Iran: The nations’ top singer opted for a life in exile

29 November 2010
Marzieh was a celebrated interpreter of traditional Persian music whose career in her native Iran was silenced by the clerical dictatorship. In exile in France she became a sharp voice of political dissent.

With a repertoire of 1,000 songs spanning classical and modern styles from both the Orient and the West, Marzieh is one of those singers who incarnate national culture such as the late Um Kalthum in Egypt.

At 69, Iran’s top woman singer, Marzieh opted for a life in exile after 15 years of silence since the Islamic revolution brought an end to her concerts. She began her public singing career in 1942 and quickly became the first Iranian woman to have her own radio programme. She defected to France in 1994 where she died of cancer, 86 years old, in 2010.

Marzieh, whose real name was Ashraf os-Saadaat Morteza’i, said that, to keep her voice trained, she would leave her village near Tehran, walk into the desert and sing far from any human ear.

“I sang for the stars, the mountains, the rivers and the birds. But I would not sing for the mullahs,” she said.

Daughter arrested
Marzieh’s departure from Iran, and her declaration of opposition to the ruling clerics, had a tremendous impact inside and outside Iran. In an attempt to blackmail her into returning, the regime arrested her daughter Hengameh Amini, and held her as a hostage.

“The mullahs have arrested an innocent woman to impose psychological pressure on her 70-year-old mother, because she joined the resistance movement for democracy and human rights. Despite their ruthless crimes to silence my voice, I tell this criminal regime that their cruel kidnapping has strengthened my determination to defend the rights of the oppressed people of Iran,” she said.

Hengameh, 42, a French-educated architect living in Iran, was released as a result of extensive international pressure

“Marzieh was the embodiment and manifestation of Iranian art and women’s rebellion against the misogynist regime; Marzieh never compromised the least with the mullahs’ regime …Marzieh’s most masterful song was her life and she performed it with love and compassion.”
Maryam Rajavi


The Independent – 3 September 1994:
‘Voice the mullahs banned breaks her silence: Iran’s top female singer, who has not performed since 1979, will be heard again’

Iran Liberation – November 2010:
‘Marzieh, Iran’s musical icon, passes away’

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