Iran’s Protest Anthem won a Grammy. Here’s what you need to know

IIt’s a song that has become synonymous with the women-led protests that have swept across Iran since last year. But on Sunday, Shervin Hajipour’s “Baraye” made history by becoming the first winner of a new Grammy Award category, “Best Song for Social Change.”

The song was released in response to protests sparked last September by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by Iranian morality police for allegedly wearing an “inappropriate hijab”. At least 527 protesters have died amid a regime crackdown on protests, which have involved 164 cities across Iran so far, according the Tehran-based Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA).

U.S. First Lady Jill Biden announced the winner, calling the song “a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights.” She continued, “This song has become the anthem of the Mahsa Amini protests, a powerful and poetic call for women’s rights…Shervin has been arrested but this song continues to resonate around the world with its powerful theme: women, life, freedom.”

Learn more: Why Iranian Protesters Are Chanting “Woman, Life, Freedom”

Below is what you need to know about the song.

Who is Shervin Hajipour?

Shervin Hajipour is a 25-year-old Iranian pop singer. In 2019, he appeared on the show New erathe Iranian version of american idolbefore being eliminated in the final round.

Hajipour was relatively unknown until he released his single, “Baraye”, on September 28, 2022, which he composed and recorded from his bedroom in the Iranian coastal city of Babolsar. Two days after releasing his single, he was arrested and jailed for several days before being released on bail in early October. The song no longer appears on his Instagram account.

Hajipour continues to be accused of “propaganda against the regime” and “incitement to violence”, according to the American group Human Rights Activists in Iran. He was also banned from leaving the country.

What is the new special category of merit recognizing social change?

In October, the Recording Academy announced a new category of awards – “Best Song for Social Change” – given to a song that addresses the “social issues of our time and has the potential to have a positive global impact”.

The award was nominated by members of the academy and the winner was chosen by a panel of music experts who formed the Grammys Blue Ribbon Committee. It was ratified by the Recording Academy’s Board of Trustees.

Singer-songwriter and Recording Academy member Maimouna Youssef previously told NPR that “Baraye” was the top contender for the award. According to the Grammys website, Baraye was listened to by more than 40 million people in less than two days after its release in September.

Learn more: Iranian women are TIME’s heroines of the year 2022

What does “Baraye” mean?

Baraye is a Farsi word that translates to “because of”. Hajipour said he wrote the lyrics based on tweets posted by young Iranians who list the reasons why they continue to protest against the Iranian regime, previously posting, “the lyrics of this song were written by you to relieve your pain”.

For many Iranians, the song captures widespread anger at the Iranian regime that has led the largest anti-government protest in the country’s recent history.

The lyrics of the song begin with: “To dance in the streets”, “For the fear we feel when we kiss”. It then ends with the widely chanted slogan that has become synonymous with women-led protests in Iran since September: “jin-jiyan-azadi” or “woman, life, freedom”.

Why did the song go viral?

“Baraye” went viral almost immediately after being released on Instagram. It has since become ubiquitous in Iran and on online platforms as the unofficial anthem of Iranian protests. The song has been featured in several protest videos and Iranians at home and abroad have played it at public gatherings like protests, funerals, celebrations, hikes, concerts, college campuses and shopping centers.

“These protests intertwine with the broader demand for ‘freedom’ in the sense of individual political and cultural rights and openness, which was also a key promise of the Islamic revolution that overthrew the Pahlavi monarchy,” previously said an expert in Iranian affairs. Outlook. “The popularity of [the] slogan…would suggest that the current series of protests is best understood within the notion of the civil rights movement.

Learn more: Here’s how to support protesters in Iran

After Hajipour’s arrest, a campaign on TikTok urged users to nominate “Baraye” in the Grammy’s “Best Song for Social Change” category. It received 95,000 – or more than 83% – of the 115,000 total submissions for the award.

After Hajipour was released on bail in October, he thanked his supporters and reiterated his love for Iran, but also denounced the use of the song for political purposes outside Iran, which, according to some Iranians, was done under pressure from the Iranian authorities. “Because of forced confessions”, some tweeted in response.

So far, there has been no reaction in Iranian state media or from government officials to Hajipur’s victory.

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