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Iran's Cyber Police Goes After Street Musicians

Street musicians in Iran. Undated. File photo
Street musicians in Iran. Undated. File photo

The Islamic Republic Cyber Police have blocked several accounts owned by Iranian street musicians on Instagram, local reports say.

Two female musicians, Naghmeh Moradabadi and Aso Kohzadi, along with Mehrdad Ahmadi, are among the buskers whose pages on Instagram have been blocked, allegedly for publishing "criminal contents."

Iranian cyber police, known by its Persian acronym as "FATA" in Iran, has not elaborated on the nature of the "contents" presumed "criminal."

However, a look at their pages, which are still available outside Iran, only show pictures of the banned musicians playing their instruments, here and there.

Kohzadi, Moradabadi, and Ahmadi have more than 100,000, 20,000, and 40,000 followers on Instagram, respectively.

Naghmeh plays traditional Iranian instrument, "tar," Netherlands-educated Aso is a violinist, and Mehrdad is a seasoned pianist turned accordionist.

The three have repeatedly performed at officially recognized ceremonies including Fajr Film Festival.

Although Aso, Naghmeh, and Mehrdad's music could be categorized as "serious" and "somber," FATA has declared that it is filing a lawsuit against the owners of the banned accounts on Instagram.

While Instagram is the only Western app in Iran still tolerated by the Islamic Republic authorities, there had been numerous reports on blocking pages on the popular app for carrying "criminal contents" by the cyber police and judiciary.

Last October several photographers were arrested in Shiraz for posting “modeling” photos on Instagram in cloths or postures that are deemed inappropriate by strict Islamic standards.

As a rule, cracking down on arts under the pretext of religious regulations is quite rife in Iran. Women are not allowed to perform as vocalists wherever there are male audiences. The monopolized state-run TV never shows musical instruments.

Frowning at music goes back to early days of the Islamic Republic, when its founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini banned all music from Iranian radio and television on July 23, 1979.

The 79-year-old revolutionary Ayatollah called for the ban at an audience with the employees of Radio Darya, a radio station exclusively for holidaymakers at the beaches of the Caspian Sea, northern Iran.

"Music stupefies persons listening to it and makes their brain inactive and frivolous. Music is no different from opium," Khomeini asserted.