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Iran Sets New Restrictions On University Concerts

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Iran has set new restrictions on concerts held at universities, as hard-liners dig in their heels after election gains for moderates who might seek to ease some of the Islamic republic's harshest limits on cultural life.

By Iranian cartoonist Hadi Heidari (currently serving a one-year prison sentence)

The regulations, issued by the state council for the Islamization of universities and educational centers, declares that "holding concerts and independent musical programs is not a priority for universities and is not allowed."

But it adds that only "fine and valuable Iranian music" that "strengthens national identity" and is in line with "Islamic norms" can be played while emphasizing that promoting music is not part of universities' mission.

The regulations also say that music played at university concerts should encourage commitment to "moral, social, political, and revolutionary responsibilities."

It also says that music should not create "excitement that is out of the norm" or provoke "lust."

Lyrics that encourage "promiscuity," "despair and hopelessness," "superficiality," and "neglect human dignity" should be avoided, according to the regulations as published by the news site

Conservatives rally against music after Friday prayers in Tehran in October 2015
(photo by Islamic Republic News Agency)

The new restrictions come several months after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei strongly criticized university concerts and mixed student camps as very wrong.

In a July 2015 meeting with a group of students, Khamenei quoted approvingly a student as saying that "university is not a place for concerts."

"Sending students to mixed camps and holding concerts in universities to, in our minds, create joy in the student environment, is among the most wrong deeds," Khamenei was quoted as saying by domestic media.

In September, the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Khamenei's representative at universities, Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadian, as saying that "universities have been told that they don't have the right to hold concerts."

Several concerts have reportedly been canceled at universities in recent months, including a music festival that was due to be held at Tehran's Sharif University in February.

Music came under a crackdown following the 1979 revolution, but restrictions have since been relaxed.

In past months, hard-liners who deem cultural policies advocated by President Hassan Rohani too liberal have disrupted or canceled a number of concerts.

Rohani's moderate and pragmatic allies saw gains in last month's national elections to parliament and the body that oversees the supreme leader, who holds ultimate power in politics and religion under Iran's constitution.

Since a landmark nuclear deal was struck last year with world powers, Supreme Leader Khamenei and hard-liners have repeatedly warned against allowing Western culture or values to creep into Iranian society.

Copyright (c) 2016 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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