A screen grab from a music video produced by Iranian singer Sasi Mankan (Sassy Mannequin)

A Viral Music Video Exposes Hypocrisy Among Iranian Officials

Tuesday, 12/05/2023

Tens of millions of Iranians have already watched a prohibited music video produced by a foreign-based Iranian singer and banned by government censors.

The editor of moderate Rouydad24 website in Tehran, Farhad Farzad, attributed the popularity of the video to its "color, rhythm and sex appeal," which is non-existent in Iran's entertainment industry particularly on the state TV.

The LA-based singer, Sassy Mannequin, releases only one music video annually, all of which have become major hits in Iran. Schoolchildren sing and dance to them nationwide, and young Iranians frequently play them in their cars.

One of Iran's homegrown social media platforms, Soroush, which is sponsored by the government to counter the "cultural onslaught" from foreign platforms also offered a link to Sassy's latest music video, Leyla's Brothers. This led to an immediate reaction by censors and clerical judges who issued an order to arrest its managing director Farhad Moradi on December 3. He was released on Monday on bail.

Some comments published under the news about the arrest said the government should shut down the Soroush platform and give its budget to a charity. Another comment under the Rouydad24 report suggested that people should stage a rally and call on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to have the singer arrested. The comment even went as far as to suggest that the Iranian intelligence agencies should send their officers abroad to kill Sassy.

Sassy's latest music video, Leila's Brothers, named after a banned Iranian film, mocks a children's program on Iran's state television and harshly criticizes Iranian officials and their main propaganda machine, the state TV, for their hypocrisy.

Days before it was first aired on Radio Javan, a US-based, MTV-style channel that broadcasts Persian music round the clock, its teasers appeared on the Iranian social media. Some 11 million viewers watched the teaser online in less than 24 hours and more people tuned to their satellite television to watch the actual video clip.

Unlike some foreign-based Iranian singers whose concerts and videos are full of obscenity and rude words, Sassy's video comes with a disclaimer that limits the viewership to people over 18 years of age and that is because of mentions about sex, drugs and women in his music videos who appear in modern outfit and sometimes in swimsuits when the scene takes place at the seaside or around a swimming pool.

One of his older videos, Gentleman, enraged Iranian officials who fired several teachers in Iran when they found out that Iranian students dance to the tune and sing the song together in school gatherings.

Sassy's simple songs often become controversial in Iran only because what viewers see and hear in them are in sharp contrast to the extremely conservative and traditional modes of behavior approved by the fundamentalist Islamic Republic.

Even some of the words that annoy Iran's elderly clerics are in fact commonplace in the Iranian society as millions of teens use them in their everyday conversation. The Iranian Generation Z subculture is so prevalent and at the same time so strange to traditional minds that more than one dictionary of modern Persian slangs have been published in Iran in recent years.

This is the generation that was behind the 2022 Woman, Life, Freedom protests. A generation that has refused to accept the Islamic Republic's propaganda and insists that nothing is sacred.

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