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Grammy-winning Iranian singer sentenced to prison

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  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                First lady Jill Biden accepts the award for best song for social change on behalf of Shervin Hajipour for “Baraye” at the 65th annual Grammy Awards, in February 2023, in Los Angeles. The Iranian singer who won a Grammy presented by U.S. President Joe Biden’s wife said, today, that he had been sentenced to over three years in prison over his anthem supporting the 2022 protests over the death of Mahsa Amini.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    First lady Jill Biden accepts the award for best song for social change on behalf of Shervin Hajipour for “Baraye” at the 65th annual Grammy Awards, in February 2023, in Los Angeles. The Iranian singer who won a Grammy presented by U.S. President Joe Biden’s wife said, today, that he had been sentenced to over three years in prison over his anthem supporting the 2022 protests over the death of Mahsa Amini.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates >> An Iranian singer who won a Grammy presented by U.S. first lady Jill Biden has been sentenced to more than three years in prison over his anthem supporting the 2022 protests over the death of Mahsa Amini.

Shervin Hajipour posted on Instagram today, the same day that Iran held its parliamentary election, what appeared to be part of the judgment against him.

It said Hajipour received a three-year, eight-month sentence on charges of “propaganda against the system” and “encouraging people to protest.” The court issued its sentence in part because it found he hadn’t properly expressed regret over publishing the song.

It also imposed a two-year travel ban and ordered him to create a song about “U.S. crimes,” as well as make posts about those crimes online.

Hajipour thanked his lawyers and his agent for their support.

“I will not mention the name of the judge and the prosecutor so that they don’t get insulted and threatened, because insults and threats are not in the religion of humanity,” he wrote. “Finally, one day we will understand each other. Until then.”

Hajipour already had served some prison time, but was out on bail pending the court’s decision. It was unclear if he had already reported to serve his sentence.

Iranian state-run media, focused on the election today, didn’t note Hajipour’s sentence. Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Hajipour’s song “Baraye,” or “For” in English, begins with: “For dancing in the streets,” “for the fear we feel when we kiss.” The lyrics list reasons that young Iranians posted online for why they had protested against Iran’s ruling theocracy after Amini’s death in September 2022, allegedly for not wearing her mandated headscarf to the liking of security forces.

The protests quickly escalated into calls to overthrow Iran’s clerical rulers. A subsequent security crackdown killed more than 500 people, with more than 22,000 detained.

Jill Biden awarded Hajipour the Grammy’s new song for social change special merit award during the ceremony last year.

“This song became the anthem of the Mahsa Amini protests, a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights,” Biden said at the ceremony. “Shervin was arrested, but this song continues to resonate around the world with its powerful theme: Women, life, freedom.”

Hajipour’s sentencing comes as other activists, journalists and artists have faced arrest, imprisonment and harassment since the demonstrations. Among those imprisoned is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran condemned Hajipour’s sentencing today, and demanded Iran immediately release him from the sentence.

“This blatant violation of Shervin’s rights to free speech and expression is a grave injustice and a clear affront to human rights principles,” the center said. “His imprisonment serves as a chilling reminder of the ongoing repression faced by artists, activists and dissenting voices in Iran.”

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