Iran arrests pop star for calling on women to not wear hijab

Iranian authorities have intensified their crackdown on many citizens ahead of the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini.

Thousands of Iranians head to Mahsa Amini's grave in Saqqez, October 26, 2022 (photo credit: 1500tasvir)
Thousands of Iranians head to Mahsa Amini's grave in Saqqez, October 26, 2022
(photo credit: 1500tasvir)

Iranian singer Mehdi Yarrahi was arrested on Monday after publishing a music video expressing support for Iranian women protesting against hijab mandates and encouraging women to remove their hijab.

The music video for the song, called "Roosarito," begins with a statement reading "optional hijab is just one of the serious demands of the oppressed people of Iran, who have sacrificed many dear lives in order to achieve freedom and democracy."

Yarrahi wrote that the song was dedicated to "the noble women of my homeland, who bravely shine in the front line of the 'Women, Life, Freedom' movement."

The song celebrates the removal of the hijab, with one line reading "take off your scarf, let your hair flow. Don't be afraid, my love! Laugh, protest against tears."

 Iranian protesters stand in public without hijab, October 2022 (credit: 1500tasvir)
Iranian protesters stand in public without hijab, October 2022 (credit: 1500tasvir)

The Mizan News Agency, affiliated with Iran's judiciary, reported that Yarrahi was arrested for publishing an "illegal song that is against the morals and customs of the Islamic society."

According to the news agency, Yarrahi published another "illegal song" during the protests that swept Iran after the killing of Mahsa Amini in the custody of Tehran's "morality police" last September. Last year, the singer published a song called "Soroode Zan (Woman's Anthem)."

Yarrahi's lawyer, Mostafa Nili, told the reformist Shargh newspaper that he found out about the singer's arrest through media reports, adding that he does not have information about the details of the arrest.

"Three cases were previously filed against him with charges such as propaganda against the system and society and collusion due to his protest songs in support of workers and popular protests," said Nili.

The semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency referred to Yarrahi's song as "a ridiculous epic to encourage vulgarity," claiming the singer wanted to "be seen at any cost" and "clearly wants women and girls to remove their headscarves, straighten and open their hair, cut their clothes short and dance so that he can enjoy."

The Fars article noted that Yarrahi had "previously gained fame and popularity by performing the call to prayer and the ending music of several popular programs," but "showed a different side of himself in the midst of the sedition that the country went through."

Iranian authorities intensify crackdown ahead of Mahsa Amini anniversary

The arrest comes as Iranian authorities intensify their crackdown on activists, educators, and the relatives and friends of protesters arrested and killed in the protests that swept Iran last year after Amini's death.

Amini’s death in September 2022 sparked nationwide protests often referred to as the "Women, Life, Freedom" protests that swept across Iran for months, only declining in January. Protests have periodically renewed in several locations in the months since then.

In recent weeks, a number of Iranian professors who expressed support for protesting students during last year's demonstrations were suspended or fired from their positions.

"Prominent Iranian singer, Mehdi Yarahi, has been arrested for releasing a video titled 'Take Off Your Headscarf'" wrote Iranian activist Masih Alinejad on X on Monday. "As the anniversary of Mahsa Jina Amini approaches, protests are intensifying and the regime's response is becoming increasingly aggressive. #WomanLifeFreedom"

Iran's parliament has been working in the past years on a new hijab and chastity bill to enforce hijab rules.

On Monday, Iranian MP Amir Hossein Bankipour reported recently stated that the bill will require cinema and television producers to obtain a commitment from actors and presenters to abide by hijab regulations for two years after the publication of the work. Without such a commitment, the producers will be fined and the work will be confiscated.

Bankipour additionally announced that the enforcement of the law will begin this fall.