Prominent Iranian Musician Banned From Traveling Abroad

By Golnaz Esfandiari

A prominent Iranian musician and composer says authorities are preventing him from traveling abroad.

Majid Derakhshani told the Iranian daily Etemad on January 5 that security officials confiscated his passport at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport over the weekend while he was on his way to Dubai.

Derakhshani quoted the officials as saying he was banned from leaving the country. 

They did not give any explanation for the ban, but Derakhshani said he believes the presence of female solo singers on recent video clips of his ensemble, named Mah Banoo, is the reason behind the move.

"I believe that [authorities] don't want us to [have] female solo singers performing, even with full Islamic hijab," 59-year-old Derakhshani said.

The clips have been watched on the Internet by tens of thousands of people. They were also reportedly aired by Persian language satellite channels broadcast outside Iran. 

Derakhshani said he and other members of Mah Banoo have been interrogated several times by police in recent months.

In an interview with the BBC, Derakhshani said the questions focused on performances by female singers. 

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, female singers have been banned from performing solo. The ban is supported by hard-liners and conservative clerics who claim female singing leads to the corruption of society.

The head of the music department at Iran's Culture Ministry said on January 5 that it has had nothing to do with Derakhshani's travel ban. 

The semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Pirouz Arjomand as saying women are allowed to perform solo only before female audiences. 

He added that the presence of female solo singers in video clips is banned under Iranian laws, apparently because men can watch those clips. 

"We've notified musicians and we expect them to respect the laws and regulations," he said.