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The conductor smashing Iranian taboos over women, and music

Nezhat Amiri’s recent high-profile performance caps a 38-year fight for recognition

The Guardian: In her 38-year career, which is as long as the history of the Islamic republic, Iran’s first and only female conductor had led as many public performances as the number of fingers that hold her baton.

Last month, however, Nezhat Amiri conducted a 71-member orchestra performing at Tehran’s most prestigious concert hall – a remarkable milestone in a country where it is considered taboo for state TV to show musical instruments, women are not allowed to sing solo and female musicians have been prevented from going on stage in provincial cities.

“From the beginning, I’ve swum against the current – I wasn’t seen, the society didn’t make any effort to nurture my skills and the ruling establishment turned its back on me,” Amiri, 57, told the Guardian. “But I’m still doing it, I’m showing that there are ways, and there will always be.”

Amiri’s performance, part of the annual state Fajr music festival, brought 55 musicians and a 16-member choir – with women making up almost half of both groups – on stage for two hours, to play three pieces by masters of Persian classical music, including a work by the legendary composer Morteza Hannaneh, for the first time.

The Naghmeh-Baran (the melody of rain) ensemble had been practising for six months. All of them, including Amiri, worked for free. It was Amiri’s first performance on such a large scale in 12 years, and took place at Vahdat auditorium, which was one of the world’s best-equipped modern opera houses at the time of its inauguration, prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution. Even then, when Tehran hosted many music and dance performances, no Iranian female conductor appeared on the Vahdat stage.

Amiri’s most recent performance received unprecedented attention inside Iran. The reformist Ghanoon daily published an interview with her image on its front page alongside a headline quote: “I don’t even earn as much as a construction worker.”

Press TV, Iran’s state English-language network broadcasting for a foreign audience, featured her performance. But restrictions still remain on domestic TV. One band, Pallet, once mimed their performance without their instruments, in a subtle protest that circumvented the censors >>>

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New Indian Express: With a call for unity among Muslims across the world and the announcement of his readiness to simplify visa procedure for Indians, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday wound up the first leg of his India visit.

In a rare gesture, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is a senior Shia cleric too, visited the historic Makkah Masjid, a Sunni mosque, to offer Friday prayers and called for unity among Muslims across the world.

Addressing the congregation after the prayers, he said unity among Shias, Sunnis and other Islamic denominations was only solution to the problems faced by the Muslim world.

Rouhani urged Muslims to treat all human beings with love and affection in the true spirit of Islam.

On the second day of his three-day visit to India, he joined common worshippers in offering prayers at the 17th century mosque, noting that Friday prayers symbolize the unity among Muslims as they come together to pray.

"If Islam is presented before the world in true sense, then the whole world will love this religion," he said >>>


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