They are famous singers, but nobody ever recognizes them in the street. In their music videos, you only see their back, their feet, their silhouette outlined behind curtains, or their reflections in a lake; those who show their faces disguise themselves with big sunglasses, heavy face paint, or colorful masks.
They do this not to be mysterious, but because they are women, and for them, singing is forbidden in Iran. Before the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there were plenty of famous female singers in Iran, such as Googoosh and Haydeh. But with the revolution came a ban on singing for women, except in rare cases where the authorities grant permissions to sing traditional music.
Today, the brave few who dare sing their own songs anyway hide behind names like 3P or Madmazel, and share their music on the Internet. In the past year, they’ve started making lots of music videos, in which they have to find creative ways to keep their identities hidden. Paradoxically, the more famous they become, the more they must protect their identities.
Indeed, if they get caught, they could potentially pay a heavy price: Iran’s criminal code allows for a judge to sentence women to 79 lashes for singing without permission. And if the judge finds that their songs “promote decadence” in some way, they could even wind up in prison. However, to date, no such cases have been reported.
Sherry Bijan was among the first female singers to release music videos online
Initially published on France24 on 05/24/2013
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