Iran arrests singer for ‘illegal’ song encouraging headscarf removal

Judiciary says Mehdi Yarrahi’s new video ‘defies the morals and customs of the Islamic society’; he has consistently backed women’s rights protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death

Iranian singer Mehdi Yarrahi in a video clip released in May 2023. (Screenshot: YouTube; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Iranian singer Mehdi Yarrahi in a video clip released in May 2023. (Screenshot: YouTube; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian police arrested pop singer Mehdi Yarrahi on Monday for releasing a song against women’s compulsory wearing of the headscarf, the judiciary said.

A day earlier, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website announced that a “legal case” had been filed against Yarrahi “following the release of an illegal song which defies the morals and customs of the Islamic society.”

The singer has now been “arrested by order of the Tehran prosecutor,” Mizan Online said on Monday.

The action comes almost a year after the September 16 death in custody of Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini, 22, triggered months of protests around the country.

Amini had been detained for an alleged breach of the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code requiring that a woman’s head and neck be covered.

Yarrahi was defiant after the announcement of the legal case.

“Don’t cry, I am the nightmare of this judge,” he said in a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, adding: “Let’s continuously talk about the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s murder.”

Authorities have contested accusations by Amini’s family that she died from beating.

On Friday, Yarrahi, 41, released the song called “Roosarito,” which means “Your Headscarf” in Farsi, expressing support for last year’s protest movement.

Yarrahi’s three-minute video clip incorporated the protest movement’s slogan, “Woman, life, freedom.”

He called on women to “take off their [head]scarves,” and the video included short clips of several women dancing with their hair uncovered.

Mizan said the legal measures against Yarrahi would also cover another “controversial song” he released in October. Titled “Soroode Zan” or “Woman’s Anthem,” it became a feature of the protest movement, particularly in universities.

During the months of protest, which Tehran generally labeled as foreign-instigated “riots,” thousands of Iranians were arrested and hundreds were killed, including dozens of security personnel.

In July, an Iranian court sentenced prominent rapper Toomaj Salehi, 32, who had backed the protests, to six years and three months in prison for “corruption on earth,” one of the Islamic Republic’s most serious offenses.

Iranian women have increasingly flouted the strict dress code since the mass protests began calling for an end to compulsory headscarves.

Last month, state media said police had relaunched patrols to catch those who leave their hair uncovered in public.

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