Googoosh, Iran’s queen of pop, has taken a stand in support for the country’s gay and lesbian community through her latest music video.
The video for her song “Behesht” (Heaven) was released on the artist’s Facebook page on Valentine’s Day, and depicts a lesbian couple in a relationship forbidden by both society and their families, The Guardian reported.
Googoosh is the most prominent Iranian to speak out against homophobia.
Navid Akhavan, the video’s director, said thousands of Iranians have viewed it either online or via illegal satellite channels.
“The reactions we have seen so far have been tremendous,” he said. “The comments I have read online and the messages I have received from people within the Iranian LGBT community have brought tears to my eyes.”
He did say, however, that “we knew from the start that because of its topic the video is going to be very controversial among Iranians, that’s why we expected negative feedback too, but that hasn’t bothered me, nor Googoosh.”
Akhavan added that the manner in which gay people are treated in Iran initially encouraged him to work with Googoosh. “I am so proud of her being so brave and taking a pioneering step in support of Iranian homosexuals.”
The video is cleverly shot in first person, depicting a couple’s complex, trying romance, including rejection by the father of one of the couple, and altercations at a subway station. Only in the final minute is it made clear that the fictional couple are lesbians.
“The end of this road is not clear. I know this, just like you do,” sings Googoosh. “Don’t tell me to stop loving, You can’t do that and I can’t either.”
The video has received its share of criticism in Iran. Enghelab News called the singer an “anti-revolutionary” who sold herself out to “monarchists and Bahais.” Another website, Khabar Online, branded it obscene, aimed at promoting “hideous” acts.
The video has been viewed more than 1.2 million times, and, according to some, has sparked debate about gay rights in the Islamic Republic.
Shadi Amin, a lesbian Iranian and human rights campaigner based in Germany, said it took a lot of courage for Googoosh to release such a polarizing video. “Our research and experience shows that gays and lesbians in Iran, especially those in smaller cities, feel they are alone, think they are the only people to have such feelings on the planet, but Googoosh’s video [shows] hey, you are not alone.”
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Iran face persecution both from the government and broader society, especially by conservatives. In the past, some have suffered harsh punishments, including the death penalty and heavy jail sentences; other have been chronically bullied and forced into exile.