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Supporting students in Iran

The Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH), along with many other Norwegian institutions and universities, condemn the violence committed by the Iranian regime and express our support for the democratic student demonstrations in Iran during the autumn of 2022.

A theocratic fascist regime, are the words Iranian Idin Samimi Mofakham uses to describe the government in his birth country.

– Everything happens in the name of religion, but in a fascist way, not a human one, he says.

Lobbyism and false information

After 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the so-called “Moral Police” a month ago, demonstrations have occurred all over Iran. People are protesting at every level – primary schools, high schools and universities, and many workers have gone on strike. Currently, the official number of casualties is 215, while over 6000 have been arrested – many underaged. A few days ago, the prison where political prisoners are being kept was set on fire, and the military started shooting towards the building.

– I just read that eight people died in the shooting, but we don’t know who they are. There is a tremendous amount of lobbyism and false information, and internet access is limited.

Samimi Mofakham says that the regime also has people working for them abroad, who try to picture the situation as less severe than it is.

– A dictatorship

Samimi Mofakham, who is a composer, holds a position as a research fellow at the PhD programme for artistic research and has studied Persian music theory from the 9th century and its application in contemporary music, among many other topics. He does not define his current project as political at all, but says he is tremendously influenced by what is happening.

– Some years ago, I wrote a piece about freedom of speech. That is something that does not exist in Iran.

Even if his music does not translate into political statements, Samimi Mofakham still believes it shapes his work on a hidden level

– I grew up in a dictatorship, with censorship and war propaganda. This deeply affected me, so I suppose that the urge to speak about freedom exists inside me, even if it’s not expressed directly in my music

The piece he is presenting at his PhD concert on Wednesday, 19 October, has its roots in Sufism.

– It is based on a very peaceful poem that talks about finding the wisdom and light within yourself.

Affected: Idin Samimi Mofakham is deeply influenced by his up-bringing in a dictatorship.

No return

The Moral Police killing civilians is nothing new, according to Samimi Mofakham. He has been a witness to demonstrations, violence and shootings himself.

– Mahsa Amini was just the final drop. The match that lit it all on fire, he thinks.

It is about three years since Samimi Mofakham was in Iran himself. Now he says that it is too dangerous for him to return.

Was it your conscious choice to start criticising openly, even knowing it might have consequences?

– Yes, I think so. If I were in Iran now, I would have been on the streets, shouting for the basic human rights of freedom and democracy, supporting the feminist movement, defending the right treatment, and hoping for change. Talking about it openly in a democratic country is the least I can do now.

– This is not just a protest anymore. I think it’s important to start calling it a revolution.

Idin Samimi Mofakham Composer and Research Fellow

Revolution, not protests

Samimi Mofakham says that his life has come to a stop because he constantly checks for updates about what is happening, all while trying to filter out false information from the correct one.

– Me and many other Iranians abroad are trying to amplify the voice of the Iranian people and all those who are risking their lives now. It is so hard to focus on music or art these days…

He encourages people to use their voices too, in solidarity with the demonstrators and condemn the brutality, violence and oppression led by the regime. Write letters to your governments and politicians and make sure the assets that are blocked because of the sanctions don’t make their way back to the government, he asks.

– Then they will be turned into weapons, taking the lives of Iranians, Ukrainians, Syrians, Iraqis … It is not just Iranians – half of the world is in danger because of this madness.

Despite much bad news, he remains hopeful for the future. Even if it takes time, he is 100 per cent sure that the regime will fall – soon, he hopes.

– This is not just a protest anymore. I think it’s important to start calling it a revolution.

– Exchanging cultures is an essential factor in peace and the unification of peoples, says Principal Astrid Kvalbein.

Principal Astrid Kvalbein addresses the situation

We are currently seeing an increased awareness of and commitment to democracy in Iran worldwide. Both in academia and the arts, freedom of speech is essential, as it should be.

The Norwegian Academy of Music considers the actions committed against the students by the Iranian police a violation of human rights. We encourage everyone to give their support through Amnesty International or other organisations.

At the same time, NMH will keep cooperating with musicians and performers all around the globe. Exchanging cultures is an essential factor in peace and the unification of peoples.

NMH asks the leaders of Iran to let women and men demonstrate freely and allow free speech, including musical expressions, publicly – dressed the way they choose to. We strongly condemn all violence.