(NEW YORK) – PEN America strongly condemns the sentencing of Grammy-winning Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour to three years and eight months in prison, followed by a two-year travel ban. PEN America calls for Hajipour’s immediate release, his sentence quashed, and his record cleared of all charges.

“Shervin Hajipour’s sentencing is another awful attempt to suppress the independent voices who channel the demands of the Iranian people for basic freedoms. The Iranian government is attempting to silence a powerful movement spearheaded by musicians who believe in freedom and women’s rights,” said Julie Trébault, director of Artists at Risk Connection. “The Iranian government fears the power of music to give hope and inspire citizens to dream of a better and more equitable future for all.”

Hajipour is a vocal supporter of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement. The video for his protest song “Baraye” (“Because of” in English), which draws its lyrics from social media posts of Iranians critiquing their government, garnered millions of views within days of its release in September 2022.  The song won theSong for Social Change” Grammy Award after becoming a protest anthem following the death of Mahsa Amini while in Iranian police custody. 

Hajipour was first arrested on September 29, 2022, after the song went viral. He was released on October 5 but charged with “propaganda against the system” and “inciting people to violent acts.”

Numerous artists have been persecuted for their participation in or support of the protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022, including rappers Toomaj Salehi, Saman Yasin, Vafa Ahmadpour, and musician Mehdi Yarrahi. In December 2023, PEN America and thirty leading organizations, film festivals, and filmmakers signed an open letter calling Iranian authorities to immediately drop all charges against film directors Maryam Moghadam and Behtash Sanaeeha for their film My Favourite Cake.

According to PEN America’s most recent Freedom To Write Index, at least 57 Iranian writers were arrested for their work in 2022, making Iran the second-highest jailer of writers in the world after China. On December 10, 2023, imprisoned Iranian writer and human rights activist and 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom To Write awardee Narges Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia. PEN America and ARC continue to demand her immediate release.

About the Artists at Risk Connection

The Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) is a project of PEN America dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the networks and organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an at-risk artist, please contact ARC.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Dietlind Lerner, [email protected] tel. +1 310 699 8775