Iran protest song 'Baraye' wins new Grammy Award for sparking social change

A man watches a video of Iranian protest singer Shervin Hajipour
A man watches a video of Iranian protest singer Shervin Hajipour Copyright Khaled Desouki/AFP
Copyright Khaled Desouki/AFP
By Tokunbo Salako with AP, AFP
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Shervin Hajipour was a little known Iranian pop singer and songwriter before the protests erupted over the death of Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini. His song in support of the demonstrations quickly went viral and became an anthem against the regime.


There are many tales of triumph over adversity behind the dozens of winners at this year's Grammy Awards but perhaps none are more deserving than Shervin Hajipour, the Iranian singer who was jailed for his song in support of protests over the death of the Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini

On Sunday night, Hajipour, won the inaugural best song for social change special merit award for “Baraye” of "For" in English. It begins with: “For dancing in the streets,” “for the fear we feel when we kiss.” The lyrics list reasons young Iranians have posted on Twitter for why they had protested against Iran's ruling theocracy.

Hajipour, 25, appeared stunned after hearing Jill Biden, the wife of President Joe Biden, announce he'd won  An online video showed Hajipour in a darkened room, wiping tears away after the announcement.

Picking up the honour on his the singer's behalf Biden said that a song “can unite, inspire and ultimately change the world.”

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" at the 65th annual Grammy AwardsChris Pizzello/Invision/AP

For some what makes Hajipour's rise to prominence is the fact that he was a little known pop singer and songwriter before the protests begain. His anthem has been widely seen as the symbolic rising of ordinary people against the morality police.

Shervin was arrested, but this song continues to resonate around the world with its powerful theme: Women, life, freedom.
Jill Biden

His song weaves together messages posted on Twitter about the reasons for protests. The emotional performance became a viral hit on different social media platforms, with millions of views within days.

It ends with the widely chanted slogan that has become synonymous with the protests since the September death of Amini: “For women, life, freedom.”

Shervin Hajipour's Baraye protest song

Released on his Instagram page, the song quickly went viral. Hajipour then was arrested and held for several days before being released on bail in October. He now faces charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “instigating the violence,” according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that's been monitoring the demonstrations. 

The charges Hajipour faces can carry as much as six years in prison all together. The singer is also banned from leaving Iran.

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

Those gathered cheered Biden's remarks. On Instagram, Hajipour simply wrote: “We won.”

There was no immediate reaction in Iranian state media or from government officials to Hajipour’s win. The singer is among over 19,600 people arrested amid the demonstrations, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran. At least 527 people have been killed amid a violent suppression of the demonstration by authorities.

On Sunday, Iran’s supreme leader reportedly ordered an amnesty or reduction in prison sentences for “tens of thousands” of people detained amid the protests, acknowledging for the first time the scale of the crackdown.

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