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Iran: From Germany, Rap Group Challenges Male-Dominated Society

Tapesh 2012 performs last year at the "Creole 2007" festival (Courtesy Photo) Not allowed to sing in Iran about the harsh treatment of women in society, the Iranian rap group Tapesh 2012 (Pulse 2012) is doing just that -- from its base in Germany. The group's latest song, "Ma Mard Nistim" ("We Are Not Men"), focuses on the Iranian feminist movement and its struggle to overcome violence against women.

The band's founder, Omid Pur-Yusofi, says "We Are Not Men" is a critique of Iran's traditional male-dominated society and the harsh conditions many Iranian women face.

Popular Song

He says those difficult conditions exist even in his own family, which has lived in Germany for 20 years.

"My parents are educated, but I can feel patriarchy in my family," he said. "After all these years [living in Germany] there is still a sense of patriarchy in my father's heart. It's been a problem for my mother even after more than 50 years of living with him."

A quick look at the comments posted on YouTube about the song shows that it has thus far attracted a lot of praise -- and has been viewed more than 32,000 times since it was posted on that website just a little over one week ago.

But the group's lyricist, 27-year-old Shahin Najafi, says he expects some negative reaction from Iranian men about the song. He admits that the title, "We Are Not Men," is provocative, as "men" refers to males' power in the traditional Iranian society.

"This is the reality," he said. "If you are cross-eyed and somebody reminds you about it, you'll get angry because that is the reality. When somebody of the same gender talks about your faults as a man, you will get angry."

Concert In Iran?

Najafi started his career in Iran as a poet. He also was the leader of an underground music band before moving to Germany three years ago following what he describes as increasing pressure from Iranian authorities.

Tapesh 2012 -- which also includes German and Russian members -- wants to hold a concert in Tehran by 2012. Pur-Yusofi says he is optimistic about this goal despite the uncertainty of the current regime in Iran allowing such a thing to take place.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge," he said. "Because if we believe in something we may eventually realize it."

Tapesh 2012 has recorded two albums, "We are Iran" and "From Tehran to Berlin." It is currently working on its third album. They also have recorded a song called "The Power Of Students In Iran" that talks of about the plight of progressive Iranian students in today's Iran and the harrassment they face.

"We Are Not Men" was released amid increased pressure from authorities on the Iranian women's-rights movement, especially the campaign to collect 1 million signatures in support of equal rights for men and women.

A leading figure in that campaign, Parvin Ardalan, said this week that an Iranian court had given her a suspended jail sentence for her role in a protest in Tehran in 2007.

At least three other Iranian women's rights activists -- Nahid Jafari, Nasrin Afzali, and Marzieh Mortazi-Langarudi -- received suspended flogging and jail sentences earlier this year for their participation in the same protest.

(Radio Farda correspondent Amir Zamani Far contributed to this report)

RFE/RL Iran Report

RFE/RL Iran Report

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