Home International News new pop song aims to lead Iranian youth away from the temptations...

new pop song aims to lead Iranian youth away from the temptations of American culture

The Tehran Times recently praised what it called: “A new epic song themed around the generational support for the Islamic Revolution…” Hello Commander, sung by schoolchildren across the country, is an attempt by Iran’s current conservative government. to unite the youth around their specific interpretation of Islam and Iran.

This is nothing but a cultural war against ideas considered dangerous to the power of the conservative establishment embraced by many Iranians in the country and those educated abroad, including in Europe and North America.

Iran holds a special place in the world’s imagination. It’s an old country. It is Persia, Cyrus the Great, the seat of some of the most enchanting empires in world history. It is also a country on the brink of nuclear weapons. That’s why it’s critical to understand Iran and do it without falling into platitudes.

Before the 1979 revolution, Iran had in Mohammad Reza Pahlavi an epicurean, self-indulgent Shah who adored his glass of vintage Moët & Chandon champagne, while many Iranians considered him an American puppet. After the revolution, Iran was ruled by an ascetic, strict and incredibly stoic cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He soon outlawed many ancient Persian indulgences in the name of his Puritan interpretation of Shia Islam.

Today, the remnants of this paradoxical historical set-up continue to drive Iranian culture. This is true within the country and beyond, among the hugely successful Iranian diaspora who are equally embroiled in this struggle for Iran’s “real” identity.

Hello Commander needs to be analyzed against that background. It’s a state-sponsored effort to unite a wonderfully diverse culture. The song portrays a version of Iran from the perspective of the religious conservatives. This is how Iran should be, they tell everyone: vigilant, religiously conservative, willing to make sacrifices for a higher cause. The problem, of course, is that this is not how Iran really is – and this explains the ongoing dissent against this restrictive version of the country.

Conservative stance

Many Iranians simply object to being molded into one ideological corpus.

This is driven by hardline religious conservatives whose candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, came to power in the 2021 presidential election. Their Iran is just, combative, always on the lookout for the evil enemy. They feed on the paranoia that brought about genuine imperial encroachments on Iranian sovereignty until the 1979 revolution and in many ways since, especially by the US.

In 1980, the country was invaded by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, one of the most brutal dictators in the region’s modern history. And yet Saddam was supported by the US and Europe during the devastating Iran-Iraq war between 1980 and 1988 – even when he used chemical weapons.

For the religious conservatives, these are literally God-given themes. They are incredibly helpful in their attempt to freeze their Iran in an eternal battle with the world. For example, the song Hello Commander is an ode to the ‘martyrs’ of that horrific conflict in which tens of thousands of young Iranians and Iraqis died.

In the official video of the song, Iranian children hold up photos of their loved ones who died in the trenches. At the same time, Hello Commander is a “hopeful” song because it aims to express the willingness of these Iranian youth to fight for justice.

An Iranian practices skating in a street of Tehran, Iran, September 24, 2021
Iran is culturally diverse and the young people live under influences from the west, especially the US.
EPA-EFE/Abedin Taherkenareh

With its slightly martial yet strongly ritualistic melody that speaks to emotional religious themes, the song focuses on a youth culture as diverse as the aforementioned Iranian experience of the world. In a cultural environment where Iranian rap music dominates and where most middle-class Iranians listen to pop songs produced in diaspora hubs like Los Angeles, Hello Commander seems like a rather clumsy attempt to switch such worldly preferences into the extremely specific and restrictive interpretation of Iran’s conservative establishment.

The ideal childhood envisioned by the song has long been socialized into adulthood and the harsh social realities that exacerbate the US sanctions regime for ordinary Iranians. There is no time for ideological indulgence. The text of Hello Commander evokes the Imam Mahdi, the eternal commander of the faithful. Imam Mahdi plays an important role in the doctrines of the devout Twelve Shia, the minority Muslim sect that dominates Iran, Iraq, southern Lebanon and elsewhere.

The song also pays special tribute to General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in 2020 at the behest of Donald Trump. It denounces the perpetual intimidation of the faithful by external enemies.


Read more: Qassem Soleimani airstrike: Why this is a dangerous escalation of US assassination policy


Denying diversity

But Hello Commander is preaching to the converts. The narrow script does not capture the vastness of the cultural repository that springs from Iran. Iranian youth, like youth all over the world, is diverse and cannot be easily grouped into one story.

A young Iranian couple sits on a wall in a park in Tehran and plays 'Pokemon Go' on their smartphones.
Two young Iranians played Pokemon Go in August 2016. Iran was the first country to ban the game for security reasons.
EPA-EFE/Abedin Taherkenareh

Iran has a highly educated population and successful universities. It is also a country under siege by US sanctions. Most Iranians are busy making ends meet. The song’s hopeful tenor may boost the morale of the converts, but it must seem rather cynical to many Iranian workers who suffer under the yoke of sanctions and the establishment’s harsh conservative focus.

In light of this complexity of contemporary Persia, in my most recent book under the same title I asked what Iran ‘is’, referring to five pieces of Iranian music. The answer could only be captured in large open parentheses. Iran is the love poetry of Rumi, the architecture of Persepolis – also Shia Islam. The country’s age-old historical diversity cannot be reduced to platitudes. Whenever this happens, history has shown, Persia breaks free.

RELATED ARTICLES

Trump media company gets subpoena in federal criminal investigation into SPAC deal

Donald Trump’s media company has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in connection with a criminal investigation, according to the company with which...

Latia Henderson, Kayley Ketley: New Details About Nisha Phillips’ Trunk Kidnapping

Details can now be revealed in a case that rocked a small town after a young woman turned out a taillight in a desperate...

why criminal lawyers run away – and what they really get paid

For hundreds of years, barristers in England and Wales have ensured that parties in court have the right to a fair trial with their...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Trump media company gets subpoena in federal criminal investigation into SPAC deal

Donald Trump’s media company has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in connection with a criminal investigation, according to the company with which...

Latia Henderson, Kayley Ketley: New Details About Nisha Phillips’ Trunk Kidnapping

Details can now be revealed in a case that rocked a small town after a young woman turned out a taillight in a desperate...

why criminal lawyers run away – and what they really get paid

For hundreds of years, barristers in England and Wales have ensured that parties in court have the right to a fair trial with their...

Invasive species in Australia: Australia’s worst biological pests, including cane toads, varroa destructors and feral cats

Nothing illustrates why exotic species should not be introduced to Australia more than the cane toad. These venomous amphibians are found throughout Northern Australia...