Tehran Symphony Orchestra Cancels Performance Rather Than Ban Female Musicians

The last-minute cancellation of a performance by the Tehran Symphony Orchestra was credited to the presence of female musicians. The latest in a series of canceled concerts, the incident calls into question President Hassan Rouhani’s stated support of cultural affairs.

perform without the women, saying, “The women musicians were going to perform the country’s national anthem. Why shouldn’t they? I have said many times that I was born in this country and I know very well where the red lines are. As long as I’m the director of this orchestra, I will not allow this kind of treatment.”

The performance would have concluded the Freestyle Wresting World Cup, hosted by Iran. Iran Wrestling Federation head Rasoul Khadem claimed, in a letter to Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Ali Jannati, that the event’s organizers had not protested the orchestra’s performance.

“In the cultural domain, we believe cultural affairs should be relinquished to the people of culture, and the atmosphere must be facilitated so that consumers and producers of cultural works can meet,” President Hassan Rouhani said of the cancellations. “When a government organization has been delineated as the body to issue licenses, it is not appropriate for others to intervene… When, within the legal framework, a concert is issued a license and people buy tickets, such interventions not only violate the rights of the producers, but also violate the rights of the public.”

But concerts that feature female musicians and vocalists have frequently been canceled by the Iranian Police and the Judiciary of music concerts since Rouhani’s 2013 election.  A father and daughter singing duo in Tehran was prevented from going on when police officers forbade Alim Qasimov’s daughter Ferghana from performing alongside him. Instead, Qasimov was asked to perform alone and said, “I respect Iran’s laws but nowhere in the world are women artists treated in such a way.”

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