Update to Response to Information Request IRN22363.E of 8 January 1996 on treatment of musicians playing "modern music", especially by the more militant religious leader [IRN29967.E]

The following information was provided during a 10 September 1998 telephone interview with a sociologist with the Iranian research group with the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) in Paris who is also a chargée de conférences at the Sorbonne-Nouvelle Paris-III. The sociologist travels frequently to Iran for field research. The sociologist spent the Summer of 1998 in Iran and attended several weddings and receptions where musicians and groups were performing "modern music".

The sociologist stated that musicians performing "modern music" are not targeted and are not subject to ill-treatment by the security forces today in Iran as long as they do not perfom in public. Music such as rap, and rock and roll is banned in Iran because the lyrics are considered offensive. Many Iranian musicians living in Iran currently reproduce pop music from Iranian artists living in California who are played on official Iranian television and radio stations in Iran. Since the election of Khatami the Ministry of Culture has been much more liberal in its interpretation of what is permissible for musicians. For example, in April 1998 the Ministry of Culture invited the French-based Iranian singer Homa to perform for three consecutive nights in Iran. This was the first time since the 1979 revolution that a woman singer was officially allowed to performed in public for a mixed audience.

Iranian musicians performing "modern music" are invited to private mixed weddings where people want to dance. For this type of wedding the organizers must inform the security forces that they will have "modern musicians" and pay a fee. Once this procedure is completed the wedding can proceed without problems. People who organize weddings where dancing will occur systematically inform and pay the fee to their local security forces. Traditional Iranian weddings do not require informing the security forces.

Persons who "forget" to inform the local security forces and who are visited by them during the wedding celebrations would simply have to pay a fee. The sociologist witnessed the interruption of weddings by security forces and there were no arrests or detention for the participants and organizers. Only a fee was required. Often, members of the security forces will sit down, eat, take the fee and leave. Musicians who are caught by the security forces would also have to pay a fee. The general rule is that the fee will be higher for well-known groups, or for groups who have been caught on a prior occasion. After being caught three times, musicians would have their western instruments confiscated by the security forces. Iranian instruments are never confiscated.

Today in Iran the Basij and Ansar Hezbollah, which do not accept fees and who are ideologically committed, rarely interfere in weddings with musicians playing "modern music". The sociologist added that it is unlikely that militant religious leaders and militant Basijis would in practice interfere in private weddings or parties involving "modern music" and arrest the participants. The militant clerics only make public declarations against "modern music" as propaganda, something that does not carry any consequences in practice.

The interference of security forces in weddings or parties with "modern music" is an economic activity to supplement their official income rather than an ideological or political activity and this is well-understood by the population.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Sociologist, CNRS-Monde Iranien and chargée de conférences at the Sorbonne-Nouvelle Paris-III, Paris. 10 September 1998. Telephone interview.