IRGC forces arrested three men involved in the production, distribution, and promotion of Iranian underground music in October, and are pressuring them to confess on television, a source with knowledge of the arrest told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Musician Mehdi Rajabian, his brother, and Yousef Emadi, who managed BargMusic, were arrested on October 12 in the Northern city of Sari, and were transferred to the IRGC’s Ward 2-A inside Tehran’s Evin Prison, according to a report by Kaleme website.
According to the source, following the arrests of the Rajabian brothers, Azadeh S., a woman who was also affiliated with the website, was arrested in the city of Hamadan. The arrests appear to be part of a larger crackdown on Internet and IT professionals and musicians. Of those arrested, only Yousef Emadi has been released on bail.
Mehdi Rajabian founded BargMusic in 2009 and the website quickly became a dedicated portal for distributing Iranian underground and alternative music inside Iran. Rajabian and his brother managed BargMusic’s website together. During Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration, the website was repeatedly blocked to Iranian users, but the authorities never pursued its principals. The website was only active in the field of music and was not a political website. BargMusic had repeatedly requested an operation license, and at one point also asked the Iranian Cyber Police to unblock its website, but the requests have been refused, according to the source.
Kaleme reports it has information indicating that Iran’s underground music scene is a new target for the IRGC’s arrests, adding that the BargMusic site managers were put through severe interrogations and were told that they must make televised confessions.
Last week, popular Iranian musician Amir Tataloo was arrested and detained for several days before being released on bail awaiting trial. Iran’s Morality Police took responsibility for the arrest. Colonel Massoud Zahedian, Chief of the Morality Police, told ISNA that his unit is actively identifying and confronting Iranian underground musicians who produce their work inside Iran and distribute it on television satellite channels abroad.
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iranian musicians have needed government authorization in order to play their music, hold concerts, and produce music albums and videos. Government scrutiny of such musical activities and productions has been stringent, and only certain genres of music receive production and activity licenses. Under such circumstances, musicians have been pushed underground, where they perform illegally at great risk to themselves and to their audiences. Even when musical groups are issued concert licenses, there is no guarantee that they can safely hold their scheduled appearances. At an August concert of Dawn of Rage, an Iranian metal band, all the musicians and the 200 guests attending the concert were arrested at a public amphitheater in Tehran.