Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour sentenced over Mahsa Amini protests

Grammy-winning artist given three-year jail term and ordered to create a song about 'US crimes'

Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour was found guilty of 'propaganda against the system' and 'encouraging people to protest'. Photo: Shervin Hajipour
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An Iranian singer who last year won a Grammy presented by US first lady Jill Biden has been sentenced to more than three years in prison for his anthem supporting 2022 protests over the death of Mahsa Amini.

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

It said Hajipour received a three-year, eight-month sentence after being found guilty on charges of “propaganda against the system” and “encouraging people to protest”.

Ms Amini died in the custody of Iran's morality police in Tehran in September 2022, after being detained for wearing her headscarf “improperly”.

Hajipour’s song Baraye – which means “for” in English – list reasons young Iranians posted online for why they had protested against Iran’s ruling theocracy, after 22-year-old Ms Amini 's death. Lyrics include, “for dancing in the streets” and “for the fear we feel when we kiss”.

The court issued its sentence in part because it found Hajipour had not properly expressed regret over releasing the song.

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

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.”

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 parliamentary election, did not mention Hajipour's sentence. Iran's mission to the UN in New York did not respond to a request for comment.

Nationwide Protests following Ms Amini's death quickly escalated into calls to overthrow Iran’s clerical rulers. More than 500 people were killed in a subsequent security crackdown, with over 22,000 detained.

Mrs Biden awarded Hajipour the Grammy's new song for social change special merit award during the ceremony in Los Angeles last year.

“This song became the anthem of the Mahsa Amini protests, a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights,” she said at the ceremony.

“Shervin was arrested, but this song continues to resonate around the world with its powerful theme: Women, life, freedom.”

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 Centre for Human Rights in Iran non-profit organisation condemned Hajipour's sentencing and demanded Tehran 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 centre said.

“His imprisonment serves as a chilling reminder of the ongoing repression faced by artists, activists and dissenting voices in Iran.”

PEN America, a non-profit dedicated to the right to free expression, criticised 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 Trebault, 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.”

Updated: March 02, 2024, 7:56 AM