Sonia Sevilla by way of Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA
The Tehran Occasions just lately hailed what it known as: “A brand new epic track themed with generational assist for the Islamic Revolution…” Hey Commander, which is being sung by schoolchildren throughout the nation, is an try by the present conservative authorities of Iran to unify the youth round their specific interpretation of Islam and Iran.
That is nothing however a cultural conflict towards concepts perceived to be harmful to the facility of the conservative institution espoused by many Iranians inside the nation and people who had been educated overseas, together with in Europe and North America.
Iran occupies a particular place within the creativeness of the world. It’s an historic nation. It’s Persia, Cyrus the Nice, the seat of a few of the most mesmerising empires of world historical past. Additionally it is a rustic that’s on the cusp of nuclear weapons functionality. Due to this fact, it’s essential to grasp Iran and to take action with out falling for platitudes.
Earlier than the revolution of 1979, Iran had in Mohammad Reza Pahlavi a bon vivant, self-indulgent shah who cherished his glass of classic Moët & Chandon champagne, whereas many Iranians thought of him a US puppet. After the revolution, Iran was dominated by an ascetic, stern and extremely stoic cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He rapidly banned many historic Persian indulgences within the title of his puritanical interpretation of Shia Islam.
At the moment, the residues of this paradoxical historic set-up proceed to drive Iranian tradition. That is true inside the nation and outdoors, among the many vastly profitable Iranian diaspora who’re equally caught up on this battle for Iran’s “actual” identification.
Hey Commander needs to be analysed towards that backdrop. It’s a state-sponsored effort to unify a superbly various tradition. The track portrays a model of Iran from the angle of the non secular conservatives. That is how Iran must be, they inform everybody: vigilant, religiously conservative, able to sacrifice for the next trigger. The issue is after all, that this isn’t how Iran actually is – and this explains the continuing dissent towards this restrictive model of the nation.
Many Iranians merely object to being moulded into one ideological corpus.
That is being pushed by hardline non secular conservatives whose candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, took energy on the 2021 presidential election. Their Iran is righteous, combative, all the time on the outlook for the evil enemy. They feed on the paranoia that actual imperial intrusions into Iranian sovereignty led to till the revolution of 1979 and in some ways thereafter, particularly by the US.
In 1980, the nation was invaded by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – one of many cruellest dictators within the trendy historical past of the area. And but Saddam was supported by the US and Europe through the devastating Iran-Iraq conflict between 1980 and 1988 – even when he used chemical weapons.
For the non secular conservatives, these are actually God-given themes. They’re extremely helpful for his or her effort to freeze their Iran in an everlasting wrestle with the world. As such, the track Hey Commander is an ode to the “martyrs” of that horrible battle throughout which tens of hundreds of younger Iranians and Iraqis perished.
Within the official video of the track, Iranian kids maintain up the photographs of their family members who had been killed within the trenches. On the identical time, Hey Commander is a “hopeful” track as it’s meant to pronounce the willingness of this Iranian youth to battle for justice.
With its mildly martial but strongly ritualistic melody that speaks to emotive non secular themes, the track targets a youth tradition that’s as various because the aforementioned Iranian expertise with the world. Inside a cultural atmosphere the place Iranian rap music dominates and the place most middle-class Iranians take heed to pop songs produced in diasporic hubs resembling Los Angeles, Hey Commander appears a relatively clumsy effort to change such worldly preferences to the conservative institution’s extraordinarily specific and restrictive interpretation of Iran.
The perfect youth that the track envisages has lengthy been socialised into maturity and the powerful social realities that the US sanctions regime exacerbates for odd Iranians. There isn’t a time for ideological indulgence. The lyrics of Hey Commander summon the Imam Mahdi, the everlasting commander of the devoted. Imam Mahdi performs a serious half within the doctrines of the pious Twelver Shia, the minority Islamic sect that dominates in Iran, Iraq, southern Lebanon and elsewhere.
The track additionally pays specific tribute to Basic Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in 2020 on the behest of Donald Trump. It rails towards the everlasting harassment of the devoted by exterior enemies.
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However Hey Commander preaches to the transformed. Its slender script doesn’t seize the vastness of the cultural repository that emanates from Iran. Iranian youth, like younger folks everywhere in the world, is various and never readily subsumed beneath one narrative.
Iran has a extremely educated inhabitants and profitable universities. Additionally it is a rustic that’s besieged by US sanctions. Most Iranians are busy making an attempt to make ends meet. The hopeful tenor of the track might enhance the morale of the transformed, nevertheless it should appear relatively cynical to many Iranian staff that suffer beneath the yoke of sanctions and the cruel conservative focus of the institution.
In gentle of this complexity of up to date Persia, I requested what Iran “is” in my most up-to-date ebook beneath the identical title, making reference to 5 items of Iranian music. The reply might solely be captured in huge open-ended parentheses. Iran is the love poetry of Rumi, the structure of Persepolis – Shia Islam too. The traditional historic range of the nation can’t be decreased to platitudes. Every time this occurs, historical past has proven, Persia breaks free.
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.