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Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Iranian protest anthem wins Grammy

The 65th annual Grammy Awards start off with an award to Iranian protest anthem. First ever Grammy award for Best Song for Social Change goes to dissident Iranian singer.

Feb 12, 2023

After the murder of Jina (Mahsa) Amini and the start of the Iranian protests in September of last year, a campaign spread rapidly on Twitter where Iranian users shared their reasons for protesting using the hashtag #Baraye, meaning #For in Persian.
Iranian songwriter-singer Shervin Hajipour compiled some of these tweets and used them as lyrics for his song “Baraye”. The lyrics reference many problems under the Iranian regime; women’s rights, child labor, environmental corruption, and the shooting of Ukraine flight 752 by Iranian anti-aircraft missiles in early 2020 which killed all 176 on board. These are just some of the topics that Hajipour has touched upon in his Grammy-winning song.
Hajipour was reportedly arrested on Sept. 29, just days after the song’s release. “Baraye” had received around 40 million views in less than 48 hours on Instagram before it was forcibly taken down by Iranian authorities.
On Oct. 4, a Mazandaran state prosecutor told Iranian state news agency IRNA that Hajipour had been released on bail for his case to go through the legal process, giving no further comment.
“Baraye” rapidly grew in popularity, to the point where it can be heard in the backgrounds of many Iranian protest videos. The song was also recognized outside of Iran; a notable example being exiled Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani’s cover alongside Coldplay in Argentina.
This year, the Recording Academy added Best Song for Social Change as a new category for the Grammy Awards. According to the Grammy’s website, the new award “recognizes the songwriters creating message-driven music that responds to and addresses the social issues of our time head-on while inspiring positive global impact.” The Recording Academy had requested submissions from the public for the new award. Reportedly, 95,000 submissions out of the total 115,000 were for “Baraye”.
Presenting the award, first lady Jill Biden said “...this song continues to resonate around the world with its powerful theme: women, life, freedom.”
Afterward, Hajipour uploaded a post onto his Instagram page. He states that “I and all Iranian people are happy due to this award. But I must say, a big part of the lives and happiness of the Iranian people and surrounding area has been destroyed by a government whose president’s wife has presented this award to me. I wish this award would’ve been presented by an artist to this artwork. I love my dear country with all of its beauty, and I will remain right here.” He ends the post with an Iranian flag emoji containing the Islamic Republic’s emblem, a symbol often avoided or changed by Iranian protestors.
The Iranian government is known for regularly misusing postcolonial arguments to justify domestic and foreign policies. The post’s comments are overwhelmingly supportive and indicate an understanding of the government’s control over Hajipour’s content.
Non-profit organization Middle East Matters comments “For freedom from the censorship of the Islamic Republic.” Iranian singer-songwriter Marjan Farsad writes “Dear Shervin, we all know what’s going on. Don’t worry.” Another comment reads “#For_Forced_Confessions”, referencing the government’s regular usage of forced false confessions on state TV in order to frame protestors.
There are more artists currently imprisoned by the Iranian authorities for unveiling mass inequality and government corruption in their songs. Toomaj Salehi, Saman Yasin, and Behrad Alikonari are three Iranian rappers currently at risk of execution.
Azaneh is not the author's real name, which has been changed for personal reasons and safety concerns. Email them at
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