Iran: Internet video tells leaders to 'leave the youth alone'
|Publisher||Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty|
|Publication Date||16 August 2007|
|Cite as||Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Iran: Internet video tells leaders to 'leave the youth alone', 16 August 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46c95d5a8.html [accessed 18 September 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
By Golnaz Esfandiari
"Etteham – Mahour Iran Rap : Mani Turkzadeh Film" uses footage of women being detained on the streets of Tehran (RFE/RL)
August 16, 2007 (RFE/RL) – A video by underground Iranian musicians that is circulating on the Internet criticizes the current official crackdown to enforce Iran's strict dress code.
The clip is built around an Iranian rap song that has tough words for the Iranian leadership and what it describes as official repression of young people.
The video, called "No More Lies," chides authorities for their persecution of Iranian young people who flout the dress code.
The song is credited to Etteham, with vocals by Mahour. The clip includes scenes of Iranians – most of them women – being warned or detained by police because of their appearance.
Women with make-up or short coats and young men with Western-style haircuts are the main targets.
The crackdown is being described by many observers as one of the harshest in recent years.
'Is This An Issue?'
The video begins with a televised interview in which Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad says his government has better things to do than tell young people how to dress.
"Is the dress that some girl is wearing now really our country's problem?" Ahmadinejad asks. "Is this an issue for our country and an issue for our people?"
The video continues with scenes of a woman shouting as police drag her to their car to take her to the police station. More scenes follow of others being detained or warned.
Mani Turkzadeh, an Iranian-born activist who is now based in Los Angeles, California, produced the video. He tells RFE/RL that he decided to make the video about a month ago, after he received the song by e-mail.
"I listened to it and thought, 'This is about the incidents that are taking place in Iran,'" Turkzadeh says. "The person who made the song should be given credit, because it expresses what is in people's hearts. Without this song, I don't think my video would have had any impact."
The 29-year-old Turkzadeh says he simply edited together snippets of videos and other images that were already on the Internet.
He says that since he posted his clip, he has received messages of support from Iranians around the world – including people inside Iran.
"I've received many e-mails," he says. "I see there is a lot of discussion about [the video], it has already [more than] 95,000 hits. The message is the same – all Iranians are upset, there is lots of anger in their messages, they're really concerned."
Government officials say the clampdown is aimed at strengthening security and morality. They dismiss critics, saying the efforts are aimed at "fighting morally corrupt people."
'In The Land Of Iran'
The "No More Lies" song demands an end to state interference in the private lives of young Iranians. Addressing Iran's leaders, it says they should "leave the youth alone."
"In your view, [going back to the Stone Age] is a value," the singer intones. "This is not an era where you can tell us what is considered a value in the land of Iran."
Radio Farda web editor Keyvan Hosseini – who has written extensively about Iranian underground music – says the song reflects growing concern about the crackdown: "Iranian underground music is inspired by and reflects the problems that Iran's youth is facing. The way young people dress and their treatment by police is one of the issues that has, in recent months, caught a lot of attention among the youth. Naturally it has been reflected in music and videos."
The Mahour rapper says young people are facing "accusations" in a "year of explosion." The singer says Iranian youths are constantly being told what is "good," what is "bad," and "wear this" and "don't wear that."
Hosseini says little is known about Mahour, the female rapper or group that performs the song.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the rapper is a woman, who are discriminated against under Iran's strict official interpretation of Shari'a. The song's collaborators also chose a musical genre against which authorities appear to be cracking down.
"Mahour is an underground music group that – like other underground bands – tries not to leave any traces behind," Hosseini says. "Recently police forces have begun to confront underground music bands – especially hip-hop bands. In the current year, for the first time, several hip-hop singers have been arrested. So they do their best to remain underground and secret, because of the dangers they face."
Clip producer Turkzadeh says there has been much criticism of the crackdown to enforce the dress code, but he says Mahour's song has gone beyond "just words."
Lending The Voiceless A Voice
Turkzadeh, a U.S. resident, says it has given a voice to Iranians who cannot openly express their anger with the government campaign.
"I live in a free country; I have possibilities here," Turkzadeh says. "Young people in Iran also want to be free. When Iran needs us, we have to be Iranians, not just for football games. We have to be the uncensored voice of young people inside the country. "
The video ends with scenes of a female police officer in Tehran berating a woman for her appearance. She is telling her that her hair is visible and that her pants are too short.
It is a refrain that is heard frequently in Iran these days – and one that might prompt critics to quote President Ahmadinejad's seemingly forgotten assurance that the government has more important things to do than worry about the way "some girl" is dressed.