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Iranian singer who won Grammy for Mahsa Amini protest anthem is sentenced to prison in Iran

The Iranian singer who won a Grammy presented by U.S. President Joe Biden’s wife said on March 1, 2024, that he had been sentenced to over three years in prison over his anthem supporting the 2022 protests over the death of Mahsa Amini.
| Photo Credit: AP

An Iranian singer who won a Grammy presented by U.S. first lady Jill Biden has been sentenced to more than three years in prison over his anthem supporting the 2022 protests over the death of Mahsa Amini.

Shervin Hajipour posted on Instagram on Friday, the same day that Iran held its parliamentary election, what appeared to be part of the judgment against him.

It said Mr. Hajipour received a three-year, eight-month sentence on charges of “propaganda against the system” and “encouraging people to protest.” The court issued its sentence in part because it found he hadn’t properly expressed regret over publishing the song.

Also read: Explained | Mahsa Amini and the widespread protests in Iran 

It also imposed a two-year travel ban and ordered him to create a song about “U.S. crimes,” as well as make posts about those crimes online.

Mr. Hajipour thanked his lawyers and his agent for their support.

“I will not mention the name of the judge and the prosecutor so that they don’t get insulted and threatened, because insults and threats are not in the religion of humanity,” he wrote. “Finally, one day we will understand each other. Until then.”

Mr. Hajipour already had served some prison time, but was out on bail pending the court’s decision. It was unclear if he had already reported to serve his sentence.

Iranian state-run media, focused on the election Friday, didn’t note Mr. Hajipour’s sentence. Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Hajipour’s song “Baraye,” or “For” in English, begins with: “For dancing in the streets,” “for the fear we feel when we kiss.” The lyrics list reasons that young Iranians posted online for why they had protested against Iran’s ruling theocracy after Amini’s death in September 2022, allegedly for not wearing her mandated headscarf to the liking of security forces.

The protests quickly escalated into calls to overthrow Iran’s clerical rulers. A subsequent security crackdown killed more than 500 people, with more than 22,000 detained.

Jill Biden awarded Mr. Hajipour the Grammy’s new song for social change special merit award during the ceremony last year.

“This song became the anthem of the Mahsa Amini protests, a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights,” Biden said at the ceremony. “Shervin was arrested, but this song continues to resonate around the world with its powerful theme: Women, life, freedom.”

Mr. Hajipour’s sentencing comes as other activists, journalists and artists have faced arrest, imprisonment and harassment since the demonstrations. Among those imprisoned is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran condemned Hajipour’s sentencing Friday, and demanded Iran immediately release him from the sentence.

“This blatant violation of Shervin’s rights to free speech and expression is a grave injustice and a clear affront to human rights principles,” the center said. “His imprisonment serves as a chilling reminder of the ongoing repression faced by artists, activists and dissenting voices in Iran.”

PEN America similarly criticized Iran for ordering Hajipour to prison as well as sentencing rappers and others over their music critical of the government in Tehran.

“Shervin Hajipour’s sentencing is another awful attempt to suppress the independent voices who channel the demands of the Iranian people for basic freedoms,” said Julie Trébault, director of PEN’s Artists at Risk Connection. “The Iranian government fears the power of music to give hope and inspire citizens to dream of a better and more equitable future for all.”

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