while lying Women, life, freedom! Through Garage Noord, I am speaking outside with a Dutch Iranian woman in her mid-twenties. She says, “A month ago, the Arts Division pushed me into a blindfolded car.” “I was standing with my Dutch friend in a suburb of Tehran taking pictures of the street scene when they suddenly pushed us into the car and called the office we were spies.” Strange story, but I’ve heard several versions of it.
The word azadi (freedom) is often heard this evening and is always greeted with cheers and cheers. It touches me to be here with people who often have the same roots as me. The speaker tempts me to the point where I reach the ceiling with my right fist and shout “Azadi!” Scream. Tonight we celebrate the freedom of self-expression in our clothes, our makeup, our music, our art and our songs. It is a freedom that the regime takes from men, especially women, in Iran. Being yourself there can mean imprisonment, abuse, or even murder. This happened to Gina Mohasa Amini, and since then there have been protests in Iran and abroad.
In solidarity with protesters in Iran, Iranian-Dutch artists and musicians organized an event at Garage Nord to bring people together with their art. I spoke with three artists about their music, recent events, and the significance of an event like this.
Discourse * (38, DJ)
Music is a powerful medium. It is an outlet and a source of combat. Tonight I played underground Iranian contemporary hip-hop and old-fashioned pop with a combative message.
But the originally Kurdish struggle “Jin, Gyan Azadi” (Woman, Life, Freedom) also has a prominent place in my musical choices. The female voice is represented in optional. That I can express myself in music and art and that it resonates and influences people, and that strengthens me tremendously.
For me, music is a global phenomenon. It is an essential part of human existence. In this sense, it is so basic that it is impossible to ban. The distribution of some music may be censored, but people will always find ways to create and share music, to energize others. In this sense, you cannot prevent people from expressing themselves politically through music.
Think, for example, of the feminist quote of the song “Bella Ciao”, or the song “Baraye” by Shirvin Hajibur, which garnered forty million views in two days. Shervine was arrested for creating and sharing that song, but was soon released after international pressure.
She wonders if this is a turning point. If I’m honest, I still find it complicated. But then I see the way young female protesters express the need for freedom. Schoolgirls aged 13 or younger, showing images of the resistance by standing side by side without headscarves, their back to the camera and their middle fingers pointing to images of the ayatollahs. Tarantino couldn’t have come up with this better. Only after these kinds of photos has real international attention been paid to the protests. We hope we can draw attention for a long time. I believe in creativity and militancy of Iranians.
Kurosh Naushad Sharifi (29, rapper and producer)
When I see people in Iran, Kurdistan, and Afghanistan going through a struggle for freedom, I have to contribute in some way. I can’t fight in the streets there, but I can inspire people in the Netherlands to share the news about Iran. By organizing this event, I can bring people together to grieve together and show hope for a future of freedom for the people of Iran.
This event was very emotional for me, especially when my mom arrived. I looked around and saw how much she liked the music and the pictures of the protests displayed on the wall. She saw all this happen when she was a little girl. When you tell stories from the past, it touches me a lot. What touches me the most is that I finally hope to return one day to my motherland. A dream I cherished for a long time, but never came true.
There is no conscious message in my words. I think I am telling a certain story, which is the story of a young Iranian-Dutch with dual citizenship who is trying to find his way in the world. Music from before the 1979 Islamic Revolution still affects me greatly. But for my lyrics, I also get a lot of inspiration from Iranian hip-hop that exists today. Just as with the origins of rap music in the United States, when the black community translated their reality into the lyrics of their songs, they questioned the establishment, so do young Iranian rappers now.
I also organized a big demonstration in Dam Square with others. It hurts to see my country burn. But nevertheless, this struggle and these protests, which are led by women and girls in Iran, which have a lot of international support, also give me a lot of pride.
Modi Mahran * (32, DJ)
For me, meeting people is the most important thing going on here tonight. I think I can speak for everyone here when I say it’s best to give feeling a place when you meet people who share your grief. See you are not alone. Most normal conversations actually give you a lot of peace of mind, because you don’t have to talk about many things. I don’t have to explain why something is touching me, moving me, or bothering me. Everyone understands.
You don’t even have to say anything, you look at each other and see each other’s grief. While spinning I don’t think; “I want to convey this or this message.” I hope to be able to express my feelings in the form of music. When I play a particular song, like tonight for example, I see that other people also feel and understand those feelings. By doing so, we show that we are united against the regime of fear in Iran, and that is ultimately what I am doing for it.
The electronic music scene has been a place where I have been able to give place to many shockers, as I have been able to find a place as an “immigrant” within this community. As a child, I always wanted to be Dutch, to belong. I tried to keep Iranian culture in trouble for a long time. The older I got, the more angry I became when my father spoke to me on the street in Iranian. Until I noticed when I was 20: This feeling is already coming my way. That’s when I switched, embraced my heritage and immersed myself in culture and music.
It is so liberating as an artist to be here. But sometimes I feel like I’m enjoying myself here without a care, while my people are fighting an uphill battle. It is still difficult. When was the last time high school girls risked their lives to defend their basic rights? That the men at the forefront of the feminist struggle are willing to die for common liberties? I don’t think it gets enough attention anymore. The courage and strength of the women and men who stand together for women’s rights is happening in such an inspiring way anywhere in the world.
* These artists only use their artist name for privacy and security reasons.
See more photos from the ceremony here: