Iran jails singer who criticised mandatory dress code

AFP , Wednesday 10 Jan 2024

An Iranian court has sentenced pop singer Mehdi Yarrahi to prison time and 74 lashes after he released a song criticising the mandatory headscarf for women, his lawyer said Tuesday.

A woman browses for jewelry at the old bazaar in the city of Shahr-e Ray, south of Tehran, on Jan. 8, 2024. AFP

Yarrahi, 42, had been arrested in August for distributing an "illegal song" that challenged "the morals and customs of Islamic society". He was released on bail in October.

The Tehran Revolutionary Court gave Yarrahi "a total of two years and eight months in prison" on multiple charges, lawyer Zahra Minouei said on X, formerly Twitter.

However, under Iranian law jail sentences run concurrently, meaning he will only have to serve one year behind bars, Minouei added.

The singer released the track Roosarito, which means "your headscarf" in Persian, shortly before the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, died in police custody on September 16, 2022 following her arrest for allegedly breaking Iran's strict dress code for women.

Hundreds of people, including dozens of security personnel, were killed in protests that broke out across Iran after Amini's death.

Thousands of protesters were also arrested, accused by the authorities of taking part in "riots" fomented by the West.

In a three-minute video accompanying the release of Roosarito, Yarrahi had voiced support for women's right to choose whether or not to wear the headscarf and dedicated the song to the "courageous Iranian women" involved in the protest movement.

Yarrahi is a past winner of the best pop singer award at the Fajr Festival, Iran's most important government-backed music event.

His song "Soroode Zan" (Women's Anthem), which was released in October 2022, became a protest anthem, particularly on university campuses.

Yarrahi has repeatedly criticised the authorities during his concerts, especially for discrimination in his ethnically diverse southwestern home province of Khuzestan.

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