Spectators of a football match in Tehran’s Azadi stadium booed while a choir was performing ‘Hello Commander’, a pop genre religious and ideological propaganda song.
Videos circulating on social media showed people booing a performance of the heavily-promoted song at the stadium before a match of Iran’s premier league on Friday.
The football fans also chanted the name of Voria Ghafouri, a popular former captain of Esteghlal football club who was fired from his team for criticizing the government. Ghafouri’s criticism of government’s regional policies and downplaying the impact of US sanctions on ordinary Iranians, had met with an angry response from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
State organizations and the ministry of education have been promoting ‘Hello Commander’ in schools and during numerous cultural and sport events since it was broadcast from state television for the first time this year after Khamenei’s speech for the Iranian New Year on March 20.
‘Hello Commander’ is a song dedicated to Mahdi, the 12th Imam, who Shiite believers say has been in occultation since the 9th century. The song and its promotion are unusual as the its pop genre has no place on Iran’s state media.
Many social media users have seen the song as propaganda for Khamenei as the “hidden Imam’s representative on earth”, and commander-in-chief of Iran’s Armed Forces. Some draw a parallel between him and Hitler by sharing a video of Nazi Youth gatherings with the original audio replaced with ‘Hello Commander’.