Rouhani Government Touts Amendment Blocking Police From Unilaterally Stopping Music Concerts
Effectiveness of Legal Measure Remains Unclear
The government of President Hassan Rouhani has announced the passage of a new amendment intended to block police from preventing sanctioned music concerts without a court order.
The Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry announced on May 3, 2017 that based on the now revised Public Areas Administrative Regulations, a prosecutor’s order is required for police forces to stop a music concert.
“The amendment was passed six months ago, and ever since then, we have not had any incidents involving the police,” said Farzad Talebi, the director of the ministry’s music department.
Talebi did not explain why the passage of the amendment was not announced until six months after it was approved. Rouhani, who will be running for re-election on May 19, may have delayed the announcement to boost his popularity before the vote.
The effectiveness of the amendment in preventing unauthorized concert cancellations remains unclear.
During his four-year term, beginning in 2013, several officially approved concerts were canceled around the country after being attacked, sometimes with the assistance of local police, by religious extremists for being “un-Islamic” or for featuring female musicians.
On April 27, 2017, the police in Birjand, South Khorasan Province, canceled singer Mohammad Motamedi’s performance even though he was legally authorized to perform and the amendment had been implemented months before.
“The only thing the authorities said was that it was not advisable to go ahead with the concert at this time,” said Motamedi.
Asked to respond, the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry’s music director claimed Motamedi did not have a permit for the concert.
Since 2013, when Rouhani was voted into office promising a more open society, numerous state-sanctioned musicians, including the popular musical artists Alireza Ghorbani and Sirvan Khosravi, have seen their concerts canceled at the last moment.
Religious conservatives have justified their attacks on musicians by quoting vague statements and decrees by senior religious leaders. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has himself often warned about the alleged dangers of music, saying it will “lead people away from the path of God.”
Cancellations of concerts featuring female vocalists and musicians have been particularly frequent since Rouhani’s election.