Iranian protesters adopt anthem of their own

By ignoring the critical voices, Iran’s ruling elites may be losing a precious opportunity to the society they are increasingly alienating.
Sunday 22/12/2019
Rage and hope. Soroush Lashkari, also known by his artistic name “Hichkas,” performs during a concert. (Wikimedia)
Rage and hope. Soroush Lashkari, also known by his artistic name “Hichkas,” performs during a concert. (Wikimedia)

Every protest movement and revolution has an anthem and poetry of its own. Think of “La Marseillaise” of the French Revolution, the “Internationale” of socialist uprisings and revolutions across Europe and Russia and leftist, nationalist and Islamist anthems of Iran’s 1979 revolution.

Iran’s November 2019 protest is no exception. Released December 10, Soroush Lashkari’s “With Clenched Fists” has become the anthem of the latest protests but what is the message of Lashkari’s poetry?

Lashkari, 34, also known by his artistic name “Hichkas” (“No One”), left Iran for Britain after the 2009 protests against the fraudulent election that secured Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s second term in office as Iran’s president.

At the time, Lashkari’s “A Better Day Will Come” was widely interpreted as a commentary on the Islamic Republic’s harsh repression of the protests.

From his self-chosen exile in London, Lashkari, in cooperation with other Iranian musicians and songwriters, not only innovated Persian-language rap music but also followed developments in Iran as his primary source of inspiration.

He is the sole singer and songwriter to translate the desperation, rage and hopes of the protesters into rhyme:

“With clenched fists, bereaved of all possessions and left in a desert with thirsty lips, with all hopes killed without even receiving the corpse,” the song begins with reference to families who did not even receive the bodies of their killed loved ones.

“Even absent the sanctions, happiness is not possible as if the homeland is a colony where not a cent is spent on the nation,” continues the song reflecting the widespread belief that Iran’s ruling elites are enriching themselves rather than caring about the welfare of the Iranian public.

Iranians, Lashkari sings, “work day and night but have to ask for a loan at the end of the month, are now streaming into the streets to somehow get what is rightfully theirs.”

Even more directly, the song attacks the regime: “They don’t want citizens but slaves, from the cells one hears cries and shrieks.”

The public “only wants an end to decades-long killing and pillage but they [regime leaders] made them [the people] cry for years, so there are no more tears for teargas.”

“The entire country is a large cage but they [regime leaders] claim no one is imprisoned… The blood is flowing but news of the dead is broadcasted from elsewhere,” he sings with reference to silence of the Iranian media on the number of fatalities of the protests.

The song goes on and on but not with an optimistic end: “It’s world-weary, who are screaming.” But at least the protesters of the song are screaming: “We are all in it together.”

While Lashkari distributed his song into Iran from the relative security of London, 38-year-old Mehdi Yarrahi, in a concert December 16 in his native city of Ahvaz, dedicated one of the songs to the victims of the protests saying: “Even the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps must be subjected to critique. As must all authorities and no authority must be above criticism… Just as the security services can meddle in cultural affairs, we too must have the right to criticise the security services. What is wrong with that?”

For now, Iran’s ruling elites are turning a deaf ear to the poetry of the protests but, by ignoring the critical voices, they may be losing a precious opportunity to the society they are increasingly alienating.