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Iranian-Born Singer Prompts Threats From Tehran With Video Clip Featuring Porn Star


Sasy Mankan performs in the United States in 2018.

California-based singer Sassan Heydari-Yafteh, better known to fans as Sasy Mankan, has prompted threats and detentions from Iranian authorities who say his new music clip featuring a hard-core porn actress is obscene.

The video, Tehran Tokyo, features sex star Alexis Texas dancing alongside the Iranian-American performer and at one point wearing -- and then shedding -- a head scarf.

Head scarves, known as hijabs, are obligatory for women under Iran's strict Islamic dress code and are a frequent target of protest by activists seeking reform of Iran's discriminatory patriarchal system.

Sasy's video has also been criticized for exposing Sasy's fans -- including children and young Iranians -- to the world of porn.

The 32-year-old singer posted promotional snippets last week before releasing the full clip on March 11, despite a threat by Iranian authorities that they would take action against the singer through "international legal authorities."

Iranian media reported this week that two brothers who arranged the song -- identified as Mohsen and Behroz Manuchehri -- were arrested at their home in the southwestern city of Shiraz.

It is unclear what charges are being levied against the two.

The semiofficial Tasnim news agency, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), quoted Tehran's guidance court as warning that anyone who collaborated on the song or who even lip-syncs it and publishes it online will face prosecution.

A Tehran Tokyo promotional clip posted online on March 2 has been viewed over 18 million times, while a longer version has 2.6 million views on Sasy Mankan's Instagram page, which has 4.7 million followers.

The music video led to renewed calls by Iranian hard-liners for the blocking of Instagram, which remains the only Western social-media site that has not been filtered by Iranian authorities.

"All parents are worried about cyberspace's psychological harm to helpless children; this is the common denominator of all political thought. Others have taken serious steps to protect their children many years before us," lawmaker Mojtaba Tavangar said via Twitter while tagging Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi.

"Child protection requires everyone's support. Mr. Minister, [and] we are ready to help resolve this issue."

Many people have countered that in order to protect children, the authorities should take other steps that include protection against child labor and child marriages.

"The thoughts of children realizing that [Alexis Texas] is a porn star and searching for her [name on the Internet] make me tremble," journalist Emily Amraee said, adding that "due to [state] filtering, all children have access to anti-filtering tools."

"This song is more dangerous than child polio," she said.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a vice president under reformist President Mohammad Khatami two decades ago, said that while Sasy's video clip "with its special guests" was being viewed by millions of Iranians, some people in the country also view women bicyclists as a problem.

"What a deep [gap] between these thoughts and the reality of the society," Abtahi said on Twitter.

Sasy, who left Iran in 2012, declined an interview request by RFE/RL. "I don't want to [comment]. In these cases, I usually let everyone do their thing," he said.

Sasy's manager, Farshid Rafe Rafahi, CEO of Los Angeles-based EMH Productions, told AP that Sassy was not trying to create controversy.

"It's pretty crazy, she's just dancing like any person in any ordinary music video. She's not doing anything inappropriate in these scenes," Rafahi, said. "Sasy's mission isn't to create havoc, it's to make people happy."

In 2019, Sasy, who used to work as an underground singer in Iran, outraged Iranian authorities with a video clip, titled Gentleman, that became a hit among Iranians. Schoolchildren were shown dancing to the song in multiple videos posted online.

Some officials later claimed the video clips were "fake" and that no dancing took place in Iranian schools.

Iranian authorities, who interfere in most aspects of their citizens' lives, have cracked down on public dancing, mainly by women, in recent years.

In 2014, six men and women were detained for dancing in a YouTube video to the Pharrell Williams song Happy. They were later sentenced to suspended jail terms.

Mohammad Zarghami of RFE/RL's Radio Farda contributed to this story
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