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.

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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 the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) accepted numerous recommendations relevant to the freedom of its citizens to create, produce, and share artistic work, Freemuse in its submission to the United Nations provides evidence of Iran’s failure to implement these recommendations.

Iran particularly fails in regards to guaranteeing the right to liberty and security of person, the right to a fair trial including accss to legal assistance, the right to freedom of expression, and the right of women to equality under the law. Since the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1979, women music creators have not been able to perform solo in public before mixed audiences.

“Iranian women artists face the additional compounding difficulties presented by living under a state that continues to practice systematic discrimination against women in breach of its international commitments,” said Freemuse Director Ole Reitov.

According to the Islamic Penal Code, for example, the testimony of a woman in a court of law has half the value of that of a man. In sentencing, a woman’s life is also valued as half that of a man’s. Article 1117 of the civil code is of specific relevance to women engaging in artistic activities. According to this article, “the husband can prevent his wife from occupations or technical work which is incompatible with the family interests or the dignity of himself or his wife.

In the submission Freemuse refers to the report ‘The Right to Artistic Freedom and Creativity’ by the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Ms Farida Shaheed, who observed that “the vitality of artistic creativity is necessary for the development of vibrant cultures and the functioning of democratic societies. Artistic expressions and creations are an integral part of cultural life, which entails contesting meanings and revisiting culturally inherited ideas and concepts.”

For decades artists and cultural producers in Iran have experienced how regulations and censorship practices have affected the cultural sector negatively. Composer Hossein Alizadeh spoke with journalists and musicians in the Hormoz Province in 2010 about the negative effects of the government’s regime of prior censorship for which the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance is primarily responsible. Alizadeh highlighted the effects of the onerous procedural burdens placed upon artists:

“Censorship, and the lengthy application process that must be negotiated in order to perform music in public, is stopping Iranian music from evolving. They should not try to control music by distracting the minds of our artists and attempting to control what they think or do.”

“Unfortunately, Iranian artists and cultural producers do not only face non-transparent and destructive censorship practices,” explained Ole Reitov: “Too many artists even receive threats, experience a lack of security and if questioned by police and courts are denied access to legal assistance. We therefore urge the Iranian government to respect the commitments to international conventions”


The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a mechanism of the Human Rights Council in the United nations which aims at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 United Nations member states. Iran will be reviewed in October 2014 during the 20th UPR session in Geneva.


» Read the Freemuse Iran UPR submission: ‘Universal Periodic Review – Islamic Republic of Iran 2014 – Stakeholder submission’

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