The Tehran Times recently noted this: “A new epic song with generational support for the Islamic revolution…” Hello Commander, which is being sung by school children across the country, is a song by Iran’s current conservative government. Effort. Unite youth around their particular interpretation of Islam and Iran.
It is nothing but a cultural war against ideas that are seen as dangerous to the power of the conservative establishment, supported by many Iranians within the country and those educated abroad, including Europe and North America.
Iran holds a special place in the imagination of the world. This is an ancient country. This is Persia, the seat of Cyrus the Great, some of the most mesmerizing empires in world history. It is also a country that is at the peak of nuclear weapons capability. Therefore, it is important to understand Iran and do so, without any excuse.
Before the 1979 revolution, Iran had a bon vivant, self-indulgent Shah in the form of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who loved his vintage Mot and sandalwood champagne glasses, while many Iranians considered him an American puppet. After the revolution, Iran was ruled by an ascetic, harsh and incredibly fanatical cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He immediately banned many ancient Persian indulgences in the name of his puritanical interpretation of Shia Islam.
Today, remnants of this conflicting historical structure continue to propel Iranian culture. This is true among the largely successful Iranian diaspora, both within and outside the country, who are equally embroiled in this battle for Iran’s “real” identity.
Hello Commander is to be analyzed against that background. It is a state sponsored effort to unite a beautiful diverse culture. The song portrays a version of Iran from the point of view of religious conservatives. That is how Iran should be, they tell everyone: cautious, religiously conservative, ready to make sacrifices for a higher purpose. The problem, of course, is that Iran is not really like that – and that explains the ongoing discontent against this restrictive version of the country.
Many Iranians only object to being put into an ideological fund.
It is being run by staunch religious conservatives, whose candidate Ibrahim Raisi took power in the 2021 presidential election. His Iran is righteous, belligerent, always on the sidelines of the evil enemy. They feed on the paranoia that the de facto imperial intrusion into Iranian sovereignty brought about by the 1979 revolution and in many ways thereafter, particularly by the US.
In 1980, the country was invaded by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – one of the most brutal dictatorships in the region’s modern history. And yet Saddam had the support of the US and Europe during the disastrous Iran-Iraq war between 1980 and 1988 – even when he used chemical weapons.
For religious conservatives, these are literally God-given topics. They are incredibly useful in their attempt to free their Iran from an eternal conflict with the world. As such, the song Hello Commander is a song for the “martyrs” of the terrible conflict during which thousands of young Iranians and Iraqis were killed.
In the song’s official video, Iranian children hold pictures of their loved ones killed in the trenches. Also, Hello Commander is an “optimistic” song as it is meant to accentuate the desire of this Iranian youth to fight for justice.
With its lightly martial yet strongly ritualistic melody that speaks to sentimental religious themes, the song targets a youth culture as diverse as the aforementioned Iranian experience with the world. Within a cultural environment where Iranian rap music dominates and where most middle-class Iranians listen to pop songs produced in expatriate centers such as Los Angeles, Hello Commander seems to be a clumsy attempt to turn such worldly preferences into a highly specific and restrictive interpretation of the conservative establishment. Is. of Iran.
The ideal youth envisioned in this song has long been socialized into adulthood and the difficult social realities the US sanctions regime has extended to ordinary Iranians. There is no time for ideological enjoyment. The lyrics of Hello Commander call upon Imam Mahdi, the eternal commander of the faithful. Imam Mahdi plays a major role in the doctrines of the Holy Twelver Shia, the minority Islamic sect that dominates Iran, Iraq, southern Lebanon and elsewhere.
The song also pays a special tribute to General Qasim Soleimani, who was assassinated in 2020 at the behest of Donald Trump. It is against the eternal oppression of the loyalists by external enemies.
Read more: Qasim Soleimani airstrike: why it is a dangerous extension of US assassination policy
But Hello Commander preaches to the convert. Its narrow script does not capture the vastness of the cultural reserves emanating from Iran. Iranian youth, like youth around the world, are diverse and are not easily contained within a single narrative.
Iran has a highly educated population and successful universities. It is also a country that is surrounded by US sanctions. Most Iranians are busy trying to meet their needs. Song’s optimistic tenor may boost the morale of the converts, but it should seem cynical to many Iranian workers, who suffer under sanctions and the establishment’s harshly conservative focus.
In light of this complexity of contemporary Persia, I asked what Iran “is” in my most recent book under the same title, referencing five pieces of Iranian music. The answer can only be found in large open-ended parentheses. Iran is the love poem of Rumi, the architecture of Persepolis – also Shia Islam. The ancient historical diversity of the country cannot be reduced to promises. Whenever this happens, history has shown, Persia breaks free.