During the 6th World Forum on Music focusing on the five music rights, SafeMUSE Project Manager Jan Lothe Eriksen’s gave an introduction to the First Music Right, and all participants raised in solidarity with artistic freedom fighters all over the world, for the Iranian composer, musician and activist Mehdi Rajabian - not able to leave Iran; Iranian singer songwriter Farzane Zamen - exiled in Glasgow, UK; and Ramy Essam - touring the world but not able to return to Egypt.
The International Music Council’s 70th anniversary was marked by the 6th World Forum on Music in Paris last week, focusing on the Five Music Rights. The last day of the conference, coinciding with The International Music Day, the focused was on the First Music Right, the right for all children and adults to express themselves musically in all freedom.
Together with Ian Smith, President of the European Music Council, Jan Lothe Eriksen gave an introduction focusing on the harsh story of Mehdi Rajabian, Iranian composer, musician and founder of the website Barg music, an alternative music distributor in Iran. Barg Music was the main medium broadcasting alternative music in the country and had introduced more than 100 music albums and thousands of single records by Iranian alternative musicians, as well as female singers, to Iranian audiences, before being shut down by Revolutionary Guards in 2013.
Mehdi Rajabian was arrested pursuing illegal musical activities by Iranian security forces on 5 October 2013 in his office and transferred to Ward 2A of Evin Prison, and was sentenced to more than two months in solitary confinement. When Mehdi Rajabian was arrested, he was recording "Research Album of History of Iran narrated by Setar". His personal studio, all recordings, hard drives of recorded music were confiscated and the project became silent.
Following this came a long story of imprisonment, hunger strike to be given medical treatment, and an international campaign sparked by Freemuse and followed by Amnesty, United Nations Special Rapporteurs on cultural rights, International PEN and many more, causing great international attention and media coverage. More than 20,000 artists from all corners of the world joined the campaign.
The case of Mehdi Rajabian was investigated in summer 2015 in Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court by Judge Mughiseh, and finally he was charged of unauthorized art activity, insulting religious sanctities and advertisement against the regime. He was sentenced for six-year prison and fine. This sentence was on appeal to three years imprisonment in Branch 54 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court and three years of suspended sentence. He has served his three years in prison, and is now serving the last three years. He cannot leave the country, but is still artistically very active.
In March this year he released the album Middle Eastern, a unique project that brought together nearly 100 musicians from across 12 countries.
Mehdi Rajabian´s case is unique. But he is no alone being imprisoned, persecuted, harassed or censored for making music. Unfortunately.
Iranian singer songwriter Farzane Zamen, present during the conference in Paris, giving a speech and performing, has her own story.
Egyptian artist and rocker Ramy Essam, also present during the conference in Paris, giving a speech and performing, has his own story.
And there are many, many more…
Jan Lothe Eriksen closed his introduction saying:
- Being an artist, censored, harassed, persecuted, prosecuted and imprisoned is in very lonely and terribly difficult situation. So therefore, I ask you, all participants of the 6th IMC World Forum on Music,
supporting the First Right, Freedom of Expression – ‘The right for all to express themselves musically in all freedom’, please stand up…:
- Mehdi, Farzane, Ramy, and all artistic freedom fighters - You are not alone.
See the full video:
(Video by Sanni Kahilainen, Finnish Music Council/Finnish Musicians’ Union)