On Feb. 5, 2023, First Lady Jill Biden announced that Shervin Hajipour, a popular 25-year-old Iranian singer, had won the inaugural Grammy Award for Best Song for Social Change. The lyrics of “Baraye”—“For…” or “Because of…” in Persian—were pulled from phrases used in Twitter posts about Mahsa Amini and the public outcry following her death in detention in September 2022. Hajipour’s song on Instagram quickly went viral with 40 million views in two days. It became the anthem or soundtrack of the protests, sung by defiant schoolgirls, blared on car radios, and picked up by sympathy protestors in foreign capitals. Hajipour’s song was “a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights,” Biden said at the award ceremony.
Hajipour watched the ceremony with family and friends, who celebrated after hearing Biden announce Hajipour’s name.
“We won,” Hajipour wrote on Instagram from Iran. “Baraye” had received more than 95,000 of the 115,000 nominations for the award.
The award reflected international solidarity with the demonstrators who faced a brutal crackdown. By early February 2023, nearly 20,000 protesters had been detained by the regime and more than 500 had been killed. Hanson, a band formed by three brothers, and the nonprofit For Women Life Freedom had also announced that they would record an English translation of Hajipour’s song with more than 15,000 voices to honor the protesters.
In late September 2022, security forces arrested Hajipour after he released “Baraye.” Iran’s security forces pressured Hajipour to take down the song. His parents were notified of Hajipour’s arrest in a telephone call from Iranian intelligence, his sister claimed on social media. He was released on bail on October 4. Hajipour reportedly faced up to six years in prison for “propaganda against the regime” and “instigating the violence.” He was also banned from leaving Iran. The following are the lyrics to Hajipour’s song with some explanations or references in brackets.
For dancing in the streets
For the fear when kissing
For my sister, your sister, our sisters
For changing rusted minds
For the shame of poverty
For yearning for a normal life
For those kids who survive by searching through dumpsters, for their dreams
For this imposed economy
For this polluted air
For Valiasr Street and its worn-out trees
For Piruz [the last Asian cheetah cub in Iran] and his possible extinction
For dogs, innocent but banned
For non-stop crying
For never experiencing this moment [a photo is shown of a young girl who was killed when the Revolutionary Guards mistakenly shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 over Tehran in 2020]
For smiling faces
For students, for their future
For this forced “Heaven”
For imprisoned elites
For Afghan children
For all these countless “for”s
For all these meaningless chants [such as “Death to America”]
For the collapse of these flimsy houses
For the feeling serenity and peace
For the sun after a long night
For anti-anxiety pills and insomnia
For men, homeland, development
For girls wishing to be boys
For women, life, freedom
Second publication by courtesy of The Iran Imprimer, Original-Text