The Tehran Municipality marked last week the third anniversary of the death of General Ghasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, the overseas arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, with a concert that sparked a vast amount of controversy.
Soleimani is a controversial figure. Celebrated by the Islamic Republic, the general who was killed in a January 3, 2020, U.S. drone strike near Baghdad has been a target of the anti-government protests that have rocked the country for nearly four months.
The singer at the January 2 concert, Saeed Jafarzadeh Ahmad-Sargurabi, best known as Parvaz Homay, attracted a wave of criticism on social media for bowing to Fatemeh Soleimani, the general’s daughter, during the event.
The contract between Parvaz Homay and the Tehran Municipality shows that the composer, lyricist, vocalist, and performer specializing in Persian classical-style music received 1.68 billion tomans (equivalent to $385,000 at the official exchange rate and $40,100 at the open market exchange rate) of taxpayers’ money to perform and record eight songs, at a time when a growing number of Iranians are facing economic hardship. The songs lamenting Soleimani’s death are adaptations of a collection of poetry written by Afshin Ala.
Only a select audience were invited to the concert, including top officials such as First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili, and Mohammad Qomi, the head of Iran’s Islamic Development Organization.
“Hello, black cockroach!”
The concert was organized amid a brutal state crackdown on demonstrators calling for more freedoms and women’s rights. Security forces have killed more than 500 people and arrested over 18,000 since the wave of protests kicked off in September.
Many Iranian musicians and singers have expressed solidarity with the protesters by refusing to release new songs or appear in concerts.
In the Islamic Republic’s latest attempt to normalize the situation, the authorities have recently threatened singers and music producers to be banned from leaving the country if they didn’t release new songs.
In response to the barrage of criticism he faced after the concert, Parvaz Homay released an offensive music video that starts with “Hello, black cockroach!”
“You love it if the young people’s blood is shed on the streets, but I endeavor to prevent bloodshed as long as I live,” he also wrote on Instagram.
“I am only with the people, not with you and not with others,” he said, while praising General Soleimani by saying he had “fought and died for this land and its people.”