Heavy Metal Revolution for Iran

The rebellion that the Islamic Republic can't tolerate, yet can't stop.

It is that time of year again when Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes his trip to New York, making incendiary remarks that resonate around the globe.  This year, reactions to his visit were typical, with a majority of United Nations representatives leaving the room during his talk. His hardline and outlandish comments dominated media headlines and mainstream television networks vied over prime-time interviews with the rogue leader. Young heavy metal fans in Hollywood, however, found an innovative and personalized way of protesting Ahmadinejad’s visit and advocating human rights in Iran; by rocking out at a "Metal Revolution for Iran" concert Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

Iranian locals gathered and mixed together with heavy metal followers to hear bands, including Internal Corrosion, Skinmask, Deathriders, featuring Neil Turbin of Anthrax, and Philm, featuring Dave Lombardo of Slayer, to show their support and solidarity with the people of Iran.

“I want to give the people of Iran hope and power. I want them to see that there are people in the music industry that really understand them, care for them and are willing to do shows for them,” said Metal Sanaz, an Iranian heavy metal host who helped organize the event.

Bands performed at the Aura Nightclub in Studio City along a backdrop of the old Iranian flag donning the red lion and sun.  Throughout the venue, posters were hung and held in the hands of attendees saying, "Down with the Islamic Republic," "Martyrs of Iran, the entire world is with you!" "Islamic Republic is insanity and murder," "Stop Nuclear Iran," and "Your silence is another bullet into Neda’s heart!"

Sanaz, who goes by Metal Sanaz when she is working in the heavy metal industry as a radio, television and show host, still has family and deep emotional ties to Iran, where the government forbids heavy metal music and its likes, calling these musical genres satanic and forms of devil worship.

Over the past two years, hundreds of young Iranians have been arrested at heavy metal and rock concerts throughout Iran.  One incident rounded up 104 Iranians in Shiraz last spring and 230 Tehranis were taken into custody at an indie rock concert the year before.  The authorities accused the concert attendees of participating in blood sucking, carrying out the agenda of Satan and disgracing the values of Islam.

“I still get calls from friends and family members of those who were arrested and are in prison, asking me how I can get them out. Even if I can’t help get them out, these kids are always on my mind,” said Sanaz, who has had a long history of using her musical persona to help others in need.

In 2008, Metal Sanaz traveled to Kuwait to put on a concert for American soldiers. She traveled together with Jessica Simpson, the Pussycat Dolls and other musicians and comedians to put on a concert called “Operation Myspace.”

The prohibition of certain types of music and lifestyles is common in Islamic societies. Not too long ago in Egypt, Tuhami Muntasir, the former advisor to Egypt’s Mufti, accused the heavy metal fans of worshipping Satan and being party to the Zionist conspiracy "based on the protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

“It’s mind boggling to me how the Iranian regime wants to control every aspect of these kids’ lives. What harm can music do? They have no outlet and so they get depressed and turn to drugs, and no one stops them from doing drugs because it keeps them quiet. They want the kids to lay there like dead and not cause the government any problems,” she said.

“I don’t know much about politics, but I know the difference between right and wrong. That’s why we are all here, we want human rights for the people of Iran.”

At the end of 2008, Iranian satellite television based in Los Angeles gave Metal Sanaz her own show where she would play music videos and talk about heavy metal music and musicians.  The television station and its producers, saw the arrests made in Iran at around the same time as too coincidental.  They saw no option but to cancel Sanaz’s show for fear of further backlash.

With only a month to organize the event, Metal Sanaz teamed up together with political dissident Roozbeh Farahanipour, founder of the Marze Por Gohar, Iranians for a Secular Republic, a political party conceived in the aftermath of the Tehran University student uprising of 1999.

Farahanipour, who was imprisoned for his participation in the uprising, is no stranger to the regime’s brutality.  Since his release and subsequent move to Los Angeles, he and his political party Marze Por Gohar, have been working to spread awareness about the regime’s human rights and political violations.

“Iran is made up of so many diverse peoples, thoughts and opinions.  That is the beauty of our country. This concert is to show that we support Western values, secular values and are against the hardline regime that has occupied our country for the last 30 years. We wanted to send our ‘Hollywood style’ message to them.”

The concert was scheduled to coincide with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s trip to the United Nations; a trip that Farahanipour usually makes every year to New York to protest Ahmadinejad’s arrival.

Farahanipour and Sanaz both say they believed this event would be more effective than any futile protest along the periphery of the United Nations.

Participants would agree that the show climaxed when Sanaz ripped a photograph of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, on stage, screaming, “Ever since I was a little girl I hated him and what he did to our country!”

Following suit, heavy metal singer Skinmask ripped a picture of Ali Khamenei, Iran’s current clerical leader, after which the crowd fervently cheered and applauded.

“These are probably the darkest ages that Iran has ever had in its history,” Sanaz said. We have to do everything in our power to educate the world about our rich history and thousands of years of civilization and to empower the kids of Iran. We stand by you, and we support you.”