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Popular Iranian Poet, Songwriter Arrested

Yaghma Golruyi
Yaghma Golruyi

A well-known Iranian poet and songwriter has been arrested in Tehran for reasons that remain unclear.

Forty-year-old Yaghma Golruyi was detained at his home in the Iranian capital on November 30, his wife, Athena Habibi, said via social media.

Habibi said security agents took her husband to an "unknown location."

"So far we don't have any news about him and we're deeply worried about his health," Habibi wrote on her Instagram account on December 1.

Iranian authorities frequently jail suspects or try defendants without public explanation.

Habibi urged friends and fans to spread the news while warning against "any comment" that could complicate his situation.

Several artists, journalists, and activists have been arrested in Iran in recent months in a crackdown seemingly led by hard-liners who oppose any opening of the country's political atmosphere.

Golruyi's work is known inside and outside the country.

His songs and poems have been performed by exiled Iranian pop and rap singers.

His arrest comes on the heels of a warning by Iran's Culture Ministry to artists who work with Persian-language television channels that broadcast to the country from abroad.

"They will be warned and there will be legal action if they insist on the cooperation," ministry spokesman Hossein Nushabadi was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

Golruyi released a music video in March titled Liberation, which highlighted Iranian women who have made strides in various areas despite state-imposed restrictions and legal discrimination.

"We're happy, joyful, and smiling even though we're in a prison," Golruyi sings in the clip to images of Iranian female athletes, rights advocates, scientists, artists, and others, adding in the refrain, "We know we're free at the end of the story."

In October, two poets and a filmmaker were sentenced to a total of 26 1/2 years in prison and 421 lashes on charges that included "insulting sanctities" and shaking hands with unrelated members of the opposite sex.

Last month, five journalists were arrested in Iran by the intelligence branch of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which claimed to be fighting "infiltration" efforts by the United States following the landmark nuclear agreement reached in July.

Also in November, Iran's judiciary announced that jailed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was sentenced to an unspecified prison term.

Meanwhile, prominent cartoonist Hadi Heidari was jailed to complete a suspended prison sentence. Heidari was also jailed for several weeks during the crackdown that followed the disputed reelection in 2009 of then-President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The measures appear to be a push against the nuclear deal, which hard-liners fear will diminish their grip on power, and a preemptive blow ahead of February 2016 elections for parliament and the Assembly of Experts in which reformists are hoping to make a political comeback.

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is managing editor of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, which breaks through government censorship to deliver accurate news and provide a platform for informed discussion and debate to audiences in Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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