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Iranian pop star who sang protest anthem jailed and ordered to write anti-US song, rights group says

Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour, whose song became popular during mass protests in 2022, has been sentenced to three years and eight months in prison and ordered to write a song about US “atrocities,” a human rights group reported.

The 27-year-old Grammy Award winner was accused of “inciting unrest against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the regime,” according to a report by Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) on Friday.

He was summoned by the police and questioned for “encouragement to protest” in 2022, two days after he posted a video of himself singing his song “Baraye,” which translates to “For…,” on Instagram. The sentence comes in the wake of a crackdown on voices of dissent within the country.

Hajipour, who gained international recognition and a Special Merit Award for Best Song for Social Change at the 2023 Grammys for the song, was detained in Sari, Mazandaran Province by security forces in September 2022 and released on bail that October.

His song became an anthem of protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini that evolved into a broader movement calling for greater freedoms and even an overthrow of the state.

US first lady Jill Biden accepts the award for best song for social change on behalf of Shervin Hajipour for "Baraye." - (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
US first lady Jill Biden accepts the award for best song for social change on behalf of Shervin Hajipour for "Baraye." - (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The court’s verdict extends beyond the prison sentence, imposing additional penalties deemed necessary to reflect the “gravity of Hajipour’s actions,” HRANA said.

For two years following his imprisonment, Hajipour is barred from leaving Iran. He is also mandated to engage in activities that “promote the achievements” of the Islamic Revolution, including compiling content on culture, science and art, and producing a song about the “USA’s atrocities against humanity.”

Hajipour must also summarize two books on the status of women in Islam and “document human rights violations by the U.S. government over the last century,” HRANA reported.

On his Instagram account, Hajipour posted a picture of the verdict, thanking his lawyers and management team.

The northern Iran resident released yet another controversial song and music video last month, referencing his recent run-ins with authorities, with lyrics indicating that he’s the “trash who didn’t have anyone to post bail for him,” and that even though he’s “not allowed to sing (in public)” he is the “trash that will stay in Iran to rebuild this city” and never leave the country.

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