Iranian protest song ‘Baraye’ wins best piece for social change at 2023 Grammys

The songwriter “was arrested but this song continues to resonate around the world with its powerful theme: women, life, freedom.”

By Shiryn Ghermezian, The Algemeiner

Iranian singer-songwriter Shervin Hajipour won the Special Merit Award for Best Song For Social Change at the 2023 Grammy Awards on Sunday night for his song Baraye, which has become the unofficial anthem for the anti-government protests in Iran that started following the death of Mahsa Amini.

The new Special Merit Award, introduced this year by the Recording Academy, was presented by First Lady Jill Biden, who said “a song can unite, inspire and ultimately change the world.” She added that Baraye is “a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights.”

Baraye was originally released on Hajipour’s Instagram page in September — after Amini, 22, died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police for not wearing a proper headscarf — and was viewed more than 40 million times in less that two days.

Hajipour, 25, was arrested in Iran shortly after Baraye gained popularity among protesters in Iran.

The artist — who made it to the final round of Iran’s version of American Idol before being eliminated — is currently out of prison on bail and awaiting trial on charges that can carry up to six years in prison. He is reportedly banned from leaving the country and was thus unable to attend the Grammys.

“He was arrested but this song continues to resonate around the world with its powerful theme: women, life, freedom,” Biden said. “Congratulations Shervin, and thank you for your song.”

After the award was announced, Hajipour posted a photo of himself on Instagram with the caption “We won.” A video shared on YouTube also seems to show Hajipour watching the Grammys on television and appearing stunned while others in the clip cheer and hug him after Biden announces his win.

Baraye means “for” in Farsi, and as Iranians tweeted their reasons for protesting after Amini’s death, they were using the hashtag #baraye. Hajipour turned those tweets into lyrics for his song, which he also named after the hashtag. In the track, he sings lyrics that include, “For the dancing on the streets; for my sister, your sister, our sisters; for this dictatorial economy; for this polluted air; for the girl who wished she was born a boy; for women, life, freedom.”

The Recording Academy said it was “deeply moved by the overwhelming volume of submissions” for Baraye — over 95,000 — for the new Special Merit Award. The winner was selected by the Grammys’ blue ribbon committee and ratified by the Recording Academy’s board of trustees.

Also on Sunday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced an amnesty for “tens of thousands” of prisoners, including some detained for participating in the nationwide anti-government protests.