Censored Iranian Artists Find Refuge in Erbil

By Abdel Hamid Zebari for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Over the past years, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has seen an economic boom and become open to the outside world, as it has begun to enjoy more security and stability. Private-sector companies have been organizing concerts by Iranian singers, who have traveled thousands of miles to enjoy their own music, of which they have been deprived ever since the religious parties took over in Tehran.

Thousands of Iranian men, women and youth find themselves forced to travel by car for long distances to arrive at the Iraqi city of Erbil in order to celebrate Nowruz (the Iranian New Year) and the Kurdish New Year and to go to the concerts of their favorite artists, who are banned from singing in Iran by the authorities in Tehran.

In 1979, the religious regime rose to power in Iran, eliminating the secular rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and replacing it with an Islamic republic. Persian pop stars were forced to leave the country and live abroad.

According to Habiba Esfahani, who removed her head scarf when she arrived in Erbil, “We have been waiting for Nowruz to be able to come to Erbil and go to the concert of a group of Iranian singers.”

She added, “I came with my mother and sisters from the city of Isfahan. We have relatives who live here in Erbil. They have left Tehran because of the bad situation. What is really important for us is to enjoy these beautiful moments after years of deprivation.”

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