Censored Iranian Artists Find Refuge in Erbil

Aziz Jamshidi, an Iranian citizen, said, “We used to go to Dubai to attend these concerts. However, when we learned that they were being held in Erbil this year, we decided to come here, as it is near to Tehran. So far, we have enjoyed our stay here with our families and we are planning to attend two other concerts of our favorite artists.”

According to Nader Rosti, the spokesman for the General Authority for Tourism in the Kurdistan Regional Government, 25,000 tourists came to the region for the Nowruz holiday, including Iraqis and Iranians.

According to the official figures released by the border crossing in Haj Omran, which links Erbil to Tehran, 24,000 Iranian tourists have entered the province. Meanwhile, about 70,000 tourists have arrived in the city through the other border crossing and via Sulaymaniyah international airport, according to figures released by the Bashammakh border crossing. These two crossings are the official routes linking Iran to Iraq’s Kurdistan Region.

Iranian authorities ban Iranian citizens from publicly listening to pop music. Well-known singers — such as Moin Esfahani, Dariush, Aybeh, Jamshi, Mansour and Leil Forouhar — are also banned from singing in Iran.

Abdel Hamid Zebari is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Iraq Pulse. A reporter from Erbil who works in the field of print journalism and radio, he has published several reports in local and world media, including Agence France-Press and Radio Free Iraq (Radio Free Europe).

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