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- Published on Monday, 25 June 2012 00:25
- Category: More About Music
Middle East resistance is not a burgeoning new trend. Neither is the attempt to overthrow corrupt imperialistic and Islamist regimes. Michel Foucault once called the 1979 Iranian Revolution “the revolution of bare hands” in that it was one driven by civil resistance, reliant on protest rather than violence. What followed in the political history of Iran was something far different than the campaign that tried to usher in democratic reform.
Despite the fear of punishment back home, Iran’s Green Movement continues to thrive, developing at unprecedented speeds and strength amongst its diaspora communities abroad. Iranians worldwide are actively picking up the torch where those within the country’s borders fear they cannot, and this year, on the movement’s third anniversary, activist group United4Iran teamed up with DJ Child of Project Groundation to release the album Azadi: Songs of Freedom, a compilation featuring tracks from Iranian music artists in exile as well as others from Egypt, Libya, South Africa, the United States, Palestine, Iraq and Canada, in “solidarity, resistance and inspiration for Iranians continuing to struggle for democracy and human rights.”
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Not just a statement of solidarity, Azadi: Songs of Freedom is a showcase of the diverse musical talent Iran has to offer within its youth generation. Jaded by their own government but hopeful for a new one, these were the youth that rallied behind the presidential election of former Prime Minister and Iranian Academy of Art president Mir-Hossein Mousavi Khameneh, a reformist politician re-emerging from his 20-year semi-retirement to challenge incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. After Ahmedinejad was declared the winner by a so-called and still disputed “landslide victory” on June 12, Mousavi’s supporters took to the streets and protested in Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square, wearing his campaign color green, demanding the removal of Ahmedinejad from office. In numbers and sheer force, the uprisings of 2009 shook up the country, the largest protest movement in Iran since the 1979 revolution.
Like history repeating itself 30 years later, what followed again was yet another violent crackdown resulting in hundreds of arrests and at least 150 deaths, including the police-led shooting of Mousavi’s nephew in late December, 2009.
To this day, Iran still has one of the world’s highest execution rates as well as the highest number of imprisoned journalists and activists. According to Amnesty International, authorities have no let up easily since the start of the Green Movement, noting an uptake in torture and inhuman punishments, such as floggings and forced amputations.
“By the time revolutions against dictatorship spread through the Arab World last year, Iranians were a forgotten people,” wrote United4Iran grassroots organizer Shadi Rahimi. “Today, much of the protest movements in Iran have died out, as rampant fear has taken hold. Iranians are dangerously close to being cut off from communication once the regime implements its National Internet, blocking nearly all non-Iranian websites. Meanwhile, some continue to demonstrate support for their Arab brothers and sisters. And for now, memorable acts of solidarity can reach Iran.”
Though not as widely covered as its Arab counterparts, resistance in Iran continues on. In a country where politics invades every aspect of life, everything, even music, becomes a willful action of opposition. With reknowned artists such as Salome MC, Rush from Arabian Knightz, MC Amin, Abjeez, Kiosk, Mohsen Namjoo, Fared Shafinury, Eendo, Johnny B. Azari and others, the album provides a sampling of the ongoing soundtrack that exposes the current Iranian regime’s political history of corruption and a disillusioned youth generation betrayed by policies created to legitimize those still in power. “We live in a world full of injustice. Human history shows us the only way to fight injustice is to raise your voice, raise awareness, raise the will to fight and get back what is your right by birth,” said Salome, Iran’s first female MC. “I am hoping this project will tell Iranians that none of us are alone in this fight.”
“This album celebrates the noblest cause,” said Kiosk lead singer Arash Sobhani, “a people’s struggle for freedom.” The resistance for reform is not just uniquely Iranian, but a global, and music, in its universal appeal to the emotions needed for mutual understanding and action, has redefined itself in the Middle East region as not just a morale booster, but as an effective tool in calling out a country’s societal and cultural flaws in hopes of rebuilding what once was a cracked foundation.
In the end, it is music that will rewrite Iran’s youth narrative, in ways still outlawed by the current regime. Whether it’s to express anger, to unite differing factions, to keep morale, to remember the fallen, or to celebrate victories, music embedded itself into Iran’s fight for independence by giving its opposition movement a soundtrack, its protesters a voice and the outside world a universal translation to the evolving resistance and revolutionary mood that has already created one of the biggest waves of change for the current generation.
Azadi: Songs for Freedom represents that soundtrack. And it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
You can download Azadi: Songs for Freedom for free here.By Safa Samiezade’-Yazd, Aslan Media Arts and Music Editor