorship is in itself an art form. Film directors, in particular, have long been masters of bending the rules, using metaphors and symbolism to subtly inject criticisms against the system […]

Iran: Signals of growing musical freedom of expression

With women singing on stage and a playlist of Western pop songs sung in English during performances of ‘The Last Days of March’ in Tehran, Iranian musicians are breaking new ground, reported Scott Peterson for Christian Science Monitor. Musicians and actors say that Iran’s culture space has opened up noticeably under the centrist President Hassan […]

Iran: President Rouhani’s mixed messages on artistic freedom

Although the situation seems to be neither dramatically better nor worse, Iran’s president Rouhani is sending mixed messages on artistic freedom. It has been six months since Hassan Rouhani took office as the seventh president of Iran’s Islamic government. Considering his government a moderate one, in the first weeks of his tenure, as he introduced […]

Iran: Six women artists cancel their participation in exhibition in Israel

It was supposed to be a group exhibition in which seven contemporary women artists from Iran were to take part. The young artists, only some of whom live in Iran, initially agreed to participate in the Israeli exhibition, but as time went by, their fear of the Iranian authorities mounted and they started to cancel, […]

Iran: Minister of Culture echoes call for cultural crackdown

After Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei alerted Iranian cultural officials to “dangerous cultural invasions” and called on them to take defensive action, Iran’s Minister of Culture and Guidance spoke in support of the leader’s cultural insights and supported policies of censorship. » See on

Freemuse to United Nations: Iran discriminates women artists

Iran should eliminate discrimination against women artists and abolish censorship of artistic expressions, stated Freemuse in its submission to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review of Iran in March 2014. For decades the Islamic Republic of Iran has put severe restrictions on the right to freedom of artistic expression. Although the country in 2010 during […]

Artist Alert: February 2014 | Article 19

Newsletter from Article 19, published on on 14 March 2014: Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and […]

Iran: Censorship and controversy mar Fajr Film Festival

The 32nd Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran has been riddled with controversy, including numerous incidences of censorship during the live broadcasts and backlash against two films dealing with the sensitive topics of Ashura and the 2009 elections. The live broadcast of the closing ceremony of the film festival was interrupted by the head of […]

Iran: Poet executed

Relatives of poet Hashem Shaabani were reportedly told on 29 January 2014 that he had been executed by hanging “three or four days before”. Hashem Shaabani Nejad (also spelled: Sha’baninejad or Sha’bani-Nejad), a 32-year-old father of one child, was allegedly executed alongside fellow teacher Hadi Rashedi after conviction of “enmity against God”, “corruption on earth”, […]

Iran: Unusual sight of musical instruments on state tv

On 1 February 2014, musical instruments were shown on Iranian state tv for the first time in three decades. Tv-viewers in Iran found themselves rubbing their eyes in disbelief when a morning programme on state tv broadcast a group of musicians playing traditional Persian instruments, reported The Guardian. For many it was the first time […]

Iran: Actor denied work over resemblance to Ahmadinejad

Iranian actor Mahmoud Basiri, who resembles former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says that he was banned from acting during the former president’s two terms in office. Basiri said that he had signed contracts to play parts in television shows and had even recorded numerous scenes. But when the television shows aired, the scenes that featured him […]

Iran: Writers association criticizes state pressure

Iran’s Writers Association says security officials have prevented the group from holding its monthly advisory meeting. In a recently issued statement, the group says the meeting was due to be held on January 14 at the home of one of the members. But according to the statement, a few days before the scheduled meeting, the […]

Iran: Freemuse and PEN welcomes release of poets on bail

PEN International and Freemuse welcomes the release on bail on 14 January 2013 of poets and lyricists Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi. They had been held in Evin Prison since 7 December 2013, apparently for their critical writings, no formal charges against them are known. No further action is required at this stage although PEN International […]

Iran: Freemuse and PEN protest arrest of poets

PEN International and Freemuse protest the arrest of poets and lyricists Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi, who have been held in Section 2A of Tehran’s Evin prison since 7 December 2013, apparently for their critical writings. They are feared to be at risk of torture and ill-treatment and there are mounting concerns for their well-being. […]

Iran: President Rohani says that “art without freedom is nonsense”

Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that creativity is developed in the light of freedom and that art without freedom is nonsense. “We have tried to restore trust among the artists by appointing managers who love the Iranian artists’ community… transparency and honesty are our mottos and we are seeking democracy in art,” stated Hassan Rohani. […]

Iran: Two songwriters and poets arrested

On 7 December 2013 the two Iranian lyricists and poets Dr. Mehdi Moosavi and Fateme Ekhtesari were arrested by the Security Department of Iran Revolutionary Guards. It is generally believed that they were arrested maybe because of their lyrics which have been performed by a famous Iranian singer in exile, Shahin Najafi. Many of their […]

Iran: Artists launch petition to end suppression of musicians

In a letter addressed to Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati, a group of Iranian musicians, music principals, and supporters have asked him to end the suppression of musicians and music professionals and to ensure that artists are not imprisoned for producing artistic works. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, […]

Iran: Musician and music distributors arrested

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps arrested three men involved in the production, distribution, and promotion of Iranian underground music in October 2013, 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 12 October 2013 in […]

Iran: Work of homosexual writer and poet blacklisted

The words by the Iranian writer and poet Payam Feili are banned by the Iranian authorities. He is a homosexual writer and poet whose works are condemned in Iran due to his sexual orientation. With disregard for content or style, they have completely blacklisted his works. Nogaam, an online publisher freely distributing the work of […]

Artist Alert: November 2013 | Article 19

Newsletter from Article 19, published on on 5 December 2013: Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and […]

Iran: Popular rapper arrested by Morality Police

Iran’s Morality Police have arrested popular rapper Amir Tataloo. 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. Zahedian added that following the arrest, Amir Tataloo (real name: Amir […]

Iran: Day of Struggle Against Censorship

The Iranian Writers’ Association urges further resistance against censorship, saying that despite continued protests, the practice remains in force, stifling the voices of writers and artists and all forms of expression. The association has marked 4 December as a Day of Struggle Against Censorship. According to Radio Zamaneh, the statement indicates that in the past […]

Iran: Literature, censorship and signs of change

"Iran’s literature is wounded, but it still has blood, and in its blood lies a secret" writes Shahriar Mandanipour, one of the most accomplished writers of contemporary Iranian literature, in a piece about Iranian literature and censorship. The effects of censorship on contemporary Iranian literature are widespread: Because of censorship, which at times functions shrewdly […]

Artist Alert: October 2013 | Article 19

Newsletter from Article 19, published on on 14 November 2013: Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and […]

Iran: 18 months imprisonment of actress condemned by NGOs

Pegah Ahangarani, a 24-year-old actress, reformist filmmaker and blogger has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for the alleged crime of “action against national security and links to foreign media”. Already lionised for her 17 days’ detainment for ‘security charges’ in 2011, the reformist Iranian actor, filmmaker and blogger has now been sentenced to […]

Iran: Art and punishment – artist and former prisoner tells her story

Soudabeh Ardavan was held for eight years in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison. She found sanity and solace through the forbidden activities of drawing and painting, secretly producing paint from flower petals and tea, using brushes made from toothpicks and human hair. Whenever she was caught, she received severe penalties that ranged from forced isolation to […]

Iran: Festival directors in Sweden show their support for Iranian filmmaker

To show their support for Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, who recently had his passport confiscated and is forbidden to leave Iran, Stockholm’s filmfestival and a number of Swedish and International director gathered outside the Iranian embassy on 12 November 2013. Photo: Courtesy of Carla Orrego Veliz “We want to show that it is unacceptable to […]

Iran: Interview with theatre director Tinoush Nazmjou about censorship

In this interview with IranWire, the exiled theatre director Tinoush Nazmjou – one of Iran’s prominent young directors – talks about his enthusiasm for returning to Iran and experimenting with creative work under an atmosphere heavy with limitations. He talks about the creative contrast between working freely and under censorship, Iran’s theatre scene, and how social […]

Artist Alert: August and September 2013 | Article 19

Newsletter from Article 19, published on on 21 October 2013: Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and […]

Iran: Culture Minister questions strict book censorship

Iranian Culture Minister Ali Jannati has stated that book censorship was too strict under the country’s former government. In comments quoted by Iran’s semi-official ILNA news agency on 8 October 2013, Jannati said censors would have rejected the Koran, which Muslims believe is a revelation by God. A few days before Jannati’s remarks, more than […]

Denmark: Artist convicted of racism in ‘artistic manifesto’

Danish-Iranian artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan was handed a US$ 1,000 fine on 16 September 2013 when the Western High Court in Denmark found her guilty of racism. She says Iranian secret police discuss wanting to kill her because she is an apostate. She had been charged by Aarhus Police of violating anti-racism legislation, section 266 b […]

Book with accounts of artists’ resistance to religious extremism

Here is a book which describes a largely invisible global community of writers, artists, doctors, musicians, museum curators, lawyers, activists, and educators of Muslim heritage around the world who often risk death to combat the rising tide of fundamentalism within their own countries. ‘Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here’ is written by Karima Bennoune, a […]

Iran: Over 200 rock fans arrested at concert

On 16 August 2013 Iranian authorities arrested over 200 fans at a heavy metal concert with the band Dawn of Rage. Police raided the concert without any explanation despite organisers having received a permit from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance sanctioning the event. The concert took place in Shahrak Gharb, an affluent neighborhood […]

Sweden: ‘Impossible Music Sessions’ in Stockholm

On 11 June 2013, music written by the censored artists Pussy Riot and Arya Aramnejad will be interpreted and presented in the Swedish capital Stockholm by the artists Jennie Abrahamson, Linnéa Olsson and Love Antell. The concert, entitled ‘The Impossible Music Sessions Stockholm Session #1’ is organised by SKAP, the Swedish Society of Popular Music, […]

Iran: Report from Tehran where banned tunes thrive

“Cab rides in Tehran reveal how many flout the rules banning music genres including metal, R&B, hip-hop and kooche-bazaari,” wrote the British newspaper The Guardian on 7 May 2013. The anonymous writer of the article in The Guardian mentions that Iman Hojjat — one of five Tehran musicians who were arrested in January 2013 on charges […]

Sweden: Lecture on shelter cities for persecuted artists

Playwright Reza Haji Hosseini will give a 45-minutes lecture on shelter cities for persecuted artists and the conditions for dramatic arts in Iran at the Swedish Biennial for Performing Arts on Saturday 25 May 2013 at 1pm in Jönköping.
 In the early 1990s, a movement among cities in Europe and America was started to shelter […]

Iran: Passport of Swedish-Iranian actress confiscated by police

The Iranian actress Maryam Moghaddam, who lives in Sweden and who participated in the controversial film ‘Closed Curtain’, remains stuck in Iran after she received a travel ban and her passport was confiscated by Iranian police. Maryam Moghaddam traveled from Sweden to Iran to visit her mother in a family matter in early March 2013, […]

Iran complains: Berlin awards movie made in defiance of 20-year ban

Iranian authorities logged a protest with the Berlin International Film Festival for giving its Best Screenplay Award Silver Bear to Iranian film director Jafar Panahi and co-director Kamboziya Partovi for their film ‘Closed Curtain’, according to a report from one of the country’s leading news agencies. Jafar Panahi was unable to attend the award ceremony […]

Iran: Singer Arya Aramnejad released from prison

Less than two weeks after a group of international artists joined Freemuse in a campaign for the release of the Iranian singer Arya Aramnejad, who was given 91 days prison sentence, he was able to leave prison. According to Freemuse’s sources, he was released due to so called “international reactions”.  In 2012, Aramnejad was given […]

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 […]

International artists support imprisoned Iranian singer

In a letter to the Iranian authorities, world renowned artists join Freemuse in a protest against the imprisonment of their Iranian colleague Arya Aramnejad. The artists’ appeal letter [PDF] Singer Lapiro de Mbanga, who successfully ran a case against Cameroon in The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention because of his wrongful imprisonment, is […]

Iran: Censorship kills cinema, says acclaimed Iranian film director

“Censorship kills cinema. Sometimes a little pressure gives filmmakers more energy to fight it. But strangulate them and they will die. That’s why many Iranian filmmakers are not able to make films there now,” said the Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf at the open forum ‘Censorship in Cinema’ at the Kochi International Film Festival in […]

Iranian film director and human rights lawyer awarded by EU

The European Parliament’s ‘Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2012’ goes to two Iranians as joint winners: the imprisoned lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film director Jafar Panahi. Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi will be awarded and receive 50,000 euro on 12 December 2012 during a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The Sakharov Prize […]

Iranian musician responds upright to death threats

This interview with Shahin Najafi and Günter Wallraff took place five months after a fatwa – a death sentence – was issued against the singer and rapper Shahin Najafi. It proclaimed him an apostate for recording the rap-song ‘Ay Naghi’ and sentenced him to death under Islamic law. The assault ensured that the name ‘Shahin […]

Iran: New threats to Salman Rushdie

An Iranian state-run institute has increased the bounty on the head of the British author Salman Rushdie to about 3.3 million US dollars. In a statement published by the semi-official Iranian news agency Isna and other local agencies, Hassan Sanei, head of the state-funded 15 Khordad, who is also the representative of the Iranian supreme […]

Iran: Editing the West out of Western films

After failing to keep films away from culture-loving Iranians, the Islamic Republic is trying some new, if clunky, techniques for editing the West out of Western entertainment, reported Max Fisher, associate editor of The Atlantic, on 8 August 2012. The Iranian film fan site put together a series of side-by-side comparisons showing the before-and-after […]

Iran: Banned Israeli Persian-language album gains popularity

The music of Rita Jahan-Foruz — an Iranian-born, Israel-based singer — is becoming increasingly popular in both Iran and Israel, as political tensions grow between the two countries. 50-year-old Rita Jahan-Foruz’s music is banned in her birthplace Iran where any music whose singing, performance or distribution is not approved by the authorities is deemed illegal. […]

Iran: Theatre performance permission denied, theatre-goers allegedly harassed

Teheran police have been surrounding theatre halls in large numbers, allegedly in an attempt to make attending these venues uncomfortable for theatre-goers, reported the web site Iranian stage actor Reza Behboudi said in an interview with the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA): “The large number of police patrolling the theatre halls does not help […]

Iran: Unlicensed film centre closed, two persons arrested

The Tehran police closed and sealed an unlicensed film centre and arrested two people, reported Small Media. According to the authorities, this centre was where “obscene films were copied, distributed and played”. Following the raid, the police announced that they had identified nine more artists affiliated with the centre and found 20,000 illegal films on […]

Iran: Two more concerts have been cancelled

Small Media reported about two more instances of concerts being cancelled by local authorities with permission being revoked for the scheduled performances of Ali Ghamsari in Qazvin and Shahrdad Rohani in Kerman. Respected traditional musician Ali Ghamsari said that his concert was cancelled due to the inclusion of women musicians. He had been denied permission […]

Iran: National Cinema Day removed from the Iranian calendar

‘National Cinema Day’, held annually in Iran on 12 September for the past 13 years, has been removed from the Iranian calendar, reported the Iranian Students’ News Agency via Small Media in London. Mansoor Vaezi, the Secretary of the Public Culture Council, claimed that the omission was due to the Iranian calendar becoming too “overloaded”, […]

Iran: Two Azeri poets detained incommunicado by security forces

Human rights organisations express concern for the welfare of Azerbaijani poets and writers Farid Huseyn and Shahriyar Hajizade, who have been held without charge in Iran since 2 May 2012. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry is reported to have sent five notes to Iran’s Foreign Ministry demanding clarification of the situation with the two missing men. PEN International’s […]

Iran: Cancellation of several pop concerts

A new wave of concert cancellations started from Tehran and has spread throughout the country, reported Small Media from London. Just one hour before it was scheduled to start, a concert of traditional music by Salar Aghili was cancelled in Hamedan. According to media reports, a local director of the administration board of the Ministry […]

Iran: Travel ban on film director

In the past two years, the Iranian government has moved from merely banning films – most of which were allowed to be released internationally – to arresting actors and filmmakers, reported PressPlay. Jafar Panahi is the highest-profile director to suffer such treatment. A harsh legislative decision banned the Iranian director from filmmaking and travelling for […]

Awarded Iranian film director speaks about censorship and restriction

In a video interview with Euronews in Cannes, film director Asghar Farhadi talks about the current restraints on Iranian film-makers. In February 2012, Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi’s film ‘Separation’ won two Oscar nominations and took the award for Best Foreign Language film, the first Iranian movie to win the honour. And in Cannes in […]

Death threat against Germany-based Iranian rapper

After the exiled Iranian rapper and rock guitarist Shahin Najafi released a controversial song entitled ‘Imam Naghi’, an Iranian cleric issued a death sentence (fatwa) against him, a news site in the country started a campaign calling for his assassination, and a religious site issued a reward for killing the Iranian musician. The song ‘Imam […]

Iranian Shirin Neshat: Our artists are at risk

Shirin Neshat has lived much of her life outside her native Iran. Her photographs and films offer a glimpse of the cultural, religious and political realities that shape the identities of Muslim women worldwide. In December 2010, TED posted this talk by Shirin Neshat in which she illustrates the challenges she faces as well as […]

CPJ: Eritrea, North Korea and Syria among 10 most censored countries

Eritrea has emerged as the world’s most censored country, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found in its analysis of press restrictions around the globe. Following closely on CPJ’s 10 Most Censored Countries list are North Korea, Syria, and Iran — three nations where vast restrictions on information have enormous implications for geopolitical and nuclear […]

Iran: Exploration of censorship in magazine theme issue

ArteEast Quarterly: C+: The Iran Issue “This issue set out to explore the pitfalls of potential gain by way of loss. An editorial goal in the risky public exploration of censorship — positioned both within the self and the state — is to open the gap for a reading in-between the unexpressed but intended and […]

Iran: Graffiti artists speak out in video interview

In this short video film, the two members of Tehran Ratz – a dynamic duo of Iranian graffiti artists – discuss their efforts to use graffiti to challenge the legitimacy of the Iranian regime and to change international assumptions about their country’s people. They aim to give their illegal graffiti art an original Iranian identity. […]

98-pages book about cultural censorship in Iran

The condition of culture in Iran is moving towards what can only be described as a ‘state of emergency.’ This report, published by Small Media in 2011, addresses some of the major concerns in the fields of literature, cinema, theatre and music in Iran by examining the reactions of audiences and practitioners to the policies […]



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