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Qatar: Playing with the censors

28 February 2017

  The state of Qatar is young and old at the same time, immersed in both modernity and tradition. Governed by strict Islamic principles under the supreme power of the emir, Qatar is a place where freedom of speech is very limited, and where artistic expression risks being banned or …

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What Drove Violations

8 February 2017

ART UNDER THREAT IN 2016: WHAT DROVE VIOLATIONS The following section of the Art under Threat in 2016 report explores the issues and tendencies that drove governments and other groups to limit artistic expression. TABLE OF CONTENTS * Click on the following titles to be taken to that part of …

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Egypt

8 February 2017

ART UNDER THREAT IN 2016: EGYPT SERIOUS VIOLATIONS: 18 ACTS OF CENSORSHIP: 19 State censorship of the arts in the name of “protecting public morals and state interests” continues to stifle artistic freedom of expression in Egypt. Restrictions on art and literary works that address politics, sex and religion, remain …

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Iran

8 February 2017

ART UNDER THREAT IN 2016: IRAN SERIOUS VIOLATIONS: 30 ACTS OF CENSORSHIP: 9 Iran continues to intimidate, persecute, imprison and ban artists, cultural producers and publishers, bringing it up from the second country with the most serious violations in 2015 to first in 2016. In 2016, Freemuse registered 30 serious …

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Mahsa: Cantata for a forbidden voice in four movements

19 December 2016

  In a country where public performances by women are forbidden, the internationally acclaimed Iranian vocalist Mahsa Vahdat struggles to make her voice heard. She is an optimist, and remains hopeful that one day things will change. Directed by Kiarash AnvariLanguage: English and Persian. English subtitles. 16 minutes Iran. 2013 …

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I Love Hip Hop in Morocco

19 December 2016

  Documentary about a group of hip hop artists sharing a dream: To organise a professional concert. Unfortunately resistance is strong in their society and resources scare. With the help of an American filmmaker, they raised funding and created the first Hip Hop festival in Morocco. Co-Directed by Jennifer Needleman …

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Back Vocal (Seday-e Dovom)

19 December 2016

    Back Vocal  (Seday-e Dovom) About women singers in Tehran who defy Iran’s law forbidding women to perform solo Directed by Iranian film director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb Language: Persian. English subtitles. 40 minutes Iran. 2004 Read more…  

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At the end of a perfect day

19 December 2016

    At the end of a perfect day   About the punk band Quartet in Iran. Young film maker Mina Keshavarz tailed the band for a whole year. The film shows how the band gets into trouble with the Iranian law enforcers Directed by Mina Keshavarz and Kamran Heidari Farsi spoken, …

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Afghan Star

19 December 2016

Afghan Star   A Channel 4 Documentary Foundation production in association with Tolo TV Directed by Havana Marking With the singers Setara Hussainzada, Rafi Nabaazda, Hameed Sahkizada, Lima Sahar, Daoud Sediqi In English, Dari and Pashtun with English subtitles. Running time: 88 minutes Distributor: Zeitgeist Films Film website: Afghanstardocumentary.com Afghanistan. 2008 …

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Turkey: The Freemuse Files on Censorship of the Arts

15 December 2016

‘Turkey – The Freemuse Files’ is the first in a series of Freemuse compilations aimed at providing an overview of artistic freedom by country or topic.

For almost 20 years, Freemuse has documented violations on freedom of musical expressions and since 2012 also violations on other art forms in Turkey. ‘Turkey – The Freemuse Files’ is the first in a series of Freemuse compilations. The idea is to provide our readers, network partners and policy makers …

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Lebanon: Backlash mounts after psychedelic music festival

24 October 2016

Hexaplex festival website frontpage section, Lebanon

The Hexaplex psychedelic music festival held from 1-4 September 2016 at a camping site in Chahtoul, Lebanon, 35 kilometres north of capital Beirut, has been receiving backlash from the local Christian community, politicians and general public who claim festivalgoers participated in acts contrary to their religious, cultural and social norms …

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Moroccan artists persecuted, imprisoned when crossing red lines: UPR report

17 October 2016

Morocco should replace unclear and vague provisions in the Penal Code and decriminalize the so-called “red line” offenses, according to a new joint stakeholder submission to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review process by Freemuse and Racines – two civil society organizations defending artistic freedom in Morocco and globally.

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Morocco: News site publishes blacklist of artists with alleged ties to Israel

26 September 2016

On 9 September 2016, Moroccan news site Noon Presse published its own blacklist of seven Moroccan performers and artists who have “normalised” relations with Israel, which means, according to the site, that the artists have chosen “to go against the flow” by “unashamedly visiting Israel or communicating with Israelis”. The …

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Iran: Jailed artists go on hunger strike

12 September 2016

According to Freemuse sources, musician Mehdi Rajabian and his brother, filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, have gone on hunger strike as of 7 September 2016 to protest against prison authorities not granting Mehdi a promised furlough to seek medical attention for a spreading infection and for separating them by moving Mehdi, while …

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Iran: Concerts in the crosshairs

2 September 2016

Religious conservatives in Iran have been tightening control over the nation’s cultural and moral values ever since the 2013 election of liberal President Hassan Rouhani and the 2015 nuclear deal, amidst fears that the country will lose its values to Western influences. Art, especially music and live concerts, has become …

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Iran: Musician arrested on charges of “spreading depravity”

2 September 2016

Authorities arrested Iranian singer Amir Tataloo (real name: Amirhossein Maghsoodloo) on 23 August 2016 on charges of “spreading depravity among the youth” brought up in an 8 August 2016 judicial order, reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on 25 August 2016. “Sadly, this latest imprisonment of Amir Tataloo is not an …

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Turkey: Singer’s concerts cancelled due to coup-related remarks

16 August 2016

The Turkish government cancelled four concerts by pop star Sıla Gençoğlu over comments she made about a democracy rally held in Istanbul on 7 August 2016 in the aftermath of an attempted coup that happened a month earlier, reported Hurriyet Daily News on 11 August 2016.  “I am absolutely against …

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Pakistan: Music returns to region amid scepticism

10 August 2016

The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the north-western region of Pakistan, announced a fund to support 500 artists, including musicians, in the area by giving them $300 USD per month to create and practice their art, reported Al Jazeera on 27 May 2016. Apart from the fund, the government is …

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Pakistan: Famed Sufi singer killed in drive-by shooting

23 June 2016

Two men suspected of killing Amjad Sabri, one of Pakistan’s most famous singers, were arrested by police as part of a city-wide crackdown in Karachi.

Freemuse calls for counter narratives to religious extremism On 22 June 2016, one of Pakistan’s most famous singers Amjad Sabri died in the port town of Karachi after two gunmen on a motorbike shot the singer in his car just a kilometre after leaving his home. The Taliban has claimed …

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Turkey: Music fans attacked at Radiohead store event

22 June 2016

Music fans enjoying a special worldwide release event on 17 June 2016 for rock band Radiohead’s latest album at record store Velvet Indieground in the Cihangir district of Istanbul were attacked by a mob of about 20 men who took offense to people listening to music and drinking alcohol during …

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Egypt: Heavy metal concert cancelled, three arrested

8 June 2016

Concert promoter and musician Nader Sadek, along with two others, were arrested by Giza police when they stopped a heavy metal concert on 4 June 2016 featuring Brazilian band Sepultura before it even started due to a lack of permits, reported Ahram Online on 5 June 2016. Head of the …

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Iran: Eight producers arrested for “obscene” music videos

8 June 2016

Eight producers of music videos broadcasted on Persian-language satellite networks outside Iran have been arrested, reported Iranian judiciary news agency Mizan Online on 28 May 2016. According to Tehran prosecutor general Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi the videos were “obscene” and “broadcast on a famous anti-revolutionary television channel” and added that a …

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Iran: Musician and filmmaker imprisoned

7 June 2016

According to Freemuse sources, musician Mehdi Rajabian and his brother, filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, were imprisoned for their art on 5 June 2016. They have been convicted to three years imprisonment. Please help us in getting the charges dropped against the two artists and freeing Mehdi and Hossein by taking action and sharing the …

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Iran: Two musicians and a filmmaker summoned to prison

30 May 2016

A summons order issued on 27 May 2016 by Iranian authorities requires musicians Mehdi Rajabian, Yousef Emadi and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian to turn themselves in to prison by 31 May 2016 to serve out their three-year sentences. The summons orders them to report to the Office of the Prosecutor at …

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Afghanistan: Kandahar authorities ban broadcast of songs by women

26 May 2016

Local Ministry of Information and Culture authorities in the southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan have banned women’s songs from being broadcast across local media, directly affecting the 11 radio stations in operation in the area, reported Afghanistan’s TOLONews on 23 May 2016. Head of Wranga Radio in Kandahar told TOLONews …

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Iran: Concerts cancelled under pressure from religious conservatives

23 May 2016

This article on cancelled concerts and the nebulous state of artistic freedom due to opposing viewpoints between religious conservatives and the government in Iran was originally published by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on 19 May 2016, who have kindly allowed Freemuse to republish it here: Concerts of …

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INSIGHT publication: Targeting the Arts 2015

18 May 2016

» Read on issuu.com Targeting the Arts Documenting incidents of censorship has never been enough. From the very beginning Freemuse has attempted to put censorship of music and arts into a larger context. In 2015 we introduced INSIGHT – a series of articles providing readers with analytical stories on censorship of …

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Lebanon: Authorities ban song on grounds of offending God

17 May 2016

The censorship bureau of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate has banned Bachar Mar-Khalife’s song ‘Kyrie Eleison’ because it “contains offenses to God as the singer talked to God in the song saying, ‘have mercy on us and leave us alone’”, reported CNN Arabic on 12 April 2016. The authorities further stated …

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Turkey: “Music that sexually turns on people is a sin”

17 May 2016

Artists are facing severe difficulties under Erdoğan’s rule. On 15 February 2016, The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs, issued a fatwa – a religious ban – on ‘sexual’ music. The latest victim of this arbitrary repression is an imam who runs a rockband and opposes the Directorate’s fatwa from a …

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Egypt: Radio station bans mahraganat song

17 May 2016

Ahmed Sameer, president of Cairo’s Nagham FM radio station, has banned Mahmoud al-Laithi and female singer Bossi’s mahraganat song ‘Bonbonaia’ (meaning candy) from the station, reported Youm7.com on 18 April 2016. Sameer’s order came after Ahmed al-Shenawi’s show ‘My Beloved People’ aired the song, which Sameer said contained explicit lyrics …

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Turkey: Arbitrary religious repression of rock music

10 May 2016

  On 15 February 2016, The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs issued a fatwa – a religious ban – on ‘sexual music’. Now the big question appears to be who has the authority to decide whether rock music is “arouses sexual desires” or not? The annual calender published by Turkish Directorate …

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Jordan: Ban on performance by Lebanese band reversed

4 May 2016

Jordan is permitting the popular Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila to perform, thereby lifting an earlier ban imposed amid claims that the group’s songs – which are promoting religious and sexual freedom – “violate local customs and religious beliefs.” Khalid Abu Zeid, a regional politician who initially announced the ban against …

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Iran: Banned music legend may sing again

21 April 2016

Mohammed Reza Shajarian has been known as Iran’s “king of singing” for his renditions of classical poems and religious prayers; however, since he publicly supported the Green Movement against Ahmadinejad in June 2009, Shajarian found himself the victim of a nation-wide ban, unable to perform live or release music. Now, …

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Turkey: Baby donkeys, insults and presidents

20 April 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is notorious for bringing thousands of his citizens, including many artists, up on insult charges ever since he took power in 2014. Freemuse continues to report on the president’s repression of artistic expression; and while he currently tries to force another country – Germany – to do the …

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Jordan: Concert by Israeli musician in Wadi Rum cancelled

20 April 2016

Israeli musician Nadav Dagon cancelled his appearance at a three-day music festival scheduled from 7-9 April 2016 in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert after outcry against the performance surfaced on social media, reaching several parts of Jordan’s society and political groups, reported The Jerusalem Post on 4 April 2016. A group of …

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Tunisia: Singer banned from working due to suggestive video

6 April 2016

The Tunisian Musicians Syndicate has banned singer Hana al Zughlami aka Tunisian Naglaa from working in the country under accusations she promoted vice and immorality in her latest video and single ‘La Ykhebbesh Wala Ydebbish’, reported news site Al Bawaba on 31 March 2016. The syndicate has also stated that …

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Iran: Musical instruments still not allowed on Iranian tv

15 March 2016

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting blurred the musicians playing instruments, reported journalismisnotacrime.com on 12 February 2016. Families around Iran were told they were in for a treat: Iran’s state tv announced it would broadcast a concert by the popular Iranian singer Salar Aghili. But when it came to the event, …

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Turkey: ‘Rocking imam’ blocked from singing in Portugal

15 March 2016

Turkish imam and rock musician Ahmet Muhsin Tüzer has been denied permission to give a concert in Portugal by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, the Diyanet, reported several news media on 1 March 2016. Known in Turkey as the “Rockin’ Imam”, Ahmet Muhsin is the imam in the town of …

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Egypt: Fear of heavy metal returns

8 March 2016

Recent controversies in Egypt over heavy metal music continue to highlight findings in the 2010 Freemuse report “Headbanging against Repressive Regimes”, wherein the music and its fans remain misunderstood and victims of conservative policies and societies. Freemuse Egypt stringer, Shahira Amin, explains the recent events around heavy metal concerts, the role of …

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Music Freedom Day in Pakistan: Call for cultural policy

4 March 2016

Participants gathered with great enthusiasm across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata to celebrate the annual Music Freedom Day, calling on their leaders to formulate a comprehensive cultural policy, reported Sher Alam Shinwari from the city of Peshawar on 3 March 2016. By Sher Alam Shinwari Senior artists, singers and writers at …

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Iran: Two musicians and a filmmaker sentenced

29 February 2016

Branch 54 of the Tehran Appeals Court has issued their final judgment on Mehdi Rajabian, Hossein Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, sentencing each of the three artists to three years in prison, three years probation and a 200 million rial (about  USD 6,600) fine, reported the Human Rights Activists News Agency on 29 February 2016. …

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Egypt: Mahraganat artists challenge limits

23 February 2016

For many youngsters in Egypt, mahraganat artists represent the voice of the people. They address social issues, relationships and drug problems. They operate in a landscape of recognition, occasional public and self-censorship and the consequences of the newly suggested committee for “the development of morals and conscience and the promotion …

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Iraq: Boy beheaded for listening to Western music

22 February 2016

According to ARA News, Islamic State militants publicly executed a 15-year-old boy in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on 16 February 2016 for listening to “Western music”. A spokesman for the Ninevah media centre told the new outlet that the boy, Ayham Hussein, was caught listening to pop music …

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Iran: Singer banned from tv and festival

28 January 2016

Salar Aghili has been banned from appearing on Iranian television and performing in the country’s Fajr International Music Festival, reported human rights organisation journalismisnotacrime.com on 26 January 2016. The famous singer was banned due to his appearance on Manoto TV, a Persian-language satellite channel based in London. Minister of Culture …

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Egypt: Arts unions granted legal powers to self-police

25 January 2016

On 9 November 2015 Minister of Justice Ahmed El-Zend granted judicial police status, or “Al Dabtia Al Kadaeia”, to both the musician’s and actor’s trade unions, effectively meaning that unions members can now legally police and regulate themselves, reported news site Dotmsr.com The controversial decision was further compounded when, on …

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Egypt: Government cancels concert marking revolution anniversary

22 January 2016

The band Elawela Balady posted on its Facebook page that they were informed by the Ministry of State of Antiquities to cancel a concert they had scheduled on 24 January 2016 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, reported The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. The …

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Turkey: Children’s play banned due to “inappropriate” song

22 January 2016

A play that has been staged for children for the last 14 years was banned in the Çankaya District Directorate of Education of Turkey’s capital Ankara for having one song deemed “inappropriate”, reported Today’s Zaman on 14 January 2016. Playwright Serap Gültekin told newspaper Radikal that the application to stage …

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Saudi Arabia: Festival stopped due to “swaying and dancing”

20 January 2016

Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) in the Mayahel province stopped artist’s from performing music at a festival on two consecutive nights due to their dance movements on stage that were seen as improper for the audience, reported online newspaper Benaa.org on …

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Egypt: Singer released after paying bail on contempt of religion charges

18 January 2016

Shaaban Abdel Rahim, famed and controversial Egyptian folklore singer, was under legal and public attacks for the Youtube release of a video of him singing Qur’an lyrics while wearing the religious clothing of Al-Azhar clerics, which landed him in jail, reported The Cairo Post. Attorney Mohammed Kamal filed a claim …

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Egypt: Union president suspends six singers from performing

14 January 2016

Hani Shaker, controversial president of the Egyptian Musicians Syndicate, issued a decision to suspend six singers from being able to work as artists based on their behaviours during performances, reported Al Arabya News. Shaker stated that their behaviour was not in line with public morals as they wore “body revealing …

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Iran: Musicians call for lifting concert ban

8 January 2016

A group of musicians and artists have written to the governor of the Razavi Khorosan province in northeastern Iran to remove the ban on music concerts in Mashhad, the province’s capital and the country’s second most populous city, reported Radio Zamaneh. The musicians and artists state in the letter that the …

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Iran: Album by prominent musician denied distribution

7 January 2016

Majid Derakhshani’s latest album ‘Khoroosh’ will not be distributed in Iran, reported Payvand Iran News. The album, which translates to ‘Roar’, is comprised of Derakhshani’s music sung by Mojtaba Asgari and was tied up in legal red tape for over two years before the denial was issued. Further, the Ministry …

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Morocco: Prosecuted rapper cleared of all charges

15 December 2015

The Moroccan rapper Al Muntaqim was arrested in August 2015 accused of inciting violence and drug abuse through his song ‘Korsika’. On 9 December 2015 the court cleared him of all charges. In August 2015, the Public Prosecution at the Court of First Instance in Khenifra city in Morocco instructed …

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Iran: Music distributors await appeal decision for six years in prison

14 December 2015

Two musicians and a filmmaker who were jointly sentenced to six years in prison and fined 200 million toman (about USD 66,650) each for “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state,” are awaiting a ruling by a Tehran appeals court, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in …

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Algeria: Attack on famous raï singer’s concert thwarted

14 December 2015

According to Morocco World News, Alarabiya and other media, Algerian authorities are searching for three terrorists who attempted to target Annaba Theatre, a theatre in the north-eastern city of Annaba, where raï singer Cheb Khaled was performing on 9 December 2015. A separate report by Russia Today cited Algerian media sources as …

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Iran: Songwriter and poet released

11 December 2015

Iranian songwriter and poet Yaghma Golrouee was released on bail from detention on 9 December 2015 after being arrested on unclear charges on 30 November 2015, according to the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA). Though the reason behind the arrest is still unknown, it is thought that Golrouee was detained …

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