Music of Israel’s ‘Tehran’ star Liraz Charhi becomes a soundtrack for Iran protests

Israeli singer secretly collaborated with Iranian artists in Istanbul on her latest album, and performed alongside them during a music festival in Krakow

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Liraz Charhi of 'Tehran' (Shay Franco)
Liraz Charhi of 'Tehran' (Shay Franco)

The music of Israeli singer and actress Liraz Charhi, recorded in collaboration with Iranian artists, has become widely associated with recent protests in the Islamic Republic, according to a Hebrew media report.

Charhi, who plays a Mossad spy in the Israeli TV series “Tehran,” has remotely recorded music in the past with anonymous Iranian musicians. Her recent album, entitled “Roya” — fantasy in Persian — was recorded in person with four Iranian artists in Istanbul earlier this year, Channel 12 news reported.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran has considered the Jewish state an enemy, making visiting, and even artistic cooperation, a punishable offense in Iran.

According to the network, Charhi’s lyrics, “Until when will we be silent, until when will we keep our head down?” have accompanied protest videos and rallies taking place in Iran, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police after being arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code.

Charhi told Channel 12 that her first album, “Naz” — which featured Iranian artists — quickly arrived in the Islamic Republic and became popular among Iranians after it was released in 2018.

“Very quickly I received videos of women dancing in underground parties and removing their chador and dancing to these songs,” she said.

After collaborating with Iranian artists again on her second album, Zan, Charhi invited the musicians to meet secretly in Istanbul in February, to record her third album. Turkey is one of the few countries Iranians can travel to without a visa.

The artists came on the condition that their faces would be blurred in any photos taken and that their names would not be published anywhere.

“I waited all my life to meet my friends and family from Iran, the fact that you weren’t afraid and were brave is… wow,” Charhi said upon the musicians’ arrival.

One of the musicians told Channel 12: “We know that Iran has a problem with Israel… but if we only make music, it’s ok.”

“I know that might be dangerous, but I do what I love,” he added.

Charhi went on tour over the summer after recording the album, when she was offered an opportunity by the Jewish Culture Festival to perform with her Iranian collaborators at a scheduled performance at the Old Synagogue in Krakow, Poland.

The artists agreed to perform as long as they were masked. Charhi told Channel 12 that golden hijabs were woven to mask their identities, but one of the artists insisted on showing part of her hair. She was later recognized and outed in Iran for performing with an Israeli, according to the report.

Since the outbreak of protests in Iran, Charhi has received messages of support from fans in Iran over Instagram.

“Thank you for being our voice, I will never be forgotten,” one message read.

“I love your songs in Persian and hope that one day you will sing in beautiful Tehran,” another supporter wrote.

Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights reported that at least 92 protesters have been killed in the crackdown on demonstrations, now in their fourth week, fueling tensions between Iran and the West, especially the United States.

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