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Vodka, Islam, Tsunami and a Divine Voice: HAYEDEH

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Vodka, Islam, Tsunami and a Divine Voice: HAYEDEH

By Afshin Ellian
Leiden University Law Professor 

Source: Dutch Weekly ELSEVIER, 11 Nov. 2010 


Don’t take my hope away from me
Oh, God. Oh, God.
Don’t break my depressed heart
Oh, God. Oh, God.

Flown away, gone, tired, with nothing
I remain without friends
My wings are broken

Whatever happens, I let out a scream
Oh, what a hurricane, 
Oh, what a hurricane

(The song of Faryad/Screem, Hayedeh, 1981;
lyricist: Karim Fakour, Music. Anooshirvan Rohani)


Hopefully you’ll allow me every now and then to be in my own peculiar world.

Big tree

The men were sitting underneath a big tree. A breeze caressed our faces, the breeze that had travelled across the river. A café on a riverside. What are you drinking, men? asked a possibly 6 year old little boy.

Laughingly the most athletic man of the lot asked him: do you want a glass yourself? Aren’t you afraid to drink it? The little boy looked as if he was up for the battle: I’m not afraid of anyone! Great! Then have a drink with us.


The little boy thought its taste was bitter, but he drank it nonetheless. Stubbornness was what characterized him. Everybody kissed him, as if he had conquered the top of Mount Damavand and as if he had just beaten the Mongols and the Arabs.

Then the voice of a singer sounded through the loudspeaker at the café. While the little boy’s head got warmer and warmer, he noticed that the eyes of the men were turning redder and redder. The little boy shouted: ‘I want to climb those trees!’ The men burst into laughing: ‘Our Afshin is drunk!’


While my father smothered me with his hugs, I felt his tears on my face. None of these men are alive today. Three brothers. They are no longer here. Neither is that world. But why was he crying?

The music that I had heard was from the Iranian singer Hayedeh (1942-1990). And now that I am a grownup myself and have known for quite some time how one should drink vodka, and that you should not climb trees after doing so, I know that there is an unspeakable loss that man carries with him. It’s a loss that you can’t share with others.

Only in silence, in that which is always filled with stories, we shed a tear for our loss, in all dignity. If one loses the dignity of loss, he becomes rude and violent.


I listened to Hayedeh quite regularly, she was a great singer. A couple of days after the revolution she was, along with many others, summoned by the newly established revolutionary court of Tehran. But she was no longer in Iran.

Frank Sinatra had called her voice magical. All of a sudden music was forbidden. The female voice was forbidden. Hayedeh had blown life into the dead body of music:


Oh, those enlightened days
goodbye, goodbye my country

What happened to your good days?
Where are they? As if nobody lives here anymore;

Houses are empty, souls uprooted in the fall;
Everybody is in mourning,

the men are below the gallows;
Women in prison, as if we find ourselves in a nightmare
(Hayedeh's 1982 hit Rouza-ye Roshan [Bright Days]
lyricist: A. Sarfaraz, Music: F. Zoland)



The young Iranian documentary maker, Pejman Akbarzadeh, has sent me his documentary on Hayedeh: Hayedeh - Legendary Persian Diva.

After Hayedeh had passed away in 1990, Iranians were willing to pay hundreds of dollars for the video of her funeral in Los Angeles. Pejman tries to unravel why this woman moves the Iranians so much. A beautiful documentary. You have to watch it, the VPRO have to broadcast it.


Memorial Ceremony of Hayedeh, Los Angeles, January 1990
Photo by Ron Kelley 


Because in that documentary you see the women of 1941, that is right, the women of Persia in 1941 who were just as modern as the rest of the world. But now, decades later, they have been thrown back into darker times.

This is what islam does to a culture, to a people. So don’t tell me islam is good for women. Don’t tell me islam is a normal religion. Islam is a disaster, a tsunami that destroys different opinions and different cultures.

First Lady

I turn my head and see a photograph of the First Lady and president of the free world. The First Lady walks around with a revolting thing on her head. She respects islam. But islam does not respect her. She too has to watch this documentary. This First Lady and that silly president make me feel sad.

Let’s go back to that table next to the river, to the vodka, to  those trees, to those who have left,  who have passed away. Are those tears that are running across my face? Do I miss his shoulders?

I love your loving shoulders
where I can rest my head,
where I can cry.

I love your shoulders that enable me to cry,
While without you, I will love in order to be with you
Empty by complacency

The body beyond
Due to sorrow

[Hayedeh's 1986 hit Shanehayat/Your Shoulders
 Lyricist: Ardalan Sarfaraz, Music: Farid Zoland]

Divine voice

The religion that does not want to hear this divine voice, these divine lyrics, does not belong in the world of freedom and civilisation. I say this because I owe it to my own conscience. Because I owe it to that table, that vodka and those tears. Because the loss is so big. Because an entire cemetary lies between me and islam.

I cry when I tell you: I hate the bearded men.

Thank you for allowing me every now and then to roam in my own peculiar world – without fear. A blog for everyone and no one. 

English trasnlation by Elke Parsa

Last Updated ( Saturday, 14 May 2011 12:12 )  

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