15 Essential Iranian Protest Songs in the Wake of Mahsa Amini’s Death
18th October 2022

“Protest art arises when the society is full of anger and the artist is part of the angry society.” That’s a statement made by Justina, an Iranian rapper, singer and songwriter, on the Oct. 15 episode of BBC program “The Cultural Frontline.” Justina and Iranian singer-songwriter and activist FarAvaz Farvardin were guests on the show, speaking about protest songs in Iran. Experts of sorts, their 2020 song, “Fatva,” was a protest song ahead of its time.

Perhaps the most notable of the recent Iran protest songs is Shervin Hajipour’s “Baraye,” which was written in the wake of Mahsa Amini’s death after being arrested and beaten by Iran’s notorious morality police for not wearing a proper head covering. After receiving nearly 100,000 submissions, it is now the frontrunner for the Recording Academy’s new song for social change Grammy award.

While Hajipour’s version of “Baraye” has been taken down from social media due to copyright issues, many versions of it can be heard online, including this English translation from Iranian singer-songwriter Rana Mansour. Despite the Islamic Republic’s efforts to silence the artistic voices of its people, Iranian musicians have become extra prolific during this time of upheaval. There have been numerous songs written in reaction to the current situation with the protest slogan of “Woman, Life, Freedom” at their core. Some have been hastily uploaded to Instagram in their rawest form and pack a powerful punch, such as this one from Sogand dedicated to the people of Iran.

Perhaps the most affecting song is one which doesn’t have a name or an artist ascribed to it, most likely for fear of retribution. Presumably, the song is also called “Zan Zendegi Azadi (Woman, Life, Freedom)” as that phrase is repeated in the chorus and is also what’s written on the fingers of the woman in the video. The song pulses like a heartbeat, as do the panting moves of the woman in the video, who pounds her scarf-covered head while a trickle of blood escapes out of one nostril. She then removes her head covering to reveal bullet holes in her chest as the corner of her mouth starts bleeding. She streaks the Iranian flag colors across one cheek and smears blood on the other cheek, finally releasing her hair and showing the words on her fingers. She likens her hair to fire and her voice to a dagger, and as devastating as it is to watch her, it’s also impossible to tear your eyes away or to get the tribal rhythms of the song out of your head.

Here are 15 more songs inspired by what many are calling the “Iranian Revolution.”

“Soroode Barabary”


Translated to “Anthem for Equality,” this song is sung in unison by over a dozen established Iranian women singers (including the aforementioned Justina and Farvardin). The action film-like music, composed by Behrooz Paygan, pushes forward the militant chants of this call to action. The footage includes Iranian women of all ages in various settings, from having a meal in a café to spray painting the “Woman Life Freedom” slogan to impactful protest images, capturing Iranian women in all facets of life.

Justina, “Enghelab”

A post shared by Justina (@justinaofficialll)

Never at a loss for words, Justina’s sentiments for this song are wrapped in its chorus, which asks in English: “Do you want a revolution?/ Yeah, I want a revolution.” She snarl-raps atop crunching guitars while a visual shows the aggressive confrontation of protests and women chopping off their hair, which is quite empowering.

FarAvaz Farvardin, “Naft To, Khoon-e-Man-e”

A post shared by FarAvaz Farvardini (@faravazmusic)

Farvardin is one of the most vocal Iranian artists, using all her platforms, particularly Instagram, to share information and bring awareness to the situation in Iran — even if many of her posts end up blocked. She posted “Your Oil, My Blood,” which she performs with a full orchestra, on Instagram only. In the song, Farvardin turns herself inside out, her stunning voice soaring over the music.

MadGal, “A Song Dedicated to the Women of Iran”

A post shared by Madgal (@mad.gal.music)

Iran’s own Billie Eilish via Toronto, MadGal puts all the inspiration of the present situation into this song, which is simply dedicated to the women of Iran — but in the Farsi title, MadGal also dedicates it to Shervin and Mahsa. According to the description, MadGal doesn’t see the restrictions in Iran as a deterrent but rather as “an opportunity to step into my power.” With her breathy voice, she declares in the chorus that she is free, segueing into “woman, life, freedom” and how she too is Mahsa Amini.

“Ghasam be Zan va Azadi (Soroode Enghelabi)”

A post shared by Haniye Kian (@haniye.kian)

This 40-second short takes the Islamic Republic anthem “Be Pish” and turns it on its head. The title means “Swear to Woman and Freedom” and it cleverly switches words that were ascribed to foundational elements of the Islamic Revolution, replacing them with women-centric ones. Specifically written for Mahsa Amini, it has been sung by a range of artists, include the self-proclaimed “metal goddess of Persia,” Haniye Kian. Perhaps the most powerful version of this song is this split-screen video, with a group of face-painted women singing the song in unison in the bottom half and horrific images of brutality toward women in the top half, interspersed with now-familiar ones of Amini.

Mehdi Yarrahi, “Soroode Zan”


Another very recent song, this one translates simply to “Woman’s Anthem.” Its tone is very much like the military songs of the Shah regime, but the message is quite the opposite. The song’s central theme is a call for freedom and independence, with some provocative lines that state: “We say we don’t want a king, a beggar comes and becomes a leader/ The blood in our veins is a gift to our nation/ We say we don’t want a king, a mullah comes and becomes a leader.”

Dariush, “Be Samte Farda”


One of the most popular Iranian singers of all time, the 71-year-old Dariush shows why his draw is timeless in this heartbreaking yet hopeful song, “Toward Tomorrow.” A love song to Iran that speaks to the injured country and its silence, Dariush asks when the country will be ready to speak for history and for the future. Bringing together traditional Iranian song elements with orchestral sounds and modern dance beats, it is Dariush’s plea — “My country, speak, speak for peace and equality” — that takes this song to the next level.

Toomaj, “Meydoone Jang”

Iranian rapper Toomaj has been speaking his mind fearlessly for some time on all social media channels, garnering the most attention via Instagram. His most recent rhymes on “Battlefield” have Toomaj flowing over eerie beats that nod to classic Iranian percussion and string instruments, filtering them through crisp production. His rapid-fire delivery is on-point and threatening, giving warning to the powers that be in Iran that all kinds of discontented people are coming to this battlefield, “lining up together like cartridges.”

Shahin Najafi, “Hashtadia”

The proponents of the Islamic Revolution have good reason to be wary of rap and hip-hop more so than other forms of Western music. Najafi’s no-holds-barred words let loose like machine gun fire in this song, “The 80s,” which is what Iranians call Generation Z (because they were born in the 1380s in the Iranian calendar). The song is blocked on Instagram due to “sensitive content,” most likely because of the violent footage from Iran. In it, Najafi says what everyone is thinking, using a proliferation of Iranian curse words and phrases to explain how the Islamic Republic has been making him feel. He spits with so much venom, even his non-profane words sound dirty — and that, in itself, is a release.

Amir Tataloo, PUTAK, Soheil Khodabandeh, Reza Pishro — “Enghelab Solh”


Stronger than one Iranian rapper is four of them — especially these voices, who are intimidating in their truth-telling. Sounding like American chart-toppers with heavily Auto-Tuned voices, this contrasting combination of prolific and popular poets draws a distinct picture of what it’s like right now in Iran. They say Mahsa Amini’s name in their angry raps, which call for a “peace revolution.” Tempering all the aggression is the female voice of Bahar Atish, who comes in halfway through the song.

Kiosk, “Zan Zendegi Azadi”


Iranian group Kiosk collaborated with 20 or so singers to create this beautiful song that revolves around the protest slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom.” “Zan Zendegi Azadi” puts an artistic spin on protest footage in this raw video, which is as inspirational as it is violent.

Gola, “Haghame (It’s My Right)”


In this powerful song, Gola straight up says she’s done with the hijab and that it’s her right to not wear it anymore. She rejects all the reasoning behind the hijab and has no interest in going to heaven if the route is lined with fear and oppression. She makes a strong point when she says, “You who are so afraid of my hair/ Who is the weakest?” Just before “Haghame,” Gola released “Ma Ziadim (We Are Many)” referring to the opposers of the Iranian regime. Her songs come with a handy English translation, making them easily accessible to all.

Abjeez, “Forgive Us”

A post shared by ABJEEZ (Official) آبجيز (@abjeez)

Abjeez, or “sisters” Safoura and Melody Safavi, dedicate “Forgive Us” to the “brave youth of Iran who sacrifice their lives for freedom,” according to their Instagram caption. Complex and layered, the gorgeous song, which is sung in English, is partially directed at the rest of the world, asking them to be the voice of the Iranian people.

Sevdaliza, “Woman Life Freedom”


This minimalist song puts the focus on the lyrics with a stripped-down backing track reminiscent of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” The song includes samples of women using the title phrase in their speech. It also features a captivating A.I.-powered video that depicts numerous women digitally melting and morphing in the most disturbing fashion.

“Be Name Dokhtarane Sarzameene Aftab”


“In the Name of the Daughters of the Land of the Sun” may be anonymous, but it pledges its allegiance to the women of Iran and all they have been through — not just in recent times, but for the last 40-plus years. The video has a faithful line-by-line translation of the lyrics in English (and Farsi) superimposed on footage from the current events in Iran. All the words are powerful, but one that hits home the strongest is: “For the strands of hair of the daughters of the revolution.”

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