SPECIAL: 12 Protest Songs from Iran

Prominent songs, hymns and anthems that accompany the ongoing protests after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

The uprising of Iranian people against the Islamic Republic regime in the form of ongoing protests, demonstrations, and strikes – sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish girl, Mahsa Amini, on 16 September 2022 – has entered the third month. Two months of blood and sweat and shout and sorrow and anger and laughter and hope and suffer and dance.

During these two months more than 400 protesters, including more than 60 teenagers and kids, were killed and over 16,000 people detained in more than 140 cities.

This is the uprising of mostly young people, oppressed and marginalized classes, and above all a revolution of women against all forms of oppression, inequality, injustice, cruelty and tyranny with the slogan “Woman, Life and Freedom” (“Zan, Zendegi, Azadi” originally coined in Kurdish as “Jin, Jian, Azadi”).

No surprise it has been accompanied by songs, hymns and anthems chanted at the demonstrations and listened in times of solitude to share grief in sympathy and amplify hope and courage. Here’s a dozen prominent songs that have gone viral in the past months.

According to the House of Music of Iran (Union of Iranian musicians), up to this point at least 21 musicians have been detained, including orchestra conductor Mahmoud Mirzaie, prominent classical percussionist Navid Afqah and rapper Toomaj Salehi.


Shervin Hajipour – “Baraye”

Perhaps the most famous of them all is “Baraye …” (which means “for…” or “because of…”) by Shervin Hajipour. The song is a collage of the most trending tweets all starting with the word “baraye”. The tweets represent the collective contemporary concerns of those who demand radical changes in Iran.

In less than 48 hours after this self-recorded video of the song appeared on his Instagram account on September 28, the song received about 40 million views and became an instant hit. It immediately turned into the unofficial anthem of the uprising until it was taken down from the platform following Hajipour’s arrest by the authorities on September 29.

The song became “the most viral tune to ever come out of Iran”. It was performed by several artists around the world including Coldplay featuring Golshifteh Farahani, Iranian exiled actress, in Buenos Aires concert on October, Swedish singer Carola Häggkvist, Rana Mansour on the German The Voice, and Azam Ali and other Iranan singers in diaspora.


Toomaj Salehi – “Faal”

Toomaj Salehi is a young artist and one of the most outspoken political rappers, who has elevated rapping to political activism. Based in Iran, Toomaj has always been talking about social and political issues in the most straightforward and forthright way possible.

His song “Soorakh Moosh Bekhar” found popularity during 2021 protests in the Khuzestan region. The title translates “buy a rat hole”, a sarcastic verse addressing all corrupt members of the regime to buy a rat hole to hide in after the abolition, for they will have to pay high prices due to the booming demand.

Toomaj in “Faal” (“Fortune Telling”) predicts what will happen after the big change in Iran. Shortly after the release of this song, he was violently arrested. His life is under serious threat now.


Hichkas – “Inyekiam Vase”

London-based artist named as Hichkas is one of the most prominent Iranian rappers from the first generation of local hip-hop, known for his song “A Good Day Will Come” during the 2008 protests.

Now he came back with a fearless thunderous song “Inyekiam Vase” (“This one is for…”). Unlike Shervin Hajipour’s melancholic piece, it has a wrathful reply for all those “for’s”.


Roody – “Zan”

Roody’s single “Zan” was recorded after the major fire at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

Roody, a prominent female rapper of the new generation, has always been conscious of the society. Here she reviews the struggle of the people, especially women with the authorities with a focus on killed children.


Mehdi Yarahi – “Soroode Zan”

There have been several protest songs during the current uprising that have a form of revolutionary anthems – or as it’s called in Persian “sorood”.

Mehdi Yarahi‘s “Soroode Zan” (Woman’s Anthem) was released in the first weeks of the protests. A hopeful song that praises the women’s movement, inspired by the death of Mahsa Amini.


“Soroode Sogand” (Oath Anthem)

“Soroode Sogand” (Oath Anthem) is another example of the anthems mentiond above.

It is performed by anonymous art students of the Art and Culture University.


“Soroode Azadi” (Freedom Anthem)

“Soroode Azadi” (Freedom Anthem) pefrormed by a group of anonymous music students is set to the music of the famous revolutionary song “¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” (“The people united will never be defeated”), composed by Chilean Sergio Ortega in 1970.

It had become one of the symbols of revolutionary music in a number of different countries, now also in Iran.


Anthem of Equality (I Will Bloom)

A cover song performed by various female singers, “Soroode Barabari / Javane Mizanam” (Anthem of Equality / I Will Bloom) was the anthem of Iranian feminist movement that was performed in 2008.

During the recent protest, this song was performed again by a group Iranian female singers living in diaspora.


“Soroode Dokhtarane Sarzamine Aftab”

“Soroode Dokhtarane Sarzamine Aftab” (“Anthem of Daughters of the Land of the Sun”) is another revolutionary anthem performed by anonymous musicians.

It encourages people to join the revolution for a better and freer future.


“Avaze Leylaha” (Chant of Leylas)

“Avaze Leylaha” (Chant of Leylas), also by anonymous musicians, follows the same pattern of Shervin Hajipour’s “Baraye”.

It lists all of the reasons for a big change in Iran, but with an inspirational mood.


“Mah-e Aban Bood” (It Was November)

One of the newest songs released to date, “Mah-e Aban Bood” (It Was November) was recorded by anonymous musicians who commemorate the Bloody November of 2019, when as many as 1,500 Iranian protesters were killed.

Current uprising is the continuation of those events.


Behin and Samin Bolouri – “Bella Ciao”

No revolutionary song list would be complete without “Bella Ciao”. The Persian version of this song recorded by Behin and Samin Bolouri goes back to the 1970s socialist movements in Iran.

In the advent of the protests, Bolouri Sisters’ performance of this song became popular. Not long after that, Yashgin Kiyani’s performance was also shared a lot on social media.


Also check out: Timeline of the Mahsa Amini protests on Wikipedia.

Recent music from Iran