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An Anthem From the Iranian Protests

On September 27, a song by Iranian musician Shervin Hajipour ‘broke’ Persian social media. He is singing of the mass protests that began in Iran following the death of Jina (Mahsa) Amini. It went viral -- viewed 40 million times within 48 hours.

Iranian demonstrators march down a street in Tehran, October 1, 2022,MERIP

On September 27, 2022, a song by Iranian musician Shervin Hajipour ‘broke’ Persian social media. Hajipour posted a video on Instagram of himself singing a song for the mass protests that began in Iran following the death of Jina (Mahsa) Amini. Its lyrics were composed of tweets from members of the Iranian Twittersphere explaining what the protests meant to them, what they were fighting for and what was at stake with the hashtag #برای (for the sake of)They describe a litany of grievances, grief and rage over a range of issues, beginning with the demand for women’s rights that first galvanized the protests but also encompassing poverty, environmental disaster, economic mismanagement and corruption, religious repression and countless other traumas large and small.

The original tweets appeared in the video, giving context and resonance to the lyrics, which condensed and simplified them for the sake of rhythm and rhyme. The name “Pirouz” refers to a plucky Asiatic cheetah cub, one of a critically endangered handful left in the country, who was born in captivity and captured the nation’s heart earlier in the year. The phrase “the image of a return to this moment” refers to a heartbreaking snapshot of a sweet, ordinary moment between a father and daughter, easily recognizable to Iranian netizens as Hamed and Reera Esmaeilion. Nine-year-old Reera died with her mother and 174 other passengers and crew when Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 was shot down by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on January 8, 2020.

Overnight, the video went viral. It was viewed 40 million times within 48 hours. It has been hailed as a masterpiece of protest art. In the words of poet and scholar Fatemeh Shams, who teaches Persian literature at the University of Pennsylvania, “We all cried with this song multiple times since it’s been released. What a genius idea, what a melody, what a voice. It comes right out of the heart of this revolution. It shakes the idea of how poetry is and should be written during revolutions.” Within days of the video’s release, BBC Persian reported that Shervin Hajipour had been arrested, and the original post was taken down. But like the Persian protest songs of the past, albeit in digital form, the video continues to circulate and resonate. It can be heard playing in cars and in the background of the latest videos of protests and attacks by security forces. New artists are recording their own versions of the song to keep it and the revolutionary moment alive.

– Zuzanna Olszewska

For the Sake of…

For the sake of dancing in the alleys
Because of the fear you feel while kissing
For my sister – your sister – our sisters
To change the minds that have rotted away
Because of shame, because of being broke
Because of longing for a normal life
For the garbage-picking kid and his dreams
Because of this command economy
Because of this polluted air
For Valiasr Street and its worn-out trees
For Pirouz and his probable extinction
For innocent, forbidden dogs
Because of tears that never stop
For the image of a return to this moment
For the sake of a laughing face
For schoolkids, for the future
Because of this mandatory paradise
For imprisoned intellectuals
For Afghan children
Because of all of these becauses, no two the same
Because of all these empty slogans
Because of collapsing homes built on the cheap
For a feeling of peace
For the sun after long nights
Because of meds for depression and insomnia
For men, homeland, prosperity
For the girl that wished she was a boy
For women, life, freedom
For freedom
For freedom
For freedom


برای توی کوچه رقصیدن
برای ترسیدن به وقت بوسیدن
برای خواهرم خواهرت خواهرامون
برای تغییر مغزها که پوسیدن
برای شرمندگی برای بی پولی
برای حسرت یک زندگی معمولی
برای کودک زباله گرد و آرزوهاش
برای این اقتصاد دستوری
برای این هوای آلوده
برای ولیعصر و درختای فرسوده
برای پیروز و احتمال انقراضش
برای سگ های بی گناه ممنوعه
برای گریه های بی وقفه
برای تصویر تکرار این لحظه
برای چهره ای که میخنده
برای دانش آموزان برای آینده
برای این بهشت اجباری
برای نخبه های زندانی
برای کودکان افغانی
برای این همه “برای” غیر تکراری
برای این همه شعارهای تو خالی
برای آوار خونه های پوشالی
برای احساس آرامش
برای خورشید پس از شبای طولانی
برای قرصای اعصاب و بی خوابی
برای مرد میهن آبادی
برای دختری که آرزو داشت پسر بود
برای زن زندگی آزادی
برای آزادی
برای آزادی
برای آزادی

-Lyrics by Shervin Hajipour, translated by Zuzanna Olszewska

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Zuzanna Olszewska "An Anthem from the Iranian Protests," Middle East Report Online, October 04, 2022.

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