Iran Protest Anthem Wins Grammy

On Feb. 5, 2023, First Lady Jill Biden announced that Shervin Hajipour, a popular 25-year-old Iranian singer, had won the inaugural Grammy Award for Best Song for Social Change. The lyrics of “Baraye”—“For…” or “Because of…” in Persian—were pulled from phrases used in Twitter posts about Mahsa Amini and the public outcry following her death in detention in September 2022. Hajipour’s song on Instagram quickly went viral with 40 million views in two days. It became the anthem or soundtrack of the protests, sung by defiant schoolgirls, blared on car radios, and picked up by sympathy protestors in foreign capitals. Hajipour’s song was “a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights,” Biden said at the award ceremony.

Hajipour watched the ceremony with family and friends, who celebrated after hearing Biden announce Hajipour’s name. “We won,” Hajipour wrote on Instagram from Iran. “Baraye” had received more than 95,000 of the 115,000 nominations for the award.

The award reflected international solidarity with the demonstrators who faced a brutal crackdown. By early February 2023, nearly 20,000 protesters had been detained by the regime and more than 500 had been killed. “As a steadfast champion for women and girls around the world, the First Lady was inspired by his song that served as an anthem for freedom and women's rights,” Biden’s press secretary, Vanessa Valdivia said in a statement. Hanson, a band formed by three brothers, and the nonprofit For Women Life Freedom had also announced that they would record an English translation of Hajipour’s song with more than 15,000 voices to honor the protesters.

In late September 2022, security forces arrested Hajipour after he released “Baraye.” Iran’s security forces pressured Hajipour to take down the song. His parents were notified of Hajipour’s arrest in a telephone call from Iranian intelligence, his sister claimed on social media. He was released on bail on October 4. Hajipour reportedly faced up to six years in prison for “propaganda against the regime” and “instigating the violence.” He was also banned from leaving Iran. The following are the lyrics to Hajipour’s song with some explanations or references in brackets.

For dancing in the streets

For the fear when kissing

For my sister, your sister, our sisters

For changing rusted minds

For the shame of poverty

For yearning for a normal life

For those kids who survive by searching through dumpsters, for their dreams

For this imposed economy

For this polluted air

For Valiasr Street and its worn-out trees

For Piruz [the last Asian cheetah cub in Iran] and his possible extinction

For dogs, innocent but banned

For non-stop crying

For never experiencing this moment [a photo is shown of a young girl who was killed when the Revolutionary Guards mistakenly shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 over Tehran in 2020]

For smiling faces

For students, for their future

For this forced “Heaven”

For imprisoned elites

For Afghan children

For all these countless “for”s

For all these meaningless chants [such as “Death to America”]

For the collapse of these flimsy houses

For the feeling serenity and peace

For the sun after a long night

For anti-anxiety pills and insomnia

For men, homeland, development

For girls wishing to be boys

For women, life, freedom

For freedom

For freedom

For freedom